MULLEN MOMO: Looking at some breakout players outside of Fort Wayne’s city limits

Garrett’s Trey Richards and Churubusco’s Nick Nondorf did battle in September 3’s NECC contest. (Photo by Steve Bowen/Bowen Arrow Photography)

Joining the Outside the Huddle staff in 2021 is former Bishop Luers standout Kendrick Mullen. The member of the Class of 2013 suited up for Ball State University and after college served as an assistant coach for several years with his high school alma mater. Mullen is now a football trainer and 7v7 coach at Optimum Performance Sports.

Kendrick’s weekly Monday column goes by the name “Mullen MoMo.” According to Kendrick himself, MoMo was something late Bishop Luers coach Mike Egts used to say to players to get them going. “I’m pretty sure it just means like momentum or something,” Kendrick says.

We are now a third of the way through the regular season and things are really starting to heat up. Certain teams are establishing themselves as clear contenders at the top of their respective conferences and players are separating themselves as the top talent in the area.

Being three weeks deep into the season, we are able to see who is consistently putting together quality film each time out. There have been so many standout individual performances by players that it’s getting hard to keep track of all the great playmaking going on in northeast Indiana!

Growing up, I was only exposed to watching and playing football in the Summit Athletic Conference. Being a young boy going to games every Friday in the city meant that no matter what game you went to there was insane talent on the field.

Having been exposed to only one local conference led me to think that it was the only good football out there. That was the ignorant, younger version of myself.

The older I have gotten, the more I have realized there is so much more talent outside the confines of Fort Wayne. Turns out the entire area is actually loaded with guys who play the game at a very high level.

There is a common misconception that the talent in the area is only generated within the Summit City. Granted, schools outside of Fort Wayne such as Leo and East Noble have proven they put out exceptional talent year in and year out, but what about the other guys? 

This week, I decided to shift my attention to a few of the “other guys.” I was fortunate to be able to catch up with three student-athletes who have shown the ability to lead their teams to great starts so far this season. The playmaking ability these fellow seniors have shown would be on display in any conference throughout the state!

So let’s get started, shall we?

TREY RICHARDS, senior, FS/Slot – Garrett

There is one guarantee when matched up against the Railroaders: Trey Richards is going to bring it!

One of the most physical players in the area, Trey makes it a point to punish his opponents every chance he gets. What you see from the physical aspect of his game is actually generated from his mental capacity. Being a student-athlete with a 4.0 GPA provides even more insight to how focused and dedicated he is mentally. Richards spoke very passionately about what it takes for him and his teammates to mentally prepare for a game and how it relates to them knowing their assignments to be able to play fast and physical.

In fact, Richards believes that 90 percent of his performance is mental as opposed to physical. He gratefully admitted that his coaches at Garrett believe that mental preparation is the most important thing leading up to a game. They are expected to go home from practice and watch film on their opponents. He believes the time spent mentally preparing for New Haven prior to Week 1 was a key factor in the Railroaders’ huge victory.

When asked about a quality that it takes to be a leader, Richards very quickly responded with “having integrity and doing the right thing when no one is looking”.

For me that answer stood out because sometimes players put in the work only when a coach is watching and when a coach isn’t looking the same players decide to slack off. The realization that you only get out what you put in is a sign of a mature player who understands the importance of having a blue-collar mentality and work ethic. 

Richards best described the type of player he is by saying he is “aggressive.” He went on to explain that he relies heavily on his fundamentals, but when it’s time to go he is always ready to step up and make a play.

Some stats for Richards through three weeks:

35 total tackles (21 solo, 14 assist)

3 Pass Break-ups

1 Fumble Recovery

7 Receptions for 117 yards

PRESTON DIFFENDARFER, senior, CB/WR, Central Noble

The Central Noble Cougars have a silent assassin who has proven he can rise to the occasion in key situations.

