Bond beyond football: BYU backup QB Jason Munns, tight end Kaneakua Friel enjoy deep friendship
“I was able to build some friendships, especially with Kane, that I have no doubt will be a friendship that lasts forever, regardless of where life takes us,” Munns said.
Neither Munns nor Friel had committed to going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they enrolled at BYU. But they encouraged each other to serve missions after their freshman year. Munns ended up going to Mexico, while Friel served in South Africa.
“Being among BYU players, like Jason, I started to wonder if I should go,” Friel remembered. “I started reading the Book of Mormon, and it changed my life.”
As Friel battled homesickness when he first came to Provo, Munns invited him to stay with his family on weekends, or to eat dinner at his aunt’s house.
“I’m grateful that I was able to become a part of Jason’s family,” Friel said. “I never thought I would miss my family so much, and he helped me get through the rough times. It was August, and I was having a hard time breathing in this dry air. It was hotter weather than I had ever been in. Flights are expensive to Hawaii. Jason really helped me get through that first semester and to enjoy my time here.”
Friel lived with the Munns family after his mission, with Munns’ mom doing his laundry and fixing his meals.
“Whenever she sees Kane,” Munns said of his mom, “she lights up like it’s one of her own sons.”
“That helped me in the transitional process,” Friel said, “to feel like I was home, even though I was thousands of miles away from home.”
Friel invited Munns to visit him and his family in Hawaii, and took him surfing — something Munns had never done before.
“To see him surf, it was probably more natural to him than walking,” said Munns. “We got to the beach and we unloaded the surfboards. He told me to wax it. Then he said, ‘Lay down, paddle out there and when a wave comes, stand up.’ He made it sound so simple. I was exhausted once I paddled out there. The wave comes, and Kane’s cruising. He doesn’t talk about it, but he’s gifted at surfing. If only people could see him. He’s a great football player, but he’s twice as good on the surfboard.”
They both remember one memorable winter’s night as freshmen, when a chaotic snowball fight erupted in the quad by the dorms.
“It may have been my first snowball fight,” Friel said. “They wanted to recruit the big arm. That was Jason. He saw this girl who was on the gymnastics team. I took this big, old snowball, and I smacked her. Then Jason started talking to her.”
“That broke the ice,” Munns said.
When Munns returned home from his mission, he married that girl. Now, Jason and Whitney Munns have an 18-month-old daughter, Macey.
Of course, Friel and Munns attended each others’ weddings — Friel’s wife, Rachel, is a former Cougar swimmer. And when Munns blessed his baby daughter, Friel stood in the circle.
If only football had gone that smoothly.
In five seasons at BYU, Munns endured injuries, bad luck, three different offensive schemes, and three different offensive coordinators, though two of them were the same man, Robert Anae.
Munns could have transferred, or quit. But he remained at BYU.
“There were opportunities to leave, but I felt that I had made a commitment to this program and to coaches who had left,” he said. “It didn’t sit well with me to go not live up to my commitment to this university. I was going to stay because I put my word to it.”
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