It has been an emotional past two weeks for Florida football coach Dan Mullen, who is coping with the recent death of his father.
Robert Mullen, 75, died two Saturdays ago. Mullen found out about his father’s passing while on his way to spring football practice that morning.
“It’s been tough,” Mullen said Thursday. “He’d been sick for quite some time, so you knew it was coming. I was very fortunate. I got to go up and say goodbye. He lasted a couple of days after that.
“Obviously, it’s a really tough deal. My mom’s still around, I haven’t lost a parent before. It’s a tough deal. It was a beautiful service. I was thankful I was able to go and attend his funeral and get to spend some time with the family. So that was very nice.”
Mullen returned to his hometown of Manchester, N.H., last week for the funeral. He and his wife, Megan, both gave the eulogy at the mass.
“He was a great dad,” Mullen said. “He was a really good person. One thing (Megan) said was, ‘Boy, I never hear him say an unkind word.’
“And if you go back and look when I was like six or seven years old playing in Little League, he was there to try to help coach the team. He was always a huge fan, a huge supporter.”
Mullen said his dad had a big and positive influence on him, always stressing to his son to pursue his passion in life. Mullen has done that, becoming a head coach in the sport he grew up loving.
“He didn’t even play high school football, so football’s my love,” Mullen said. “But both my parents did an amazing job of exposing me to a lot of different things. And everybody in my family to find out what you love, and I do what I love.
“My dad was probably a much bigger fan than he was a football influence. He was a big football fan — and he enjoyed it that way.”
Mullen said he’s learned a lot about life by the way his father lived his.
“Every room he ever walked into he left with a lot more friends than when he walked in,” Mullen said. “I don’t know if he had many bad days. He enjoyed life. He had a great time. It’s a great way to live life. You’re enjoying every day of it. You wake up every day and you’re happy, and if you’re not, boy, that’s a shame. It’d be a tragedy going through life not waking up every day and just enjoy what you’re doing.”
Robert Mullen was also big on family values, another trait he’s obviously passed on to his son.
Mullen is always stressing the importance of family to his coaching staff and players, of always remembering to put family first.
And it’s not just talk.
His most recent family-first move came this week, when he scheduled only one practice so he and his assistants could spend time with their families while their school-age children are on spring break.
“We gave everybody a couple of days off so they could have a long weekend and go spend time and be a husband and a father,” Mullen said.
Mullen was asked the origin of his philosophy.
“I just try to remember what it’s like being an assistant coach and try to remember what’s important,” he said. “We don’t usually work on Halloween night. That’s interesting for guys that are new that have worked for me, like, ‘Holy Cow. I have never taken my kids trick or treating.’
“Well, my dad took me trick or treating, and kind of remember that. I don’t remember a lot of things from childhood, and I don’t remember a specific night of it. I just remember that happening.
“There’s a lot of little things like that I want to make sure our coaches’ kids remember. When my kids get older, I certainly don’t want them to say my dad was never, ever around. Obviously, our job makes that difficult already. So, my job as a head coach is try, as best we can, to ease that and let everybody be Dads once in a while.”