While you won’t get many words from him, Preston Diffendarfer would rather just let his play do the talking. Standing at a very lengthy 6-foot-2, he matches up well on both sides of the ball. With deceptive speed, he finds himself running past defensive backs and shutting down a whole side of the field at cornerback. By limiting an entire half of the turf, he’s allowed only one catch on the season!

For “Diff,” having a good mental attitude is his most important leadership attribute. He understands that there are many things that will not go his way in football and he has to be able to bounce back, no matter what. He believes that being a wide receiver and defensive back means that he has to have a short-term memory. For example, a dropped pass can’t be on your mind for the remainder of the game.

In the offseason, Diffendarfer was able to showcase his skills against some of the best talent in the Midwest while playing 7-on-7. His abilities drew the attention of many collegiate coaches, including a few Division I scouts. He admitted that some of the talent that presents itself during the course of the 7-on-7 season was something that he doesn’t regularly see during his high school season. 

The time spent lifting with his Central Noble teammates in the summer is also something that has better prepared Diffendarfer for the fall season. Something as simple as getting out throwing and catching with his teammates has shown to pay dividends in the Cougars’ undefeated start to their season. It has built some much-needed chemistry for the offense. Preston described himself as a “very focused and driven” type of player. Those traits have led him to be one of the best playmakers in northeast Indiana!

Some stats for Preston through 3 weeks:

3 INTs

4 Receptions for 107 yards

27 Yards per catch average 

NICK NONDORF, senior, FS/WR, Churubusco

Deep in the heart of Turtle Town you will find an absolute stud, the kind of stud you can expect to put on a show whenever he goes out to compete. Arguably one of the most dynamic players in the area, Nondorf has done just about everything at Churubusco. He is a three-sport athlete who excels on the wrestling mat in the winter, on the track in the spring and on the football field in the fall. I believe that Nondorf can do just about anything. His 4.0 GPA in the classroom makes that point very clear.

The leadership qualities that shape the kind of player that Nick is are “vocal, leading by example, and working hard all the time in practice and in the game.” The product of those three is exactly what you get from him on Friday.

Nondorf’s ability to read offenses allows for him to fly around and make unbelievable plays. On offense, he is able to get open at will and make plays in the open field. He also has exceptional field vision and a great awareness for the game.

As a multi-sport athlete, Nondorf never has to worry about being out of shape. Last spring, he made it to regionals in the 110m hurdles during the track and field season. His track coach at ‘Busco is also his defensive coordinator, which allows him to always be able to talk football at any given time. Track plays a huge factor in getting him faster and stronger leading up to football season.

Wrestling is also a big component to Nondorf’s success on the football field. He admits that ever since he was little, wrestling has helped him with his tackling and being able to move well on his feet. It helps him with his conditioning between track and football as well. There are no breaks for him in between sports so maintaining good conditioning is a top priority in each sport.

Nondorf best describes the type of player he is as being fast, physical and the ability to do the right thing to avoid being scolded by his coaches. I mean, no one actually likes to get yelled at by their coaches, right? He prides himself in holding himself accountable so he can be a dependable player to his teammates. That is the biggest asset that makes Nondorf such a special player.

Nick’s Week 3 stats vs. Garrett

6 Carries for 47 yards

5 Receptions for 69 yards, 1 TD

2 INTs, 1 Pick-six

4 Tackles

205 All-purpose yards

These three student-athletes have very much in common. Not one of them has the luxury of playing for a big-name, in-city program. They may not be the names you hear a great deal about on a week-to-week basis, but they go out and compete at a high level. Playing for a small school outside of Fort Wayne gives a different meaning to how they approach the game. 

This trio represents much more than just the school they attend. They represent their town. They represent their friends and teammates that they have known their whole lives. They represent coaches who have watched them play since youth football. The combination of the hard work and skill set they bring forth is one that continues to put area schools on notice. 

Mullen MoMo appears every week during the prep football season. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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