When the seniors on the Arizona State football team exit Pat Tillman Tunnel and run onto Frank Kush Field for the final time Friday, a whirlwind of emotions and moments of reflection are likely to follow.
Senior Day is a time to ruminate on the past four -- or five -- years, and then channel it all into one final memorable performance in front of the home fans. For some, like linebacker Gerald Munns, the college football coup de gras may mean even more.
Munns, the hometown kid from Chandler Hamilton, has traveled a windy road to get to this point, one that caused him to take a leave of absence for personal reasons in 2008. In the time since his return, Munns said he has been able to take stock of what the game of football, and the time spent with his teammates, has meant to his life.
"Being back around the fellas, being on the bus and just being out on the practice field with these guys" are the things Munns said he has made a point of enjoying the most as his Sun Devil career winds down.
"Just pouring blood, sweat and tears with this roster that we have," he said. "I can't say enough about these guys and this coaching staff. It's been a blessing to come back out here and be able to enjoy that again."
Constructed in the same mold as former ASU linebackers like Mike Nixon and Travis Goethel, players whose physical abilities were maximized by their intelligent approach to the game, Munns has played a big role the past two seasons on a defense that has transformed into one of the Pac-10's best.
In 2008, Munns showed flashes of brillance as a starting middle linebacker. In ASU's second game of the season against Stanford, the linebacker tallied nine tackles and recorded his first-career interception, a performance that netted him Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors. But he would play just one more game before stepping away from the football field.
Munns returned for his junior season in 2009 and provided a solid contribution (31 tackles) while the Sun Devil coaching staff slowly transitioned star freshman Vontaze Burfict into the fold. This year, with Burfict beginning to live up to the hype as one of the nation's top young linebackers, Munns' role in the rotation has been reduced. But his teammates and coaches continue to be impressed by the leadership of the local kid who has overcome his fair share of obstacles.
"He's been through a lot of things since I've been here," coach Dennis Erickson said. "He's a huge leader, very-well liked, and guys admire what he's done in his career with how he's come back and fought through some adversity. That's just the kind of guy he is."
Added his teammate, junior quarterback Steven Threet: "When you really watch Munns, you can see how hard he works. He brings a lot to the team with his leadership and his work ethic. He tries to help the team any way he can."
With all he has been through, Munns certainly qualifies as a credible source to give advice to future Sun Devils, and the linebacker has plenty to provide.
"I know it's been said a thousand times, but just get better every day," he said. "This is a league that is very competitive, and your job is on the line every single day. If you're not working hard, the guy behind you is, and the coaches will play him.
"Just continue to grow. Sometimes guys will get complacent with a little bit of success that comes here and there, but it's one of those sports where you've got to get better every single day."
Figueroa to transfer
Sophomore tight end Steven Figueroa, a product of Phoenix Desert Vista High, intends to transfer following the conclusion of the season, a source close to Figueroa said Wednesday.
Figueroa was granted permission to speak with other colleges Tuesday, according to the source, and is likely to end up at a FCS program where he would not have to sit out next season post-transfer.
After redshirting in 2008, Figueroa has seen limited action in the last two seasons.
The tight ends position has had relatively limited role in the offensive scheme brought to ASU by first-year coordinator Noel Mazzone, particularly in the receiving game.
Figueroa, according to the source, is interested in playing for a program that uses its tight ends more actively.