Do You Miss It? Pt.2
Picking up where we left off...
Where am I going to High School???
My options were pretty limited within the Pittsburgh Public High Schools.
I lived in the West End of Pittsburgh at the time so I had two options in the public school system. The first, Langley High School... My mom, dad, aunts, and uncles all went to Langley and there was pretty much no chance in hell that I was going there. Bad school with a bad football program.
The other option, Perry Traditional Academy. Perry was by far the best football program in the city and academically was ok. There was a lottery or something like that to go to schools outside of your neighborhood (Perry was on the Northside) so I applied and got in.
All is settled right? I'm going to Perry..."Not so fast my friend."
A dark horse came out of nowhere. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, an all boy high school in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Central had a strong reputation for academics and their football program was trending up (Notable Central alumni include quarterbacks Dan Marino and Marc Bulger).
Enrolling in Central Catholic cost money though, money we didn't necessarily have to spend on tuition. But typically these type of schools have financial aid programs available for students. I'm sure my financial id application was a little stronger due to the fact I was 5'10 180 lbs incoming freshman.
So yea...Welcome to Catholic School, Mun.
My first high school training camp was rough. I was coming off a year of not playing football due to my knee surgery. Despite coming off injury, the coaches decided during summer conditioning that I was going to play varsity as a freshman. So needless to say, a 14 year old freshman playing against 17 & 18 yea olds was an adjustment. I needed to recalibrate.
I started the first game of the season, wearing number 47, and we beat our rival North Catholic pretty handedly. Unfortunately the coaches thought the varsity level was too much for me, but really I think it had to do with a parent of senior safety complaining to the coaches that their son was behind a freshman. So the coaches moved me down to JV.
Naturally I was pissed and proceeded to terrorize every JV quarterback that year. I was averaging 2 interceptions per game, easy money.
Fast forward to the summer of 2000, June, at the Pitt Passing Camp. I was still attending Pittsburgh Central Catholic and we went out there and got our assess handed to us during the camp. But the coaches didn't think I got my ass handed to me and offered me a full scholarship on the spot. Free ride to school before I played a down of my sophomore year, major key.
I was never really a Pitt fan but having my first full scholarship offer was a big deal!
Simultaneously, there were a lot of things going on behind the scenes to get me out of Central Catholic. I'm not Catholic and going to school with all boys wasn't really up my alley (although I made it a priority to head over to Oakland Catholic (all girls high school), right around the corner, before and after school). Even more so, I was still pretty upset with the coaches.
Enter Woodland Hills.
My dad had been an assistant track coach at Woodland Hills for the previous 2 years and he had a front row seat to the type of athletes that Coach Novak, head football coach & athletic director, was producing. So naturally he wanted for me to be a part of that.
In order for me to be apart of that we had to move, all the way to the other side of town.
So move is what we did.
Not long after that Pitt Passing Camp in June we packed up and moved to Wilkins Township. Woodland Hills is a big ass school district that draws from about 13 neighborhoods. If you're familiar with Pittsburgh, the district pretty much runs from the exit of the Squirrel Hills tunnels east bound, all the way up to Monroeville. Wilkins Township was the last stop before Monroeville.
I was excited about attending Woodland Hills. When I was in middle school, my dad would pick me up and take me to the track practice just to be around some of the guys. And here I was, about to be one of those guys.
I remember my first day there crystal clear. My dad and I were running late (Mundy family trait). I walked into the wrestling room where the team was doing warm ups. My first thought was "Damn, these dudes are in high school?!?!?!"
I hopped in line and the first exercise I did was a 60 second plank, which almost killed me. Afterwards we finished the "warm-up" and headed to the weight room next door.
Looking extremely lost, a guy (who shall remain nameless) came up to me and offered to help, the help wouldn't have been good..... Duh duh duh daaaaa enter Super Steve (Breaston) to save the day. Steve, who was no weight room warrior himself at the time, stepped in and offered to walk me through the workout routine. So I took him up on it and finished the workout out with him.
I made it through my first workout beat, but I made it.
For the first week of training camp Woodland Hills went to camp Twin Echo, a boy scout retreat 50 min east of Pittsburgh. 3-a-days, bunk beds, no air conditioning, and bad food could be a recipe for disaster but I hung in there and had a great time bonding with my new teammates.
On the field, that first training camp at Twin Echo was a world of difference from the year before.
First game of the season rolls around and I am the starting safety. There was a tremendous amount of talent on that team so I rotated at playing safety. Fortunately for me I could play offense too so when I wasn't playing defense I was playing wide receiver. Coach Novak made very few exceptions about having players play full time both ways. I guess having a talented roster allows you to create policies like that. (In the program I was listed as a 2 way starter and would be the following 2 years of my career.)
Throughout the 2000 season that offense/ defense rotation pretty much held true. However, towards the end of the season I started to play a lot more offense.
We made it to the playoffs (per usual) and beat opponents down en route to the last AAAA WPIAL Championship Game ever played at Three Rivers Stadium. Our opponent, Mt. Lebanon.
The score was surprisingly close throughout and we were actually losing in the last minutes of the game. 14-7
Our season came down to one play.
Fourth and nine from the 50 yard line. Coach Novak called a pass play, surprised? I was too.
Ball is snapped.
Steve, who became our QB a little before the mid point of the season, scrambled for a few seconds and then heaved a pass about 40 yards in the air towards me.
It was a jump ball situation between me and the defender and I channeled my inner Randy Moss and caught the ball landing at the 3 yard line.
Saved the day. (By far a top 5 play making moment in my entire football career)
A few plays later we scored and now all we needed was an extra point to tie the game and likely send it to overtime.
Simple in theory, execution not so much. The snap was dribbled on the ground back to the holder and we weren't able to even get the kick off! Woodland Hills goes down14-13.
That catch was the official catalyst for my recruiting experience.
Letters started rolling in from across the country and I started to feel myself a little bit reading my own press clippings.
During my high school career I never really thought about going to the NFL. Loved watching college football but Friday night lights was all that mattered. I loved hearing the drums being played during warm ups and seeing the crowd filter into the stadium.
Western Pennsylvania high school football is special.
I was having fun and being present in the moment.
On offense I tried to model my game after Charles Rogers (Michigan St.) and defensively the entire University of Miami secondary was in inspiration to me.
I received tons of accolades to wrap up my senior season. All district, All State, and pretty much every major All American team, and was chosen to play in the 2003 Army All American game.
Out of my over 35 full scholarship offers I decided to sign a letter of intent with The University of Michigan.
- Announcing my decision to sign with Michigan
Deciding on Michigan wasn't a particularly difficult decision to make.
After I received the scholarship offer towards the end of my junior season my mind was pretty much made up. Although I still participated in some of the recruiting glitz and glam I knew my heart was in Ann Arbor.
I love Pittsburgh with all my heart but I was ready to leave, and I felt like Ann Arbor was the perfect opportunity for me to mature and grow.
So now off to Ann Arbor we go......