Mondo Mario

Mario had a big date. He was going to be one of the stars at a party attended by more than 25,000 supporters, complete with news media. He had waited for this moment many years.

But he was just a taste (a Mississippi term for "smidge") too big to fit into his new black suit.

Actually, he was several tastes too large. A taste of ice cream here, a taste of hamburger there. A taste of apple pie and pizza. A taste of whatever whenever he wanted.

So Mario had to lose more than 50 pounds. In only about 3 months.

Forget about Slim-Fast and Richard Simmons' Sweatin' to the Oldies. Mario needed Slim-Upon-Drinking and Dehydratin' to the Oldies.

"And if you've ever tried to lose weight, what I'm fixin' to tell you tells you what kind of person he is," says Rick Smith about Mario. "He lost down to 325... which told me he had a lot of character."

Down to 325? Down? That means he started out weighing....

That is correct, all you fledgling mathematicians - Mario started out at around 380 big ones.

See, Mario Monds is a tackle at the University of Cincinnati. Rick Smith's his defensive coordinator (UK's defensive coordinator in 1996). And his former Jenny Craig.

Monds arrived at UC in January of 1999 from Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he was a junior college All-American. However, Smith wanted him to cut some significant poundage by the beginning of spring practice in late March.

Monds did that and even went above, er, below rather, expectations, dropping down to a delicate 315 pounds dripping wet by the beginning of the 1999 season. And he fit nicely into his #90 black Bearcat uniform for the first game August 4, a 41-3 victory against Kent, helping to limit Kent's offense to 124 yards.

He wound up starting seven games for UC last year despite a knee injury. With 5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, Monds was named the team's most valuable defensive lineman at season's end. The 6-3 Monds continued his progress in the off-season, setting the UC record for bench press repetitions of 225 pounds with 32. And going into the 2000 season, he was a pre-season All-Conference USA pick and a third team All-American selection.

"It's all about athleticism," claims UC head coach Rick Minter. "He's got tremendous weight, size, mass, velocity, speed."

You're probably thinking, "Sure, and Godzilla had good speed for a big guy too."

But Monds really is fast.

He clocks in at 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard-dash. That means the Cincinnati Bearcat averages one second for each 68.75 pounds of mass he carries (as Monds now is a solid 330). Contrast that with the figures for Peter Warrick, the Cincinnati Bengals' first draft choice and best player in college football last season. Warrick carries only 43.53 pounds of mass for every second of his 4.48 40 time. Theoretically speaking then, if Monds weighed the same as Warrick, Mario would run the 40 in 2.836 seconds - round aboutly.

And unlike the oft cantankerous Godzilla, Monds really is nice too.

"He's a great friend," declares UC senior Antonio Davis. "Got a great attitude. A great motivator. He's just a great person to be around."

Monds is also a great person to be behind. Davis, an outside linebacker, should know. Lining up behind Monds is a great advantage, as the big tackle typically draws two or three blockers - leaving fat gaps in the offensive line for guys like Davis to run through and make hits in the backfield.

The stats guys don't recognize this, but the coaches do.

"He's a presence. All that ability combined spells impact player. He may not be credited... for all the things he does and creates, but he allows others to play less restrained because he's restrained a lot of people around him," says Minter.

So size does matter after all.

"We call him Earth," smiles Smith, "because he's as big as the Earth. He makes my job easier."

And he makes the Bearcats better. Cincinnati has an outside chance at tying Louisville for the best record in C-USA. If Louisville loses against Houston on Saturday and UC wins, the Bearcats will be atop the standings with a 5-2 conference record. East Carolina (4-1 in the conference) faces Southern Mississippi (also 4-1) on the day after Thanksgiving in the final conference game. What's more, the team stands bowl eligible at 6-4, with a final game remaining against Southern Miss this week.

Monds is optimistic about his team's chances about going to a bowl game, something UC hasn't done since the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl.

He's also optimistic about his future as a football player.

"I think the future is a little promising, granted I don't get injured," he speculates. Then comes back to the present in the next breath, saying, "But right now, I just want to play some hard ball and let the chips fall."

And if the chips fall in the same successful fashion as his weight did in 1999, which you would expect they would, his next big date will be in April. The NFL draft.


Stadium Art

On Nov. 11, conceptual artist Matthew Weddington organized the first Matthew Weddington Day at Commonwealth Stadium during the UK/Vanderbilt football game. Before the game, he passed out 100 giant Kentucky-blue foam fingers with his name on them. He employed the help of nine girls to spell out W-E-D-D-I-N-G-T-O-N. According to Weddington, there weren't enough foam fingers for all who wanted them. He also mentioned that he and the women were projected on the giant scoreboard screen at least five times.

Weddington was pleased with how everything worked out. He said he was flattered that so many people were willing to work with him. He felt the day was a success. As he put it: "The purpose of the project was to make a mockery of the icon and the means they go about promoting themselves as icons. Since people were interested in the project and inquired who I was, I kind of gave myself the status of an important person, an icon." -ST