Jaime Mendez III
Jaime Mendez III Born: February 20, 1971 (Youngstown, OH)
Graduated: Cardinal Mooney (OH) High School, 1989; Kansas State University, 1994
People must have thought he was crazy. Growing up in the eastern Ohio town of Youngstown, Jaime Mendez III had what would be deemed by many to be the dream situation: an offer to play for the Ohio State University. But, when Mendez decided to play college football at lowly Kansas State University, the grumblings were hard to ignore.
Friends warned him that he might not win a game. After all, K-State football had lost the most games in Division I college history at that point in time and hadn’t won a game for nearly two years. But Mendez liked new Wildcat head coach Bill Snyder’s vision for the future and saw an opportunity to build his legacy on the plains of Kansas.
Today, that decision, made by a seventeen year old high school senior from eastern Ohio, adds Mendez to the illustrious list of the greatest to ever play the sport in the state of Kansas.
Of course, the Wildcats had a slight recruiting advantage on Mendez. To run his defense, Snyder had tabbed a young Bob Stoops, also a Youngstown native, and Stoops’ dad had even coached Mendez in high school. The Wildcats were unproven but Mendez believed the message and vision for the greatest turnaround in college football and wanted to be a part of building something special in Manhattan.
As part of Snyder’s first recruiting class, Mendez redshirted his freshman season in 1989, where the Wildcats only won one game. The following year, Mendez’s first in the purple and white, the turnaround began.
For the next four years, Mendez played every game for the Wildcats. As a freshman, Mendez set a school record for interceptions with six while totaling forty total tackles as a safety for a team that won five games.
During his sophomore season, the Wildcats continued to improve, so did Mendez. The Wildcats finished the season with a 7-4 record, the school’s first winning season since 1982, and Mendez was named an All-Big 8 Conference performer. As a junior, Mendez again earned all-conference honors by grabbing six interceptions and totaling 67 tackles.
The evidence for a breakout season for the Wildcats was piling up and by the time that Mendez and his counterparts from Snyder’s first recruiting class were seniors in 1993, the wins started to pile up too. After finishing the season 9-2-1, the Wildcats were invited to the school’s second bowl game in program history where they hammered Wyoming at the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Arizona. Mendez posted a career year during his senior season by making 127 tackles and nabbing two interceptions. Mendez was once again named an All-Big 8 selection and became just the third player in school history to earn consensus All-American honors.
Mendez finished his career as one of the finest defensive players in K-State history, totaling over 300 career tackles with fifteen interceptions. As of 2016, Mendez still holds the K-State career interception record with 15, the career interception return record with 298 yards, and the single game interception record with four.
Following his collegiate career, Mendez was invited to play in the 1993 Senior Bowl and 1993 East-West Shrine Game before being signed to a professional contract by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Mendez was among the first football players to be inducted to the K-State Football Ring of Honor and he was inducted to the school’s hall of fame in 2010, cementing his legacy. It turns out, the decision to play at Kansas State wasn’t so crazy after all.