Megan Mullen helping change the culture at Florida
***Video above is the full feature that not only shows an interview with Megan Mullen but also with a few players. Below is a transcription and expanded quotes.***
GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- When Dan Mullen arrived in Gainesville, the Florida head coach said he needed to change the culture around the program before finding success.
Mullen put together a staff in order to succeed on the field, however, he says his coach at home, Megan Mullen, is just as important to the Gators' future success.
“At first maybe when I came in they said, 'wow, who is that blond thats around and is always hugging me,'” Megan Mullen joked.”Now they come up to me and hug me and talk to me before I get to them.”
Mullen has her own way of doing things. 'Mama Mullen,' as the team and recruits alike call her, is not one to stand on the sidelines.
Just as competitive as her husband, she is ready every Saturday, helping to motivate the Gators by waiting for the buses to arrive. There she greets every player, her adopted sons, sharing a special message for each one.
“I’m always ready to get the hug,” defensive tackle Kyree Campbell said. “Every time we get off the bus she is ready to give us a hug and a kiss on the cheek."
"It motivates us man, just having somebody that shows a lot of love like that,” running back Lamical Perine said.
“The way she shows love to us it’s a cool thing to have,” wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland said. “It’s good to have a lady like that, sweet and kind.”
“When we were here ten years ago it was the same. They are our children,” said Megan. “I have two at home, I have a fur baby and a big baby as a husband and 119 others.”
She is not just a coach's wife or the 'First Lady' of Florida football. She is her husband's partner. She is each player's sounding board.
“She is like the co-head coach when it comes to being around the players,” Dan Mullen said of his wife. “You know pick them up and she is always positive, always has a smile on her face. But thats who she is. Not just around the players but she does that for me, she always puts a smile on my face.”
Dan and Megan's story began in Ohio, where Dan was a quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green and Megan was a sports anchor at a local television station.
A few emails from Dan later and they were a couple.
Both careers soared. Megan earned her way to the top by becoming the main anchor on the Golf Channel in Orlando, while Dan was the offensive coordinator at Florida.
"We had the discussion at one point, I mean, hey, if Good Morning America calls or one of those calls I could be coaching at Poly Prep High School in Brooklyn," Dan joked. "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 she was all-in. It’s really a two-person job."
The Mullens journeyed together to Starkville to start a new chapter together as Dan began his head coaching career. Always together.
Raising their children, Canon and Bree, and a few hundred adopted 'babies'.
Megan never regretted her decision to step back.
“Yeah, Dan calls me a coach, I don’t know, but I do know this. I got to have my dream job; I did that for 13 years and that was great," she said. "But I wouldn’t give up one second or one five minute conversation after a practice on a Wednesday afternoon over anything.”
According to the players, Megan is always there when they need to discuss a problem or just to remind them they have someone who cares for them.
“The biggest honor that can be bestowed upon us as a coach and coach’s wife is a parent and a student athlete deciding to play for us and being part of our family," said Megan.
"Whenever we are having a down day, she is there with a big smile on her face to pick you right up,” said quarterback Feleipe Franks.
"You can feel safe being a recruit, knowing that you can come from anywhere and you can feel comfortable at Florida," said linebacker David Reese.
“Especially with someone like me my home is 12 hours away," added defensive back Donovan Stiner. "It’s like having a second mother.”
“They are college students right, but there are just so much more demanded of them," said Megan. "Anything I can do to lift their spirits. Their mothers are not here. They don't get to see them everyday but when I know they are doing something special, I try to do that.
"You don't see that really in most programs," Cleveland said about Megan's involvement in the program. "Just seeing the time she takes out of her off time writing those notes to every single player, it's sweet and it's kind."
To Megan it was never a choice.
"They came to Florida to win a national championship but they also deserve a family that loves them more than the world. Everyday I want them to know how proud I am of them because they sacrifice so much. They work so, so hard," she said.
"I just love everything they do. I mean they listen to everything my husband says and they have played even beyond their means even this year," Megan added. "From trying to take them from where they were before we got here to now. I would do anything for them because of it, because they are so special."