On September 3, 2017, UCLA completed the largest comeback in its program history, beating Texas A&M 45-44 – on a holiday weekend in the storied Rose Bowl. It was a catastrophic collapse – even by Texas A&M standards.
The box score from that evening reads like an absurd, overwritten piece fiction.
- Josh Rosen – 491 yards, 4 touchdowns, on 59(!) attempts
- Kellen Mond – 3 completions on 17 attempts for 27 yards.
It is nearly impossible for a quarterback to average 1.7 yards per attempt, but it was accomplished by the highly touted freshman Mond that night in Pasadena.
Did you ever think that the QB who stepped in for relief in that dreadful, cursed game would go on to finish his senior year as the leader of a Top 5, Orange Bowl winning team, before declaring for the NFL Draft?
Did you ever think that the QB who committed to A&M less than 60 days after Aaron Moorehead stupidly mouthed off on twitter about five-star Tate Martell decommitting (and all the other various quarterback uncertainties near the end of the Sumlin era) would go on to have this level of success?
The difference between 2017 and 2020 is obviously marked by the hiring of Jimbo Fisher, but that has not been the only dramatic transformation within the program.
There has not been an Aggie athlete in the last 20 years that has had to weather more critique, doubt and diminishment than Kellen Mond – almost all of it coming from his own fanbase. To deny Kellen credit for the part he played in the turnaround of A&M football is unfair, and all too common. It’s almost as if a good portion of our fanbase feels that the QB position is plug and play, and perhaps the guy that Jimbo plugged in isn’t as good as we needed him to be…and that his success could be easily replicated.
In the same way that we don’t look at A&M in the same light as we did in 2018, we need to shift the way we look at Kellen, his development and the role he’s played in leading this program. When Kellen Mond was a freshman, the Texas A&M football program was long on hype and short on substance. In 2021, Mond has led a program that isn’t flashy, but is finally built on substance and a firm foundation.
Kellen Mond is not perfect – not by any stroke of the imagination - but for so long A&M fans have defined Kellen based on who he’s not instead of who he is.
Kellen is not Nick Starkel.
Kellen was not the “best QB in the SEC” as he described himself to be going into the 2019 season.
Kellen was not good enough on his own to overcome the many shortcomings that plagued the 2019 team.
He was none of those things. So who is Kellen Mond?
He’s the dude who finally got the program an SEC win over LSU (now two).
He holds damn near every single offensive record at A&M despite playing in an offense geared towards the run.
He’s the dude who missed one series in three years as a full-time starter playing behind what was, for at least one year, a patchwork offensive line.
He’s the dude who has come through in this season’s biggest games.
He’s the guy who earned his teammates’ respect through his on-field play and off-field leadership. This is evidenced by the amount of praise heaped upon him from teammates on Twitter and other social media
He’s the guy who earned Jimbo’s trust and respect, being described as follows
“He’s one of the great quarterbacks in Texas A&M history. A guy who persevered through a lot of things, overcame a lot of things, his work ethic in practice, his preparation and the things he did, the example he set, the ups and downs — people saw him have a good game, had some tough games, [but] never hung his head, always came back to work each and every day. He’s a role model for these kids about how to persevere because nothing’s ever going to be perfect and you’re going to have the ups and downs to go through it. He is a tremendous human being. I love him to death, but more importantly, I respect him to death, for what he goes through, how he goes about his business, what he stands for, how much he loves A&M and what he was able to accomplish for A&M.”
Ultimately, he’s the four-year starter who went from being benched during a 6-7 season to hoisting the Orange Bowl trophy.
And I know there are folks out there who are “yeah butting” these statements. “Yeah, he’s got the winning record against LSU but his performance against them this year was bad. Yeah, he’s got the record, but of course he did: he’s a four-year starter. Yeah, he played well, but he can’t hit the deep ball.”
If you’re the type of person saying those things, ask yourself Why? Why bother with that? Why are you unwilling to give him unconditional credit for his performance?
For many folks it’s because of his off-the-field activism. I get that. Kellen’s a grown man and can take the criticism for his stance on Sully. He was vocal and unapologetic in his position. I too am a former student and it didn’t offend me but I get it if it offended you. But if that’s the reason for your doubt, or if that’s the reason that you’re unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt, then own it. Own that it’s a personal grudge that colors your view of his on-field performance and thus leaves you unable to objectively assess the value of his performance to this program.
I understand if you don’t like him because of his stance. But I don’t think you have to like someone to appreciate their value and performance.
Kellen isn’t perfect. But neither was the team around him for four years. We never needed him to be perfect. We needed him to be good. And he was really, really good.
There are times where it’s a bit shocking to me that Kellen never fully endeared himself to our fanbase (prior to the summer of 2020)…as the son of a veteran, who quietly and humbly went about this work. Never asked for credit, just did his job with resilience and toughness. In short, he’s an Aggie.
And yet there are fans who still want to complain about his completion percentage against LSU this year without even mentioning that he completed over 70% of his passes in four out of our nine games (two of them being over 80%).
You take the bad with the good, and when you add it all up, you get far far far more good. In fact, you get so much good that it yields a Top 5 season…the program’s best since 1939. And a guy emerges who should be revered in the pantheon of all-time Aggie greats.
Kellen is criminally underappreciated for his contributions in setting the foundation for this program’s success. Someone stated it best in a comment on my post-game piece:
“The difference between 2012 and today is that 2012 felt like lightning in the bottle, and this feels like a mile marker on the mountain road we are ascending.”
Slow progress is never easy to follow. We want things to be perfect or to be gone so that we can get the next perfect thing. But perfect is an illusion.
Kellen was never perfect. He was good enough. And that’s not a knock on him because he was good enough to get us to heights previously unseen in Aggie football history.
He deserves credit for that.