Mullen unfazed by recent news in Tampa Gator Club address

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[Graham Hall/Correspondent]

TAMPA — Dan Mullen’s return trip to Tampa wasn’t under the most auspicious circumstances, but the second-year UF coach still had plenty of time for pleasantries.

In front of nearly 500 people Wednesday night, Mullen addressed the Tampa Gator Club at The Gathering at Armature Works showing little fatigue from the negative headlines that have swirled around the program early into the offseason; instead, the Gators head coach made sure to focus on UF’s program-wide accomplishments rather than harp on present issues.

“There’s so many outstanding things around the university. You look at the football team last year, finishing 6th in the country,” Mullen said. “Finishing with wins over FSU, and Michigan in the bowl game.

“We are the only program in the country that’s ranked both in the top-10 in academics and in football.”

Florida’s educational prestige was a focal point of much of Mullen’s address, which also featured an appreciation toward older generations of UF alumni that “set the Gator standard.” Early on, Mullen turned the questions toward an undisclosed former UF faculty member — one of many engaging moments during the night — who at the age of 87 shared just one lament with Mullen: she wished he had been the program’s head coach several years ago.

As he has throughout his time at the helm in Gainesville, Mullen came prepared with plenty of quote-worthy quips — some of which may serve as bulletin-board material for UF’s numerous rivals.

“I came back to UF to win championships,” Mullen said. “That’s why I came back. That’s the goal.”

Now in his 11th season as a head coach in the SEC, Mullen took time to reminisce on his introduction to coaching.

“This guy played for me, named Tim Tebow,” said Mullen, drawing cheers from the crowd. “No, I do what I do because I want to see young people succeed. I get to make a positive impact on young people’s lives. That’s the rewarding thing, that’s really what sticks with me.”

Still riding high after UF’s 2018 season, and not one to let an opportunity to compliment the overhaul he helped orchestrate slip away, Mullen recapped the culture change the program endured upon his arrival in Gainesville.

“I didn’t know the players, the players didn’t know us. The first question I asked (upon arriving) was really simple, ‘how many of you want to a win a championship?’ Guess what, everyone did ‘Oh me Coach, I want to championship’,” said Mullen. “I said ‘Put your hands down, you’re all lying to me. If you wanted to win a championship, I wouldn’t be standing here, right? You wouldn’t have a new coach right now. You wish you could win a championship — there’s a big difference between wishing and wanting. Wishers sit around, think and wish about it. Wanters get up and go do something about it.”

When it came to measuring that progress over the 18 months he’s spent back in Gainesville, Mullen playfully turned the question around on the audience.

“We got better throughout the year, but that’s for you guys to judge. But I hope we’re a better team at the end of a year. And it’s really simple: how many push-ups can you do?,” Mullen said. “35? I’m not going to make you do it, unless you want to. But think of this, if you do 35 push-ups today, and you can do 35 tomorrow and 35 the next day, I’m going to bet by the middle of next week you can do 36. I bet by the week after that, you can do 37. Two weeks after that, you can do 40. A month from now, you’ll be able to do 50, and you’re going to keep going up and up and up, right? Because if I can do the most I can do today, I might have the ability to do more tomorrow. Whatever I gave today, I have to find a way to go a little bit harder tomorrow.”

Before concluding the night’s festivities, Mullen drove home the message of community and how Florida’s fans were instrumental to the program’s success. Considering Mullen has repeatedly stressed the program’s raised the bar — and in turn the expectations — only time will tell if Mullen’s message resonated.

“I want to give you this challenge. I’m sure everyone here wants us to win a championship. Are we wanters or wishers?,” Mullen said. “If you don’t think how important you are to our team, I will say (fan support) has a major impact on our performance.”

Dan Mullen’s spring speaking tour continues Thursday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

24 COMMENTS

  1. The ol’ “what if?” scenario: What if Mullen had followed Meyer and saved us from the other two M’s? I saw a yard ornament the other day. It was a pig with wings, and it sat firmly upon the ground, wishing it could fly. Well, I am still excited for Year 2 under CDM and expect big things to come! Go GATORS!

    • I’ve always wondered the same exact thing, Phil. But maybe he had to cut his teeth as a head coach somewhere else in the SEC before he answered the call to what I think is his destiny.

