Mundy, other top players looking forward to Big 33
Even in Michigan, Woodland Hills graduate Ryan Mundy heard about the Big 33 Football All-Star Classic.
The University of Michigan recruit spent the last month there for offseason conditioning, returned home for a day, then left for Hershey for a week of practice and activities leading up to the Big 33 game Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
"This is definitely a big deal," Mundy said. "There is a lot of pride in the game. In Michigan, I was talking to the Ohio guys and we were jabbing at each other. We don't want to lose to Ohio and they don't want to lose to us."
Mundy is part of a large group of players from the East on the Pennsylvania squad, including former Woodland Hills teammates Mark Yezovich, a linebacker, and Mark Malloy, a defensive end, along with Duquesne running back Windell Brown, Penn Hills nose tackle Mike Hill, McKeesport center Bill Starry and Schenley defensive end Jared Palmer.
Palmer was a late replacement for McKeesport's Ray Lankford, who pulled out of the game for personal reasons.
"I'm very excited," Hill said. "It's the best all-star game you can play in. You are one of the best football athletes in the state. It gives you a chance to showcase your talent."
"You can see how good you really are," Starry said. "You may be the best in your home town, but that doesn't mean anything out there."
Starry has been going to the game as a fan for years, so being on the field is something very special for the Kent State recruit.
"I've gone to watch the game," Starry said. "I've always heard about there never being a Super Bowl without a Big 33 alumni in it. It makes it seem a lot bigger. It feels good to be able to play in that."
Starry admitted being surprised when Penn-Trafford's Art Tragesser, this year's head coach for Pennsylvania, called to tell him that he had been selected.
"It was just weird," Starry said. "I didn't know what to do. I didn't expect to make it, though I was hoping I would. At first I didn't believe him."
One draw is playing with former opponents, or players from other parts of the state that they have only heard of.
"You read all these kids names in the papers all the time," Starry said. "You see the big names. Now we're all together on one team playing. It's exciting.
"During the season, you get to play against maybe five or six Division I players. Now, everyone is a Division I player."
"It's definitely going to be fun, playing with these guys that I've read about," Mundy said. "We jag each other when we see one another out, but we're on a team now."
The game is also helpful for the players in it, getting a chance to put on the pads, get in some workouts and play right before heading out to their college preseason training camps.
"I've definitely been in conditioning mode, hitting the weights hard," Mundy said. "I think this will give me a little edge. I'm sure that first hit will wake me up. When camp starts, I'll be ready to go."
Mundy already played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas in January, a game that featured players from all over the country. He was impressive against that group, intercepting two passes.
"The Texas game was great, but I was looking forward to the Big 33," Mundy said. "I'm not sure people know about the Texas game, but everybody here knows the Big 33."
Mundy spent the last month with one of the stars of last year's Big 33, former Woodland Hills teammate Steve Breaston, now heading into his second year at Michigan. Breaston and the other Big 33 alumni told him about the week
"We talked a bit about it," Mundy said. "There are a lot of events in the week. Everyone said it's a great experience. The people that run the Big 33 say it will change your life. We're going to visit the hospital, work with older people. We stay with a host family.
"A lot of guys have great things to say."