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Florida Football

ITG Feature I: Mama Mullen a part of culture change at Florida

October 17, 2018
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Megan Mullen left a note for every player. As the Florida Gators football team arrives in the locker room on a normal midweek afternoon, each guy finds a word of encouragement in his locker that lets them know 'Mama' has been there.

Across town on a patio in a plaza in the middle of Gainesville, Megan sits and pauses her day for a few minutes. It’s already been a busy one of zipping around town to run errands and pick up school supplies for her kids at home, then the stop at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to deliver the personal notes. But despite the wind whipping and rain threatening thanks to a storm forming in the Gulf, the wife of head coach Dan Mullen smiles and settles in for a visit, happy to brag about the group of guys she’s adopted.

“The Florida Gators are as much as my team as they are Dan’s team. They just, that’s it, they are my children, they are my absolute babies. I’ve got two at home and I’ve got 100 big ones up there at the stadium. And they’re my children so the happiness they have is times 1,000 with me. Any disappointments they have, I take on and it’s times 1,000.”

The 2018 season has had more happiness than disappointment, to the surprise of some, with Mullen in his first year as head coach in Gainesville and taking over a team—with much of the same roster—that finished 4-7 last year. But now sitting at 6-1 with a bye week to prepare for No. 8 Georgia, the No. 11 Florida Gators are in the midst of one of the biggest turnarounds in college football.

It’s easy to point to the sideline at Dan Mullen and say, “There, that’s the difference.” And that wouldn’t be completely wrong. But Megan knows there’s more to it than just the play calls during games.

“Listen what we’ve put them through this year, it is, it’s so extraordinary and they’ve bought into it so much and I think it’s cool now cause I think they have our back as much as we have theirs but I think this is different because, and I think you can see the way it’s going this season, I think they know how much we love them… so it’s far more than coaching, those are our, those are definitely our children.”

Nearly every program preaches family; it’s part of the recruiting sales pitch, it’s on the walls, it’s in the hype videos. But few are able to truly and wholly fulfill that promise in every facet of their program. Perhaps this is working in Gainesville and for the Gators because when Dan Mullen uses words like we and our, it encompasses more than just his coaching staff or those in the football facility. It includes his entire familial unit as well.

“We’ve just always been a package deal in everything we do, I mean everything we do.”

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When the Mullen’s first arrived in Gainesville over a decade ago, Dan was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and the couple was planning a wedding. Megan was in sports broadcasting with a passion for golf, so when an offer rolled in to become the main anchor for the Golf Channel in Orlando, she found a way to make it work.

“For three years, my first three of those four seasons, I did, I commuted 260 miles a day, an hour and 36 minutes door to door. I’d leave here at 10:16 in the morning, get there for the noon show, go on live from 7-7:30, be in the car at 7:34, I’d be home at about 9:16 and I’d probably have about an hour and a half to make dinner before Dan even got home and he’d probably never even thought I left the house that day,” she laughs.

“But I did that because it was my dream job.”

There’s a certain understanding that comes within a marriage, and subsequently a family, when one partner feels called to a career that is life encompassing. There’s no clocking out, there are no days off and without a commitment from both parties, there is little chance of the job or family being successful. So from the moment Dan and Megan Mullen decided to head down the paths that would lead them to their individual goals, it was with the promise that one would detour if the other pulled ahead.

“We had the discussion at one point,” explains Dan, “I mean, hey, if Good Morning America calls or one of those calls I could be coaching at Poly Prep High School in Brooklyn or something. The opportunity when I became a head coach we were going all-in one way or the other and when I became the head coach [at Mississippi State] she was all-in.”

But for Megan, the realization that she might be called more towards the team then the anchor desk had already started to sink in.

“After the three years [at the Golf Channel] it just got to be, it got to be a lot and Timmy [Tebow] was in our lives then and Johnny Brantley was and Cam [Newton], and so we got Heisman Mullen—our Wheaten—and so my job turned at that point to be with the players and Heisman. So starting then is when, like I took on the role full time, was our final year here. But then you know we had Canon [our son] so my job is just always taking care of my babies.

“But the great thing is, all my life, you have journalistic goals, Dan had goals; I met all my goals. For three years I got to be at the top of the sports broadcasting world and that was awesome but I wouldn’t trade one day of that to be away from my players.”

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Spend at least two minutes with Megan and it’s clear she’s a nurturer, someone who wants to take care of those around her and considers it a joy to do just that. So when she turned her attention to her players, it was with a zeal and depth that has resonated with the players and their parents alike, reinforcing the notion that this program is built on the basis of a family.

