The opportunity to don the green and yellow and suit up for a University of Oregon football program thats now widely recognized as a national power was too much to turn down for Henry Mondeaux.
The 6-5, 250-pound Jesuit defensive end/tight end, who helped the Crusaders reach the Class 6A championship game, committed to the Ducks after weighing offers from most of the Pac 12 and a few select Big Ten powers.
An athletic beast on the defensive side of the ball who saw his stock rise this summer at The Opening for his talents as a tight end, Mondeaux will suit up exclusively for the Ducks' defense.
Its always been a big dream of mine to play college ball, Mondeaux says. And, being from Oregon and playing for the Ducks, its just going to be an awesome experience.
Growing up, Mondeaux watched closely as the Ducks blossomed into a perennial powerhouse, a team that competes for national championship and has become a regular participant in prominent bowl games.
Oregon State was an option, too, for the all-state defensive end. But, when it came down to it, Mondeaux saw himself suiting up for an UO defense that made headway in the past decade or so under the direction of departing defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.
The Ducks were definitely a cool team to watch, especially the last couple of years, Mondeaux says. Its been a big goal of mine to play for them and now its a big accomplishment.
Position-wise, Mondeaux is more of a defensive athlete pledge for the Ducks than in a fixed role. A mixed defensive end-linebacker, who has the toughness and tenacity to clog the inside run but is fast enough to rush the passer and backpedal into coverage, Mondeaux says Allioti figured him as a hybrid player. Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan made the acclaimed spot famous during his time as a Duck, primarily because of his size and versatility.
Both traits appealed to the Ducks when they broke down video of Mondeaux, and with so many various spread and pro-style offenses littering the Pac-12, its imperative UO has defenders who can do it all.
They like me because Im big and can do a lot of different stuff, Mondeaux says. They tend to have a lot of bigger athletes who can do a bunch of different things, so I think I fit in pretty well. I really liked all the players Ive met so far, and theyve had nothing but good things to say.
Mondeaux had scholarship offers from Washington, Nebraska, Arizona, and Arizona State, among other schools. What separated Oregon in Mondeauxs mind, he says, was that the coaches didnt sugarcoat their recruiting pitch or make unconvincing promises. They told the 2013 Metro League player of the year that if he worked hard and did what was asked of him, the opportunity to contribute and possibly have an impact on the squad would be there.
Plus, Mondeaux liked the small-town feel of Eugene and the appreciated the reception he received while visiting the UO campus.
I really liked that they wanted to recruit me how I best fit into their program, Mondeaux says. They didnt sell it as I was going to be a star or the guy they wanted to build the program around. And, I liked the feel when I was there. I liked all the coaches. I could see myself being in Eugene and being a part of Oregon, even if I wasnt playing football.
In the seventh and eighth grades, the nimble-footed Mondeaux was involved in basketball, traveling from state to state on the AAU circuit, trying to prepare himself for high school hoops and possibly a college scholarship down the road. Those plans changed by Mondeauxs freshman year at Jesuit, when his physique started to physically mature, and he began butchering quarterbacks and running backs on the freshman team.
Coach Ken Potter moved Mondeaux to the varsity as a sophomore and started him on both sides of the football.
I kind of fell in love with football, Mondeaux says. I knew thats what I wanted to do.
More than memories made on the gridiron, Mondeaux says the friendships hes forged at Jesuit through his four years are what hell remember most as he takes his talents to Eugene. As a program that churns out Division-I commits every season, Mondeaux has been able to pick the brains of some of his former teammates, including Ducks Doug Brenner and Keanon Lowe, and seek their advice on what to expect at the next level.
Its been nice having a lot of guys on the (Jesuit) team that have gone on to play in college, Mondeaux says. Its been great having guys to look up to and a lot of great friends to come along with it.
Mondeaux had a breakout summer of sorts in June and July, when he and fellow teammate Joey Alfieri were selected to participate in The Opening. A five-day display on Nikes World Headquarters showcasing more than 150 of the nations top high school football players, the event gave Mondeaux the chance to present his prowess to those unfamiliar with the two-way star.
The Opening coaches put Mondeaux at tight end, not linebacker, but the big target certainly did not disappoint. Mondeaux used his big frame and huge catch radius to haul in 10 passes for 139 yards over the final two days of 7-on-7, and he was named to the All-Opening tournament team.
Mondeaux didnt get to display his nose for the football or linebacker instincts, but many an eye were opened by the big guys athleticism, approach to the game and competitive drive.
Going to The Opening showed I could compete with some of the best guys in the nation, other than Oregon, Mondeaux says. It was good to see some of the talent from other places and where I matched up. My confidence went up a lot, and it helped me this season in becoming a leader and showing some of the younger guys some of the stuff I learned.
Starring on offense, defense and special teams for Jesuit, Mondeaux was a force as a blocking tight end and a blitzing, bull-rushing disruptor. He shifted from defensive end to linebacker when Alfieri went down with a season-ending leg injury.
Jesuit defied the odds in the second half of the year and into the postseason, reaching the state title game without Alfieri by playing with a common resolve and leaning on strong team chemistry.
Despite losing the championship game to Central Catholic, it was a culminating year for Mondeaux.
It was a great season for us, he saysx. I thought we were really a tight-knit team and thats why we went farther than some of the teams in the past. We were so close together. Losing Joey was a big step back, but we rallied back and still showed we can play with anyone.