SAN ANTONIO — In the living room of the Mond family home on the north side of San Antonio, most of the blinds are bent. And they have been that way for two decades.
Kellen Mond was 2 years old when his father, Kevin Mond, began teaching him to throw a Nerf football in the house. A few years later, the youngster got a real football. Let’s just say it took time for him to develop accuracy.
“We threw every single day,” Kevin Mond said on a summer morning at the family home. “So you can see that the blinds are all bent up and they’re damaged everywhere. But I said, ‘We’ll fix them when he makes the NFL.’ ”
That happened last spring when the Vikings made Mond, a star at Texas A&M, a third-round draft pick. He is now the No. 2 quarterback on the active roster behind Kirk Cousins, although Minnesota does also have veteran Sean Mannion on the practice squad.
Now that Mond, 22, has earned a roster spot in the NFL, there actually is a debate in the household. Kevin Mond seems ready to change the blinds, but his wife, Leticia, wants to keep things the way they are.
“After he went in the draft, I said, ‘We can now change the blinds,’ ” Kevin Mond said. “She said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ But I’m going to win that one. I’m looking at doing it before Christmas.”
As for Mond, he’s with his mother on this one.
“I kind of like them dented,” said Mond, wanting them to remain as a reminder of how far he has come.
Mond has been honing his football skills since around the time his hands were big enough to hold a ball. His dad, a former high school basketball star in San Antonio who elected to enter the Army rather than play college ball, decided early on that his son’s sport should be football.
“I started grooming him to be a quarterback at the age of 2. I’m 6-foot-5, so I knew he’d be tall, but 6-4 in basketball is not being tall,” Kevin Mond said of his son, who is actually listed at 6-3. “So I was pretty athletic and I thought he could do some things football-wise. When he was 2, I had him throw balls from his knees to build torque in his body.”
Kellen Mond learned his lessons well. By the time he was 9, he played organized flag football for the first time, in 2008 with the Longhorns in the Mays Family YMCA at Stone Oak league. He excelled right away, and remained with the Longhorns the next year when he played tackle football for the first time.
“As a young kid, he was able to see things on the field that a lot of kids couldn’t see,” said Chad Anderson, Mond’s coach with the Longhorns. “He was always picking out the receivers. He already had a good throwing motion. We didn’t have a very good offensive line, but he was able to use his athleticism to get out of situations even at a young age. He was a student of the game.”
After his two seasons with the Longhorns, Mond was getting noticed. And the Bears, the best team in the league then, were in the market for a quarterback.
In that league, players were required to play offense for one half and defense for the other one. The Bears had a good quarterback but needed a second.
Kevin Mond was friendly with then-Bears coach Donnie Laurence, who mentioned the opening. Kevin Mond pitched the idea to his son, and he decided to jump teams.
“I guess it was kind of controversial for middle-school people,” Mond said. “But looking back, there never were any hard feelings. … The Bears needed another quarterback and so I thought it was just a good opportunity for me to go and change. We were good. We had some really good coaches, especially for that age.”
In that 2010 season, his first with the Bears, with Mond playing quarterback for one half and safety for the other half, the team finished 12-0, outscoring opposing teams 378-0. Laurence, who played football at Baylor and had been a high school assistant coach, began teaching Mond rather sophisticated offensive techniques for that age.
“We were really passing the ball,” said Mason Laurence, Donnie’s son, who was a Bears receiver and went on to play at the University of North Carolina. “We had a big playbook, hand signals. We wore the wristbands (with plays on them). We were a little bit next level, per se. I think that’s why he wanted to come (to the Bears).”
Mond also returned punts. Mason Laurence remembers one play in which the speedy Mond, who ran track as a youth and into high school, “weaved through defenders with his long legs” for a long touchdown run.
“I knew he was very good back then,” Donnie Laurence said. “He had a high IQ and skill set. You just can’t say that I knew he was going to be an NFL player, but I certainly thought he would be a very good high school quarterback.”
Mond did become a top high school quarterback in San Antonio. After starring at Bush Middle School, where he didn’t lose a game in two years, and for the freshman team at Reagan High School, Mond took over the starting job as a 10th grader for his high school team, the Rattlers, in 2014.
“He was ahead of the game as a young quarterback,” said Lyndon Hamilton, who was then the defensive coordinator and is now Reagan’s head coach. “He was real fleet of foot, and I remember being behind him in a 7-on-7 session one time and I heard the wind cut when he threw the ball. I knew he was going to be special when I heard that ‘whoosh’ just like a baseball pitcher bearing down on the plate.”
