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Right place, right time, right situation
You never know what you might find on a college bulletin board.
Just ask Mondray Gee. The path that has led him to becoming one of the Seahawks’ assistant strength and conditioning coaches began while he was checking out a message board at Michigan State University.
“It was 1996 or ’97, and I was student at Michigan State University,” said Gee, who turned 34 on June 15. “They had an ad up in one of my kinesiology classes. It said if anybody was interested in coaching they had some possible internships.”
Gee already was into working out and, as he put it, “I’ve always loved and respected the sport of football, and I respect the players and their dedication and what their bodies go through.”
So the chance to secure an internship in the football program while still going to school was, “The best of both worlds how it came together,” as Gee viewed it.
Looking back, he had no idea where answering that classroom ad would take him. Looking around his office in the state-of-the-art weight room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Gee just smiled.
“I started as a volunteer student intern as a sophomore,” he said. “Some of my friends had internships with GM or Ford – making money – and I was volunteering at the football office.”
Gee’s reward was down the road, even if he had no idea where that road was leading him.
A few years later, he had a summer internship with the Chicago Cubs’ Class A affiliate – the Lansing Lugnuts.
“I was happy just to get that experience,” he said. “But they were two miles down the road from Michigan State. So when I didn’t travel with baseball, I’d go back and volunteer with football.”
That hectic summer, which also included taking summer school classes, led to Gee applying for – and landing – a graduate assistant position with the MSU football program.
“I was somebody that the strength staff and the football staff knew, because I had kind of grown up in their system,” he said. “That’s a great opportunity for anybody, because you can earn your master’s degree.”
Gee did just that, starting his master’s in athletic administration at MSU to go with the bachelor’s degree he had in kinesiology.
But his introduction to the NFL came when he was 20, and Gee met his step-cousin for the first time – Karl Williams, who played for the then Tony Dungy-coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Meeting my cousin after the game, as well as Tony Dungy,” Gee said, shaking his head as he recalled that foreshadowing of an encounter. “For me, at that time, it was huge. Being in an NFL locker room after a game was like, ‘Wow.’ I thought that was the greatest thing ever – just that moment in time.
Seahawks.com will feature the new coaches on Pete Carroll’s staff during the coming weeks:
“I was very appreciative of that opportunity.”
Which led to his next opportunity. When the Detroit Lions were planning a new training facility, their staff visited Michigan State. The visit allowed Gee to meet the Lions’ strength and conditioning coach, Jason Arapoff.
“I wrote him a letter and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to possibly come and be a volunteer intern at your minicamp,’ ” Gee recalled. “He called me back a month later and said, ‘Would you be interested in a fulltime job?’ ”
Goodbye, Michigan State. Hello, NFL.
For the next seven seasons, Gee – who played basketball, ran track and sang in the choir at Wayne Memorial High School in the Detroit suburb of Inkster – was living one of those please-don’t-pinch-me dreams.
“We didn’t win much, but the experience was great,” he said. “I really enjoyed working there.”
Then came the kind of interwoven connections that crisscross the staff head coach Pete Carroll has assembled with the Seahawks. From the Lions, Gee went to the Green Bay Packers for two seasons (2008-09). That’s where he met John Schneider, then the Packers’ director of football operations but since January the Seahawks’ general manager.
“John and I talked when we were in Green Bay, just like any co-workers would talk,” Gee said. “It wasn’t all football. We talked about a lot of different things.
“I always told him, ‘Hey, your name seems to be coming up for general manager jobs. I wish you the best of luck. I’m happy for you. That’s great.’ ”
But wait, there’s more. Last January, Gee went to Los Angeles to see his girlfriend and took a side trip to USC to visit Trojans strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle.
“Just to see how he does it,” Gee said.
Carlisle is now doing it for the Seahawks, as he was among the former USC assistants who followed Carroll to Seattle.
Schneider. Carlisle. It didn’t take long to connect those considerable dots when Gee came in for his interview for Carroll.
But back to those different-thing discussions Gee used to have with Schneider. Gee is into different things. Like being an avid music listener. Like bird-watching.
Music? That’s not too surprising for someone who was in his high school choir.
“Love music,” said Gee, who owns two IPods and estimates he has 300-400 CDs. “I like everything, except hard, heavy metal. I love piano and hearing guitar.
“A lot of the rap songs that are out now, or the R&B songs, or some rock songs, they’ve stolen samples from the 60s and 70s. I know, because I grew up listening to my mom’s 45s. I just enjoy music. I always have music on.”
And not always the kind of music you’d expect to hear coming from a NFL weight room.
“When I was in Green Bay, (cornerback) Al Harris would listen to spa music,” Gee said. “It’s very smoothing, and I found it enlightening. When I workout and nobody else is in here, I’ll put that on and I can lift just as hard to that as the rap, or the rock, or the country, or the reggae.”
But bird-watching? That started while he was living in Green Bay.
“I had a deck and birds just kept coming by,” Gee said. “So I got a birdfeeder and I would get these random birds coming to eat out of it. Then I got a book, ‘Wisconsin Birds.’ I really like them coming.
“But at 5:30, 6:15 a.m., if the feeder ran out of food, I would hear them out there making noise. I swear, it was like them saying, ‘OK, we don’t have any food here. So let’s go, buddy.’ They were like my pets.”
Kinesiology. Internships. Spa music. Bird watching. They’re all part of what has led Gee from that bulletin board at Michigan State to his office in the weight room at the Seahawks headquarters.
“I’ve been very fortunate, and kind of blessed to be in the National Football League for 10 years,” Gee said. “I would like to continue to grow and learn and be humble, and hopefully one day move up the ladder and be a head strength and conditioning coach at this level.
“Right place. Right time. Right situation.”
Don’t bet against it, because that’s the path Mondray Gee’s life has followed to this point.