Monangai strives for excellence on and off the field

Nick Fattori

Everyone in college strives to maintain a balance of getting good grades, enough sleep and having a riveting social life. However, what happens when one tries to do that, but then adds on playing a Division I sport? This is a struggle that senior Kevin Monangai faces day in and day out.

Monangai, a 5-foot-10-inch, 215 pound running back from Morristown, N.J., has strived to be the very best at all that he does since first stepping on campus in the fall of 2011. He was a star at Seton Hall Prep, but after suffering a broken ankle his junior year of high school, the big time schools lost interest.

He finally decided on Villanova after shattering SHP’s school records for both TDs (69), and rushing yards (4,486) during his career. Monangai received higher offers than ‘Nova, including one from Central Michigan, but he chose the ’Cats for their high level of football and strong standing within the academic community.

Monangai, an economics major and philosophy minor, has dreams of making it big—whether it is in football or something else entirely. He would love to have a long NFL career, but if that does not work out he has a backup plan.

“I would love to start my own business,” Monangai said. “Or I could work in finance on Wall Street, but either way I would love to work for myself someday.”

To reach these goals Monangai has made sure to get involved on campus. Not only is he a part of the Entrepreneurship Society and the Business and Leadership Society, he has also started his own club, the Student Athlete Committee, which is partnered with the Bridge Society. The SAC works to help student-athletes find jobs upon completion of their degrees at Villanova.

To go along with his participation in numerous clubs around campus, Monangai also likes to give back to the community. He has been an active participant in the football team’s annual bone marrow drive and often volunteers at St. Barnabas, a church in West Philadelphia that helps single mothers get back on their feet.

“I think I offer more than just my athletic ability,” Monangai said. “I value my intelligence. Gifts are given to us by God and I think it is our duty to share them with the people around us.”

Monangai realizes how lucky he is in life and credits it to a few individuals: his family. They have aided him in everything that he does and allowed him to become as successful as possible. He is specifically grateful to his father William, mother Gwendolyn, sister, 19, Kathy and brother, 12, Kyle.

“I consider my family to be my best friends,” Monangai said. “They are the people I am closest to in my life and the biggest motivation for what I do.”

Although family comes first for Monangai, the Villanova football program has also been a huge part in molding him into the person he has become. Through the return of former players Monangai has been able to see just what it takes to not only make it at the next level of football, but the next level of life.

“You get to see that there are a lot of successful people who have come through the program and made it,” Monangai said. “[Villanova football] grows you mentally and you know that no matter what life throws at you that you will be able to get through it.”

Being as confident and popular as Monangai is, many people would imagine him to love all the attention, but for Kevin it is quite the opposite as he enjoys his time alone. Monangai has lived in a single the last three years. Sophomore year he lived in Austin Hall, and for two years straight he has lived in St. Mary’s Hall.

“I am around people so much every day that I do not have the time to get away from the world,” Monangai said. “I am really big on the individual and representing who you are as a person, so I thought it was essential to have my own space away from everybody.”

Another reason for him wanting to live in a single was to help him as a football player. He attributes part of his transformation from a limited role his freshman year to star during his sophomore campaign to his time living by myself.

“Living in a single helped me understand my mental self a lot better,” Monangai said. “I meditate a lot…it is the mental aspect at this high level of sports that can take you to the next level of competition.”

To say that his living arrangements were the only reason for his vast improvement from one year to the next would not be fair. After the football team’s disappointing 2-9 2011 season, Monangai worked himself tirelessly to help not only better himself, but the team as well.

“I emptied the tank in the weight room during the off season,” Monangai said. “I really saw a lot of gains in terms of my physical ability, as well as my durability because I have yet to be injured during my college career.”

After only rushing 54 times for 176 yards and one touchdown as a freshman, Monangai burst on the scene as a sophomore. He ran for 1,210 yards and 13 total touchdowns. Subsequently he was named First Team All-CAA performer, led the ’Cats to an 8-4 record and playoff birth and named to the 2013 preseason All-CAA First Team.

However, at the same time Monangai was emerging to be a star, so too was current redshirt junior quarterback John Robertson. He threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 14 scores, while also rushing for another thousand and another 14 touchdowns. Following this tremendous season the team began to tailor their offense around Robertson’s running ability, which saw a reduced role for Monangai.

During the 2013 season Monangai saw his work load drop dramatically. He carried the ball 212 times as a sophomore but only 130 as junior. This combined with most teams stacking the box in anticipation of a Robertson QB-keeper didn’t help Monangai’s stats.

“It can be frustrating at times and anyone with a competitive nature would be lying if they said it didn’t,” Monangai said. “At the same time I am here to win a national championship and whatever contributions I can make to the overall goal will only better the team’s chances.”

With a lesser role in the offense, Monangai has worked tirelessly to help the team with whatever he can do. He still tries to improve every day, not only for himself, but for the younger guys on the team who see him as a senior leader.

“I am still seen as a leader on the team,” Monangai said. “It is my responsibility to continue to work on my crsaft and build myself up to be a better contributor…I show them how hard I work so they can develop into great players.”

At the end of the day it really is all about the team though for Monangai. Now that ’Nova is more than halfway through the season he has his eyes firmly on the playoffs. He truly believes that this team is special and has the capability to be playing all the way into January.

“As long as we keep practicing and preparing well I believe we can win out the rest of the regular season,” Monangai said. “Hopefully we will earn a first round bye and then take our chances in the playoffs.”

No matter how the season finishes up for Monangai and the Wildcats, it is safe to say that he has firmly placed himself as one of the best backs ever to play at Villanova. Entering the season he was already in the top nine of career rushers at Villanova and only one of four players to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

“I have been blessed with talented offensive linemen who are hard-working, dedicated and selfless,” Monangai said. “I am also thankful for being able to stay focused and striving always to get better.”

Monangai realizes that Villanova isn’t just a place he played football or went to school for four years. It is much more than that. He is thankful for his surroundings and knows that the ’Nova Nation has helped mold him into the person he is today.

“Villanova means community,” Monangai said. “I was involved in a community setting during high school and I felt like I had that here when I arrived on campus…The student body does a really good job of fostering a community.”