As a sophomore, Mond threw for 1,745 yards with 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and rushed for 1,142 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Rattlers looked to be state championship contenders but Mond was hampered by a knee injury and they lost in the playoffs to finish 12-2.
As a junior, Mond threw for 1,991 yards with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions, and rushed for 898 yards and seven touchdowns. That season, the Rattlers suffered another tough playoff loss and finished 10-1.
“He was dominant,” Kevin Mond said. “But I saw some things and some flaws I needed him to get better at. I didn’t want Kellen Mond to just be the best player in San Antonio. … If you’re the best player in San Antonio, what does that mean?”
Kevin Mond wanted his son to test his skills against better competition, and the young quarterback agreed. So for his senior year, Mond transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., a private school loaded with college prospects playing a national schedule.
It was the second time he had unexpectedly switched teams, and this one was really controversial. Kevin Mond said he got some hate messages when the move was made, and his son received some, as well.
“It was pretty crazy,” Kellen Mond said. “I got hate messages even from people who I was on the team with. There was some hate because they didn’t really understand what IMG was and why I was leaving. … I wanted to play at a higher level. When you’re at your traditional high school, your teammates aren’t really at a certain mindset where they want to go play in college or the NFL …. I was trying to be surrounded with people who have like-minded goals. … I think it was perfect, and I’m in the NFL, so it definitely paid off.”
After Mond made his decision to leave Reagan and enroll in January 2016 at IMG, he said school officials wouldn’t allow him to conduct any interviews with local media on school grounds. He said he received criticism from David Wetzel, who was Reagan’s head coach at the time.
“He critiqued me (for leaving) but he ended up doing the same thing as me, so I just never really had kind of respect for that,” Mond said of Wetzel leaving Reagan after the 2016 season to become Baylor’s associate athletic director for football relations. “I haven’t talked to him since (leaving Reagan).”
Wetzel, who did not return messages requesting an interview, was replaced by Hamilton. Mond said he has a good relationship with Hamilton, and the coach agreed with that.
Hamilton didn’t want to discuss Mond’s rift with Wetzel. He acknowledged “there was a little bit of tension maybe” when Mond left but said he’s pleased that “everything worked out for him.”
Hamilton said Mond returns to Reagan at times when he is in town to attend athletic events. Interestingly, there is nothing in the school trophy case paying tribute to Mond even though he was one of the best players in school history.
At IMG Academy in 2016, Mond set single-season school records with 19 touchdown passes and 17 rushing TDs in helping the team to a No. 2 national ranking. Then he moved on to Texas A&M, and won the starting job as a freshman in 2017.
But Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin was fired after that season and replaced by Jimbo Fisher. Mond, competing with Nick Starkel, had to win the job all over again.
“They both were great players, but Kellen just had a consistency and he went about it every day with his work ethic, with getting better and grinding,” Fisher said. “The players and the guys around him that followed him, they loved him. … He’s a very quiet leader but certain times he can be vocal when he has to be, and he’s a very smart leader.”
Mond threw for 63 of his 71 career touchdowns and for 8,286 of his 9,661 career yards in his three college seasons under Fisher. He led the Aggies to bowl victories in each of his final three years, including in 2020, when they finished a pandemic-shortened season 9-1 and ranked fourth in the nation by the Associated Press.
Since joining the Vikings, it has been all business for Mond. He took part in spring drills, continued to hone his skills during a one-month break, and overall has made strides since the start of training camp.
Mond missed 10 days of camp when he tested positive for coronavirus, and he looked rusty in his first two preseason games. But he took a good step in the third and final exhibition, completing 16 of 23 passes for 196 yards with an interception, playing the second half of a 28-25 loss at Kansas City on Aug. 27.
“He got better every day he came on the practice field,” Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said. “It was a shame he had to miss some of those days, because those would have been valuable, too. But he’s a guy that I’ve just really been impressed with his work outside of the building. He’s got the intangibles you look for. Love his study and work habits.”
Mond has become known for his accuracy, including completing 63.3% of his passes last season for Texas A&M. He laughed when it was suggested how far he’s come since the days when he was denting blinds.
“My dad always brags about how he had me throwing the football at 2 years old,” he said. “And I’ve definitely gotten better over the past 20 years.”