C’yontai Lewis is a 5th year senior and as such the tight end is one of the oldest players in the program. Dan Mullen is his third head coach just at Florida (although the first to offer him a scholarship back at Mississippi State) and he’s old enough to be considered an adult by everyone from the U.S. Government to his teammates. But for his mom, Lametrius Lewis, he’s always going to be her baby so knowing Megan Mullen is in Gainesville helps her sleep a little better at night.

“I appreciate that. Me being here in [central] Alabama and C’yontai is there, it makes me feel good to know that ‘ok I got Megan there. She’ll look out for my son and she’ll be there for him. She’ll be able to hold him, she’ll be able to encourage him when I can’t get to him.’ I don’t have worries with her being there.”

“If we’ve got a birthday going on, if we’ve got a sick Grandma, they always are supposed to turn to me if there’s something, something that they just need,” says Megan.

“Listen the biggest honor that can, Dan and I both say this, I think the biggest honor that can be bestowed upon us is a family trusting their son to be with us. A lot of people can tell them things and feed them whatever they want to when it comes to recruiting but when our parents come and see us with their children, I think they know their babies are gonna be loved like they’re ours. I’ve gone through terribly sad times—Dan and I have buried three players in 16 years. Those are some of the toughest times of my life. But I’ve, you experience the highest of highs with them and the lowest of lows but there is not one parent that comes and brings their son to visit that doesn’t know that we’re going to love them as much as anyone possibly could. They’re our babies too. That’s the way it works with us.”

Being there, being able to hold them and encourage them is a vital part to the whole operation according to Dan Mullen; because while he may have the title of head coach, it’s not just his job to hold.

“It’s really a two-person job. She does such a great job. I’m probably tough on people and she’s a lot more loving than I am on everybody. She’s like the co-head coach when it comes to trying to be around the players and pick them up and she’s always positive, always has a smile on her face. That’s who she is, not just around the players; she does that for me, always puts a smile on my face. Whenever I get home and all that she’s always fantastic. I think it’s a huge help and I think it’s a major part of our program.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks has a lot more to smile about midway through a season that has seen him make numerous strides in his game. But back in week two after just one game into the season, he was still somewhat wary of the change, teetering between buying into the new regime and wondering if he should keep up the defenses he had to build out of necessity following his redshirt freshman season…until you asked him about Mama Mullen. Then the embattled passer lit up and talked about the woman who was helping to change the culture of the Florida football program and its players, himself included.

“She’s a really big supporter of our team. She’s a wonderful woman. She’s a really big motivational type of person. Whenever you’re having a down day, she’s right there with a big smile on her face to pick you right up. She’s just a great human being, somebody you want to be around when you’re having a gloomy day, because it seems like she’s never having one. She never has a bad day. That’s one of the things I love about Ms. Megan. She’s a really good person, a wonderful human.”

The effect Megan Mullen has already had on the Florida Gators is evident in each players face as they talk about the woman who has become their surrogate mother. It’s been a process, months already of working to break through their defenses. But finally, finally, she’s starting to see it pay off.

ITG Feature I: Mama Mullen a part of culture change at Florida

8,861 Views | 9 Replies | Last: 6 mo ago by upstateg8tor
Beargator99
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I love mama Megan can't wait till part 2 thanks!!
Vinny B
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Excellent stuff! I saw CDM and Megan at a basketball game last year and she was talking up the recruits more than Dan was. She's a real asset. Also she came to speak to our Ocala Quarterback Club in late August and she was just as you describe in the article, wonderful lady and for those that think this coaching staff is at some sort of perceived disadvantage in recruiting, think again. Coupled with the success and improvements we are seeing on the field, I fully expect recruiting to skyrocket in the near future....
ausbran
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Great feature!
notexgator
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Kassidy - As I said earlier in the year, I only come to this site because you are here. This article continues to reinforce my choice!
upstateg8tor
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I guess we got the whole package with Mullen hire. Very impressed with their teamwork and how they make this work. God bless them
KassidyHill
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notexgator said:

Kassidy - As I said earlier in the year, I only come to this site because you are here. This article continues to reinforce my choice!
I'm sorry I missed this comment earlier. I was looking back through this story for something and just saw it. But thank you so much! That's really kind and I hope I make it worth your while!
Kkilburns
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I wish she was more aware/involved in the Steele situation. If she was able to influence the dorm room change request he may still be here.
upstateg8tor
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Kkilburns said:

I wish she was more aware/involved in the Steele situation. If she was able to influence the dorm room change request he may still be here.



It wouldn't have mattered. If they did move him per his request, it just would have been something else. The kid was homesick and this just became the convenient excuse behind it.
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