Loss doesn’t mean losing
By Brett McMillan
Publication: Truman State Index
Date Published: Thursday, October 20, 2011
It was a quiet morning in the Mundwiller household, the kind of quiet that creates uneasiness. It was on this morning senior wide receiver Andy Mundwiller first learned what it meant to lose something.
The house was still as his then-4-year-old sister Emily Mundwiller rifled through the fridge, trying to find something for her and 2-year-old Andy to eat as they waited for their mother Brenda Mundwiller to emerge from her bedroom.
They were waiting for a moment that would never come. Brenda passed away in her sleep because of kidney failure.
Life had just taught Andy about loss and given him his first chance to chose how he would respond to it.
Phil Mundwiller, Andy’s father, said his son has never felt bad for himself.
“One of the things the doctors told me right after I lost my wife was the kids can succeed in anything they want in life and not to use the fact that they lost their mother as a crutch, to fail or accept failure,” Phil said.
Overnight, Andy became a child living in a single-parent household where he and his sister had to take care of one another and household chores while their father was working a full-time job.
Phil said losing his wife drew him and his children together and allowed them to grow closer than they might have otherwise. One of the ways the family spent time together was playing and watching football.
“Me and my dad and my sister grew up very close,” Andy said. “Even [Emily] would throw the ball with us. … We always played football. Me and Dad would watch football every Sunday and [Emily] was there. We’d all watch it together. Grew up just loving football together I guess, as a family.”
Football wasn’t exclusively a leisurely activity for Andy — it was part of his pedigree. As a child he spent time around two cousins on his mother’s side of the family, who played at NCAA Div. I Northwestern University [Ill.] and Indiana State University.
Andy said being around people who loved football so much taught him to love the game too.
When he entered the fifth grade, Andy got out of the backyard and onto a real field, playing linebacker and running back in a youth football league in his hometown, Washington, Mo.
Andy said he slowed down slightly as he grew, which triggered the first position move of his career. By the time he enrolled at St. Francis Borgia High School he was playing quarterback and some safety.
“Great tradition at Borgia so you always got a lot of support,” Andy said. “So I guess being a quarterback you kind of are the center of attention. It was awesome. It was a great experience to have under my belt.”
He said he still remembers leading a game-winning drive as a high school quarterback, leading his team down the field and finishing the drive by throwing a go-ahead touchdown to one of his best friends on a deep come back route in the endzone with 24 seconds remaining.
While Borgia provided Mundwiller with good memories, he also failed to reach the state final during his time as a Knight.
Borgia won a district title his junior year, but fell short his senior season, losing in the district final to Owensville High School. Owensville went on to the state final.
Andy said he thought his team had the potential to perform well at the state level and losing to Owensville was terrible because Borgia had won the district his junior year and had entered his senior season feeling like the team had the talent to go far in the playoffs.
“You see all the district champ [banners] almost year in and year out they have hung up outside of our field,” he said. “It was kind of like a huge letdown to see that and not see ’06 which was my senior year. I guess that was pretty tough on me.”
Andy said an early exit from his final high school postseason acted as motivation as he entered college.
Bulldog hall-of-famer and former Truman football player Dale Gildehaus coached Mundwiller at Borgia.
“He had a lot of influence on me,” Andy said. “I know he helped me out a lot getting into Truman and just playing here.” Andy has been listed as a wide receiver for the past two seasons but as a redshirt freshman during fall 2007 he entered as a quarterback.
After redshirting during his first year with the program, and not seeing a snap his freshman season, Andy found himself under center as a college quarterback for the first time during his sophomore year.
Later that same year former Truman head coach Aaron Vlcko decided to switch Andy to defensive back.
“Came in at quarterback and had some great quarterbacks above me in [alumnus] Matt Ticich and Phil Davis,” Andy said. “My time was getting a little bit faltered.”
After spending a season in the secondary, he was then asked to return to quarterback during week eight of the 2009 season after the Bulldogs experienced a rash of quarterback injuries.
In 2009, Mundwiller played eight games under center going 16-for-34 with 212 yards. His career as a college quarterback ended for good that season against Missouri Southern when he tore his rotator cuff after being hit on a quarterback scramble.
Gregg Nesbitt, current Bulldog head coach, took control of the team during spring 2009 and decided to move Mundwiller yet again, this time to wide receiver.
Emily said her brother never complained about having to change from the position he once said he couldn’t imagine being removed from when he arrived at Truman.
“Andy has always got a smile on his face,” she said. “He is always happy. He is always positive. Looking at the good side of things. I can’t say I’ve really every heard him complain about that at all.”
This year during his second season as a receiver, Andy has caught 18 passes for 192 yards and is averaging 10.7 yards per reception. He also has caught two touchdowns.
“It was a huge transition,” Andy said. “It was a lot of work. It really was. … It was definitely difficult at first but me and my dad used to throw the ball since I was about 3 so catching is always something I’ve been able to do. Just had to learn how to run routes, stick, do a little head fake. There is a lot that goes into it that people don’t really see off the field.”
Mundwiller has also seen time on special teams returning punts this season. He has averaged more than 10 yards per return, including week two when his 94 punt return yards earned him the MIAA Co-Special Teams Player of the Week Award.
Nesbitt said he would take a whole team of student athletes like Andy if he was given the option.
“He’s a great teammate,” Nesbitt said. “Not a good one, a great teammate. His attitude and enthusiasm are infectious to the rest of the group.
He leads by example. He enjoys football. He enjoys practice. He enjoys the games. Tough competitor. [I] think he is really well respected by his teammates.”
Andy, who has dealt with the loss of his mother and multiple position moves, is scheduled to deal with yet another change when his football career ends after this season. His career as an undergrad is set to end soon too. He graduates in December.
Andy said he plans to live with his sister and her family in Columbia, Mo., while he pursues his graduate degree in medicine at the University of Missouri.
“I’m looking forward to it more than you know,” Emily said. “I’m sad for him to be done with school, or at least Truman and football, but I’m excited to have him back. I’m married, I have a son now so it will be a little different but it’ll be nice to just kind of hang out with him and to just have that back.”