When the hours hit the a.m., sophomores Leon Hall and Ryan Mundy
are no different than any other Michigan student.

Michigan Football
(ELISE BERGMAN/Daily)
Michigan Football
Safety Ryan Mundy (21) and cornerback Leon Hall (29) have become friends playing real and virtual football. (TONY DING/Daily)

“We’ll probably play ‘Madden’ all
night,” Mundy said.

Hall mans the Buffalo Bills, while Mundy runs with the
Jacksonville Jaguars — they’ve both agreed to choose
teams with an overall game rating below 80.

“The games get pretty intense,” Mundy said.
“We might be messing around sometimes, but when we say
we’re going to play for real, the games get really
intense.”

While Hall plays the silent assassin role, Mundy — a
Wilkins Township, Penn., native — lets it all hang out.

“If I’m losing, I don’t like that, so
I’m gonna start yelling and screaming,” Mundy said.
“But if I’m winning, I’m gonna start talking
trash and everything, getting in his head, and then he’ll get
all mad.”

But at the end of the night, the games are just that.

“That’s my boy, Leon — we’re pretty much
like this,” Mundy said as he crossed his fingers.
“We’re next-door neighbors in the dorm, so if you find
me, you find Leon.

“(He’s) real laid back — he’s a
fun-loving guy. He really enjoys life, and that’s why I can
relate to him, because I’m the same way.”

Mundy and Hall bonded last year when they both logged playing
time as true freshmen.

“Not every freshman travels, and we were in the same
class, so we had to stick together,” Mundy said. “We
really didn’t know what was going on. We became really close
during our freshman year.”

During the season, both players learned from the elder statesmen
of the Michigan defense.

“I just kinda learned from (Marlin Jackson) along with the
coaches, really, just how important it is to get the little
things,” Hall said.

“It’s really all been done through (Ron)
English,” Mundy said, complimenting Michigan’s
defensive secondary coach. “He’s an excellent coach,
and he really knows how to get the best out of you. We really
realized the opportunity we had coming in here — we talked
about it a few times together. We knew we could do big things if we
worked hard.”

Best friends off the field, Mundy and Hall currently share
additional time on it as members of the Wolverines’ No. 1
defense. While Mundy has started at free safety all season —
recording 23 tackles and two picks — Hall earned his starting
status just two weeks ago. He had been pushing senior Markus Curry
all year for the job before Curry was injured prior to the Iowa
game. Hall snagged a highlight-reel interception against the
Hawkeyes and, filling in for an injured Steve Breaston, returned a
punt for a touchdown last week against Indiana. While Hall has
turned many heads in the last two weeks, one person who is not
surprised by the Vista, Calif., native’s explosion onto the
scene is his coach.

“He started some games a year ago,” Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr said. “We learned a lot about his toughness, about
his competitiveness. He’s a guy that has unbelievable
presence, poise and confidence — he had that from the first
day he got in here.

He represents this program just the way you would want it to be
represented.”

Mundy mirrors Carr’s words: “(Leon’s) work
ethic is unbelievable. He works as hard as anybody on the team.
He’s a technician. Once a coach tells him something, he goes
out and he executes it on the practice field.”

Playing football’s version of center field, Mundy
frequently communicates with Hall during games.

“I see things that he doesn’t see, and I get him
lined up,” Mundy said. “Formations and formation shifts
— it’s the safety’s responsibility to get the
corners aligned. And if the corners bust the coverage or blow the
coverage or don’t know the coverage, then it’s pretty
much the safety’s fault.”

Both 19-year-olds try to take the rare opportunity of starting
at such a young age in stride. And, while each of their schedules
is currently swamped with film sessions, meetings and practices, in
the second semester, the players plan to go full throttle on that
other form of football.

“We get some pretty good (video) games in, but we’re
really not going to perfect it until after the season, when we have
some more time on our hands,” Mundy said.

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