Dan Mullen coached the day after an appendectomy in 2007
GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- The last time Florida hosted Auburn at the Swamp was memorable for Dan Mullen.
The then 35-year old offensive coordinator and the Gators were 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country. They were riding a 11-game winning streak and Florida was was one game shy of tying a school record.
But Mullen knew "something wasn't right" leading up to game day. It hit him hard when he was sitting in his Thursday staff meeting, sweating.
"I went downstairs to the training room and laid down a couple minutes, they gave me some medicine, went out to practice," recounted Mullen. "Urban's like, 'Hey, you're doing the radio show tonight, too.' So I had to go do the radio show Thursday. I was feeling a little better."
Mullen's reprieve was short-lived, however. The decision was made for the coach to head to the hospital on Friday. However, he first had to go through meetings, the Friday night meal and even the walkthrough.
Mullen was not going to budge.
"Back then I didn't have kids, so you probably view things a little differently and more suck-it-up mentality.
"Megan [Mullen] picked me up from the walkthrough and brought me right over to Shands and Dr. Cassisi was waiting at a backdoor for us," said Mullen. "They didn't want me walking in the front door the night before a game, so they brought us in a back door. If you want to see a big-time guy, go see Dr. Cassisi right there. He's got some juice. That was pretty impressive."
Scans then revealed that Mullen needed emergency surgery to remove his appendix. With the game less than 24 hours away, Mullen wanted to delay the surgery until after the game, however, doctors ruled that out.
“I remember calling Urban (Meyer) at like 10:30 or 11 and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to have an emergency appendectomy right now. Not sure I’m going to be able to coach,'" said Mullen. “He’s like, ‘Well, who’s going to call the plays?’ I said, ‘I’m going to try to be there and coach.’ He said, ‘We’ll figure it out.”
Mullen started game planning as soon as he was out of surgery.
“Before you can get signed out, you’ve got to, like, pee so many times, right? Walk around. I was given this big jug, and I’m, like, pounding water, and I’m, like, doing laps,” Mullen said. “The lady’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m walking around trying to drink so I can pee so you guys can get me out of here and I can go coach a football game. They’re like, will you just go relax? They had me go relax. Came and signed me out to go to the last walkthrough.
"My wife’s like, ‘You’re completely out of your mind to be doing this,’" joked Mullen.
His doctor agreed but Mullen was determined. He was discharged on Saturday.
The coach did not participate in Gator Walk, deciding not to bring attention to himself or his situation, choosing to travel in a police car on a different route so he can set up in the booth.
Well the universe had other plans.
“I end up getting in a minor fender-bender car accident on the police ride over here,” he laughed. “Everything’s just insanity.”
Mullen did finally arrive at the stadium and was even able to get a few hours of sleep. However, after his side was shut out in the first half, the offensive coordinator had to make the trip down to the locker room in person to make second half adjustments.
"Dr. Cassisi was sitting in the box the whole time keeping an eye on me. It was pretty crazy.”
In the end, the Tigers' Wes Byrum kicked the winning field goal as time expired.
"Dr. Cassisi reminds me, you didn’t call a really good game that night," said Mullen. "They were pretty good, too. I know we lost on a last-second field goal.”
Mullen is hoping this weekend's match up against the Tigers will be a memorable one but for different reasons.
For the first time since 2012, the Swamp will play host to a Top 10 showdown and to College Game Day. It's an opportunity for Florida to shine.
"We're playing a team, that really, has an argument so far this year to be the top team in the country with the wins that they have. It will be a great challenge for us. We’ll get ready to go."
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