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Oct. 14, 2006

by Kyle Rudzinski
Student Assistant, UVa Athletics Media Relations

With the abundance of media covering collegiate athletics today, it is possible to find student-athletes with inflated egos as they watch themselves on Sports Center highlights, read about their exploits on blogs and listen to talk radio banter about their athletic performances.

Fontel Mines, a fourth-year starting wideout for the Cavaliers, could easily be an individual engrossed in his personal on-field success. However, despite his career-high five catch performance against Minnesota in the 2005 Music City Bowl victory and his streak of 15 consecutive games with a catch heading into the Duke contest, Mines tries to remain down-to-earth as just another student at the University; he simply happens to be an accomplished athlete, too.

“I’m a very humble and modest person, raised in a single-parent home,” Mines said. “I try to maintain a lot of morals and values. You know, live the right way.”

For Mines, living the right way includes finding the necessary time to escape the pressures of juggling his academic workload with the time commitment it takes to play in a preeminent Division I football program. His release? He likes to kick back with his roommates–fellow receivers Emmanuel Byers and Deyon Williams. Mines hangs out with his roommates often, just like any other student.

“I spend a lot of time with my roommates and our three dogs–Mo, DJ, and Queen,” Mines said. “We go to the park with them a lot. It’s a way to cool down, to get away and relax.”

With all three players competing at the same position and living under one roof, the setup seems perfect to create some tension at times, but Mines sees it differently.

“Deyon and EB definitely provide a lot of competition,” Mines said. “We’re always competing, but it’s that competition that brings out the best in all of us, especially on the field.”

His roommates are not the only ones who have instilled in him motivation to work hard and compete. Reared under the watchful eye of his mother, Deborah, Mines acknowledges her resolve and influence as factors that helped him develop a strong work ethic in order thrive at Virginia.

“Growing up with just me and my mother, things weren’t always easy or given to me,” said Mines, who grew up in Richmond. “It’s a matter of working hard and trying to overcome adversity in order to achieve what you want.”

That hard work has turned some heads in a football program that currently has 40 alumni on NFL rosters and has seen 12 players drafted in the past two years. Assistant head coach John Garrett appreciates “the same I’m-going-to-work-hard-every-day-and-improve attitude” Mines routinely exudes at every practice.

With an injury that sidelined co-captain Williams for the first few weeks of the season, the receiving corps–especially Mines–have had to step up to fill the void. Being the only healthy senior receiver, Mines recognizes his role as a leader.

“It’s important for me to step up and be a vocal leader on and off the field,” Mines said. “But it’s more than just saying things. You need to lead by example, because if you don’t, then it’s just words coming out of your mouth and no action.”

Mines’ leadership comes as no surprise to head coach Al Groh.

“It’s almost when the players elected Deyon [co-captain in the spring,] they elected Fontel, too,” Groh said. “There’s that same kind of compatibility of ambition and thought and style with those guys.”

Despite a slow start to the season, Mines continues to project a positive demeanor amongst his teammates.

“It’s very important for the younger guys to see how the older guys react when you’re suffering early in a season,” Mines said. “We need to put the one loss behind us and move on to the next game.”

This resilience is rooted in Mines’ childhood from the influence Chris Collins, his mentor from the Big Brother Program. Mines recalled the perseverance Collins demonstrated.

“He showed me where he was in life and what he had accomplished,” Mines said. “It wasn’t a bump-less road to get there. He taught me to keep getting up and trying again when you fall down. Everything’s not going to go right all the time, and you got to rebound. That idea stuck with me. There’s never one large obstacle, but a bunch of little things that add up over time. But you’ll make it through alright.”

After his expected graduation in May, the anthropology major is considering becoming involved in the Big Brother program.

“I’ve thought about the Big Brother Program. It’s a good way to get younger kids off the street and be a positive influence,” Mines said.

Nevertheless, like the majority of students at the University, Mines’ post-graduate future remains uncertain. Mines would like to travel to Jamaica or Africa if the opportunity presents itself. His motives for such a visit are clear.

“I’ve met a lot of people who went to Africa. When they came back, the experience really kept them humble,” Mines said. “They see so many things that you’ve only heard about here. It’s a good thing to do to remain modest.”

Like a select group of other football players, another option after graduation for Mines could be a shot at the NFL. While he wants to make the ambitious leap to the NFL, he’s “not going to put all of my marbles in one basket” just yet. Until that opportunity presents itself, Mines will continue to try to be just another unassuming college student.

1st and 10 With Fontel Mines

What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
I’ve got a song by the Black-Eyed Peas.

What’s your favorite class at UVa?
Intro to personality psychology

What’s your most prized possession?
My car

What’s your favorite movie?
Inside Man with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen

What’s the best place on the Corner?
Mellow Mushroom

What’s your favorite team to play with on a video game?
In NCAA Football, it’s obviously UVa. In Madden, it’s whomever Randy Moss or Terrell Owens are playing for.

What extreme activity you would most like to try?
I want to ski.

What’s your favorite website?

Favorite TV Show?
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Best Christmas present as a kid?
When I was 10, I got a go kart.

What will be the first thing you will buy with your first paycheck?
Anything for my mother

What’s your favorite thing about UVa other than football?
There are a lot of things I like…but the diversity is good.

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