Henry Mondeaux doesn’t let Type 1 diabetes affect his pursuit of spot on Steelers defensive line
Make no mistake, Henry Mondeaux takes pride in his abilities on the football field. The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman admits getting cut three times last year after being an undrafted free agent was difficult.
“I learned about myself,” Mondeaux said after a Steelers minicamp session. “Going home and not being on a team for a while, it was tough.”
But while the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Mondeaux is motivated and eager to show the Steelers during the upcoming training camp that he belongs on the roster, what pushes Mondeaux even more has nothing to do with occupying blockers or getting push in the pass-rush.
“I’ve found my ‘why,’ ” Mondeaux said. “(The) ‘why’ I am doing this.”
Mondeaux’s ‘why’ comes from the Type 1 diabetes he lives with and plays professional football through.
“It’s definitely something that I use to motivate me,” Mondeaux said. “It’s kind of my, ‘why’ — to show kids who are maybe diagnosed with the same thing or something like it that you can still go after your dreams and all that stuff. So I always try to keep that in the back of my mind.”
Mondeaux spent a week in the hospital while in high school, which is when he was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. That can be a challenge for anyone, requiring daily routines most people never have to deal with.
But for a high-level football player (Mondeaux played at Oregon), working under strict dietary parameters can present even more challenges. And for a player at a position that can require a 300-pound body, the potential obstacles are all the more heightened.
“Definitely, it adds a whole other level to the nutrition and hydration aspect of things,” Mondeaux said. “But I have found that once I got it down and under control, it’s benefited me because I really know a lot more about food and how it’s going to affect my energy levels and blood sugars. So you turn a negative into a positive, for sure.”
Mondeaux said the training staffs of the teams he has played for have been good about working with him and monitoring his blood-sugar levels and administering insulin when needed.
“They’re ready so I can get a shot if I need it,” Mondeaux said, “but that’s pretty rare … Usually just some Gatorade halfway through practice and we’re fine.”
That’s good for Mondeaux, who is out to catch the eye of coaches in what is a crowded and deep position room. A three-year starter in college, Mondeaux signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent, spent training camp with them and eventually hooked onto their practice squad late in the season and for their playoff run to the NFC championship game.
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Though the Steelers roster lists him as an end, Mondeaux said he most of his summer reps were at nose tackle in the base defense. He said he also has been lining up over top of — or just outside of — the offense’s guard in subpackages.
“You kind of have to be able to do it all in this defense,” Mondeaux said. “Playing the ends versus the nose in this defense is very similar.”
Barring injury, the Steelers’ top four defensive line spots are locks. Dan McCullers returns as the five-year incumbent as the backup nose tackle, and Isaiah Buggs has an inside track to a roster spot as a sixth-round pick. Lavon Hooks is another veteran of the organization.
In all, there are 11 defensive linemen on the 90-man roster. Last season, six were on the 53-man roster and one was on the practice squad.
Mondeaux isn’t fazed.
“There’s a good group of D-line guys, all the way down the list,” he said. “The vets have definitely been good at teaching us and showing us the right way to do things. It’s been nice to practice with some of the best guys in the league.
“It’s been an easy transition for me here so far.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .