Bond beyond football: BYU backup QB Jason Munns, tight end Kaneakua Friel enjoy deep friendship
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
PROVO — As wide-eyed freshmen, and recent high school graduates eager to embark on their careers as college athletes, quarterback Jason Munns and tight end Kaneakua Friel joined other BYU players on a trip up Provo Canyon prior to the 2007 season.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall had asked all of the players to bring something of great personal value on this excursion. Friel, who had recently arrived in Provo from his hometown of Kaneohe, Hawaii, brought a surfing magazine.
In the canyon, Mendenhall told the players to throw their prized possessions into a bonfire, symbolic of their sacrifice and dedication to the team.
When it was his turn, Friel pulled out the surfing magazine, which had been given to him by his grandmother, and explained what it represented.
“He talked like a Hawaiian. He had long hair, and a dark complexion,” Munns recalled about his first impression of Friel. “That surf magazine meant a lot to him because it symbolized his family and his favorite thing to do with them. Then he threw it into the fire. Then he started bawling. I thought, ‘Who is this giant, 6-foot-6 tight end crying over a magazine?’”
In that moment, Munns, a highly touted QB from Kennewick, Wash., with a seemingly promising career on the horizon, knew that he would become friends with this stranger from the islands who shared his love of the outdoors.
Sure enough, an unlikely friendship was forged, and they eventually became roommates.
“He’s always 10 minutes early,” Friel said, “and I’m always 10 minutes late.”
They’ve enjoyed fishing, four wheeling and surfing together. And, thanks to a snowball fight, Friel played an instrumental role in helping Munns meet his future wife.
“It seemed like we were polar opposites, but we were very similar in many aspects,” Munns said. “We gravitated toward each other.”
What they didn’t know early on was how deep their friendship would become. They became brothers. BYU’s football program prides itself on being a “Band of Brothers,” but Munns and Friel have embodied that motto in ways that transcend football.
“Any major milestone in my life,” Munns said, “Kane’s been there.”
Munns and Friel are seniors now, heading into their final regular-season game Saturday (1 p.m. MST, CBSS) at Nevada.
As their respective BYU football careers come to a close, they can reflect on their time in Provo. Many of their best memories have little to do with football. They could swap stories for hours, laughing about some of their adventures together.
This season, Munns hasn’t taken a snap in a game, while Friel, who has been hampered by an injury, has caught just nine passes for 110 yards.
But on Thanksgiving, they are grateful for what they have, which is plenty.
Wrapped inside this story of friendship is a story of gratitude, perseverance and loyalty.
Munns arrived at BYU with high expectations, and some wondered if he would be the next great Cougar quarterback.
Amazingly, during his five years at BYU, Munns never attempted a pass in a game. He was relegated to mop-up duty in two games last year, against Hawaii and New Mexico State.
His BYU experience didn’t produce All-America honors or passing records or unforgettable wins.
It produced something more important.
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