      You know, I’ve heard general officers all my life try to come up with catchy phrases to motivate troops — from the ridiculous to the sublime, the most recent being, “Men, we’ve got to cash that check now” — but in all my days I don’t think I ever heard anything quite as simple, sincere, and truthful as the difference between “wishers and wanters”. My God, that even makes ME want to suit up and start tackling something!

      • Agree Gator-6!! UF is NOT the place for a first time head football coach to start. None of us could say for sure what the outcome would have been had Mullen succeeded Meyer directly, but I firmly believe that his coming back to UF with so many seasons at Miss. St. under his belt has given him (and us) a jump start to reclaim our standing in the SEC and college football. I would bet my wife’s Mississippi St. cow bell on that!

        • Yeah…..I remember that she’s a bulldog of the MSU variety, Dan. God bless her anyway, at least it’s SEC! My wife, God bless her too, doesn’t understand even a lick about football, couldn’t care less, and the best I can ever hope for if I implore her to watch a particular Gator defensive stand is for her to utter, “First and Ten, Do it again!” (whether it’s appropriate or not — it’s the only thing she knows).

          I’ve long since forgiven her for being a yankee — but this? Oy vey!

          • My wife, bless her southern girl heart, is only half Bulldog (2 years) and half Gator (2 years + diploma!), so she can be forgiven. But having
            a yankee wife…..well, we both have a special place waiting for us in Heaven my friend. (hopefully we will still get the SEC Network up there!)

        • Enjoyed the dialog guys. My wife is a born (Abilene) and raised (small town of Florence) Texan. Tarleton Agriculture graduate. She was athletic (a has-been, like me), and is a (former) Longhorn fan. But the first time I took her to the Swamp, the orange color of her blood changed shades! I can hardly keep her under control now. Moral to the story, take em to the swamp lol!

          • Florence is just down the road on SR195….on the way to Georgetown. Go there all the time to buy 1911 parts at Dawson Precision, although I don’t quite make it to the downtown area since the bypass went in. Used to be some great antique stores there — not sure they still have a DQ tho, which is how Texas towns are really measured. Salado lost theirs with the extra lanes added to I-35, and it hasn’t been the same since. You know what they always say — “A town without a Dairy Queen is a town without pity”. 🤔

          • My wife grew up on a small ranch just west of town. If you mention the last name Edwards there, you should probably be prepared to duck lol. I hear DQ has good tacos…have my doubts, but I intend to investigate. I don’t know for sure, but I assume when Spurrier said God is smiling down on the Gators, he meant all of us.

          • They got good everything Austin, from Blizzards and Brazier Burgers. In fact, I always get a pair of the latter to go along with the former. 😝

            That ranch is between SR195 and US183, off 138….correct-o-mundo? I just might know you in-laws, kinda-sorta, if they run that quarry out there too.

          • Now you’re talkin’ about the coolest little town in Texas — I’d live there too if I could. Center point in the Hill Country for Storm’s Burger Shop, which will make your tenticles tighten in ecstasy with each bite — the only other two anymore being in Burnet and San Saba. Eat there next time you visit the in-laws, it’ll make you want to slap one of them! You can thank me later……

          • Funny! My wife lived right down the road from the quarry (and the old cotton gin that burned down). She grew up about half a mile past the quarry in the two story white house on the right that her dad moved to the property in two halves. Says she doesn’t know who runs the quarry now. She is still in touch with 22 of the 42 in her H.S graduating class…about 15 of them came to her parents 50th anniversary party several years back. She knows well the owners of Florence Grain (if it’s still there)…her brother worked there through high school. Her dad was born and raised in San Saba, her momma in Mason. I think my favorite Texas town (so far) is Bastrop. Love Llano. Marble Falls, and Kingsland too. Will definitely try Storms. Thanks for (part of) the recommendation!

          • I’m informed that Heaven has several levels, which is OK by me as long as the outhouse has a DirectTV dish! I’ve got low expectations as to the level I’ll wind up in, but c’mon — got to have the SEC network.

  2. we will have a better idea in the next decade if mullen going on his own made him better, or if keeping him here and not losing momentum was the best choice. my view is the latter, but to this day the newspaper really remains convinced champ was the way to go, and i will never understand that logic.

  3. mveal, we will never understand the logic behind the “Champ was the way to go” because there is none to be found. The man lost to Georgia Southern in the Swamp for heavens sake!! And I doubt I will ever forget the loss to South Carolina with that 4th qtr meltdown!! No, CDM is right where he we need him to be, and so is Champ.