Hard work, actions speak volumes for St. Francis football's Joe Mudie

If you’re curious as to just how good Joe Mudie is and how great he can be, don’t ask him.

If you’re wondering about how hard the St. Francis High football running back and cornerback works and how much time he’s put into the weight room in the hopes of getting better and avoiding injuries such as those that sidelined him a season ago, just don’t wait around for him to tell you about it.

Mudie’s simply not the type to boast of his own merits, nor is he one to brag about how hard he’s worked.

“He works very hard and never says a thing about it,” St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds says. “Very humble kid. He’s very well-respected by his teammates and classmates because of his disposition and work ethic.”

Indeed, Mudie’s actions and demeanor have spoke much louder than any of the seldom words he might speak.

“He’s always been like that,” senior center Trevor Provencio says. “Very unassuming. You wouldn’t think he’s the star player he is.”

Alas, Mudie’s description might be a bit more accurate to say he has star potential after his junior year, one that in many ways mirrored that of his Golden Knights, which was one of frustration.

Tabbed to be a do-it-all offensive force and a hybrid lining up at running back or receiver, Mudie seemingly fought injury as often as opposing defenses.

Now, with the dawn of the 2013 season upon him and the Golden Knights, Mudie is looking to let his play do the talking and has put himself in position to deliver his message loud and clear.

“Coming into this season, I definitely have something to prove,” Mudie says.

Now almost 18 years old, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Mudie had a rather inauspicious debut on the gridiron in the third grade when he tried his hand at Pop Warner football for the first time. He broke his arm and decided, “I didn’t really like football.”

Mudie gave it another shot in seventh grade and it still didn’t stick. It wasn’t until he became a St. Francis High football player on the freshman squad that he finally felt at home with a pair of shoulder pads on and a helmet strapped up.

“I just fell in love with football,” he says. “It was pretty much all about the coaches.

“Just playing in the program is really special.”

And for a kid who was slow to like football, he proved to catch on quickly with St. Francis. During his sophomore season, he was called up from the junior varsity squad and saw action in six games on a Golden Knights team spilling over with senior talent that went 9-3 and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Western Division quarterfinals.

With an overwhelming amount of turnover due to graduation, the 2012 Golden Knights posed question marks aplenty. Mudie, however, wasn’t one of them, as he was prognosticated to be an offensive dynamo. In retrospect, Bonds believes Mudie might well have been saddled with a bit too much.

“Last year, I think we might’ve been trying to do too much with him,” Bonds says. “We put a lot on his shoulders as a junior.”

Mudie finished the season with 149 yards and a touchdown in 31 carries, while hauling in 17 catches for 236 yards and four touchdowns through seven games. He missed a 17-13 loss to Monrovia with a concussion. He then missed the second half against Cathedral — a 42-40 loss — when he strained a knee ligament. The injury kept him sidelined for another nailbiting loss to Harvard-Westlake and two blowout defeats to Serra and Chaminade — two of the best teams in the state, much less the division.

“It was pretty tough. I was really hoping last year that I would be able to help out the team more. It was hard on me, but I just had to stay with the team and support them as much as I could,” Mudie says of dealing with the injuries. “It’s hard to say what could’ve been the difference or if I could’ve made a difference.”

While many of the Golden Knights, Mudie included, are quick to admit that last season’s pitfalls are fueling them as the 2013 kickoff draws near, Bonds has elected to concentrate more on going forward rather than looking back. Yet, he admits that a player of Mudie’s capabilities could have clearly impacted the team’s final record had he been healthy.

“Without dwelling too much on last season,” Bonds says, “obviously with Joe healthy I think it makes a difference.”

With a 4-7 final record accompanied by a 1-4 showing in the Mission League last season, St. Francis, as a whole, is looking to rebound as much as Mudie is from the disappointment of a year past.

Mudie wasted no time in getting to work and looking to improve.

“His work ethic is unparalleled,” Provencio says. “He’s easily one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.”

By all accounts from coaches and teammates, Mudie hit the weight room hard and hasn’t stopped. He did whatever he had to, not just to make himself a better player, but a more durable one.

“What I like is he’s gotten bigger and stronger in the offseason,” Bonds says. “We’re crossing our fingers he’ll stay healthy with all the extra work in the weight room.”

Another change from last season is that Mudie’s offensive role has been simplified to just that of the team’s primary running back, where Bonds will once again look for his versatility to shine through.

“He’s very versatile,” Bonds says. “Excellent hands catching the ball out of the backfield and excellent vision.

“He’s a nice combination.”

With Mudie able to concentrate on running back, it appears his confidence has risen, as well.

“He definitely has more confidence this year,” Provencio says. “That’s coming out in his play.”

Though his offensive role has been streamlined, Mudie’s overall importance to the team has increased.

He’s slotted to start on defense at cornerback and he’s also been tabbed with kick and punt return duties. It’s a lot to ask, no doubt, but it’s what he’s been preparing for all summer long.

“I definitely am ready to play any position coach wants to put me at. I knew that coming into the season that I’d be playing both ways,” Mudie says. “The coaches really prepared me.

“I feel very comfortable in those positions and I’ll be ready to play them both.”

Alongside Provencio, senior quarterback TJ Gangi and senior receiver/safety Kevin Maloof, Mudie has also taken on the duties of being one of the team’s captains. It’s a position Mudie takes on with pride and responsibility. But as one might expect, it’s one that he takes on with the same quiet presence he displays in his other endeavors.

“He’s definitely very quiet, but he’s a great friend and a great teammate. He’s always working the hardest,” Gangi says. “When he does speak up, it’s really important and then everybody listens.”

So Mudie now finds himself with renewed confidence after an offseason of preparation and improvement. He’s ready to showcase the vision and speed, the ability and versatility that Bonds and his teammates know he has in spades.

He’s ready. He just isn’t likely to tell you about it, that’s just not how Mudie does things.

“His demeanor is so business-like. Winning, that’s all he cares about,” Provencio says. “He leads by example. He just shows how it’s done.”

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