Dan Mullen, like everyone else, has no idea when college football will be back. But whenever it does return, it’s going to have a profound and positive impact on a lot of people, the Florida head coach said.
“It would bring a feeling of normalcy back for people,” he said. “It would give them, ‘Hey, I get to go cheer for my team. I get to go watch my team play. However it all figures out, just the excitement to be out there with football is going to be really special. It will make everybody feel good about life, about getting back to some normalcy.”
College football, and pretty much all other sports, remain in doubt for the rest of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When the virus is behind us, college football and other sports are going to be part of the healing process, Mullen said.
“Sports in America is such a huge part of our culture,” he said. “Any time we’ve dealt with major adversity, just the image of what sports was able to do. Seeing President Bush out there throwing the first pitch of the World Series after 9/11.
“After you go through massive tragedies, there are so many things that sports bring back together. Just the lasting memory of what sports are that are so special.”
Even though UF’s spring practice was canceled, quarterback Anthony Richardson and nine other true freshmen still have benefited from enrolling early, Mullen said.
“It’s obviously a setback for anyone that’s a young player,” Mullen said. “There are setbacks involved in it for everybody on the team. The key is not worrying about that and focusing on what we can do and are we maximizing what we can do?
“Look at Anthony Richardson, he’s getting a ton of meeting time. He’s going to have a lot more meeting time before he hits the field than he normally would. So, if you look at that part of it, we try to focus on all the positives of what’s going on and not worry about the negatives because we can’t control those.
“We worry about what we can control and are we maximizing that? Our coaches and players have done a good job of trying to do that.”
Three special players
Mullen is certainly familiar with the three newest football players who are entering the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. He coached quarterback Tim Tebow and running back/return Brandon James. And his offense had to contend with hard-hitting linebacker Brandon Spikes in practice and scrimmages.
“You look at those guys,” Mullen said. “They were here for two national championships. They were here for a very special run. Great players, great leadership and they made a great impact on not just the program and the state but on college football as a whole.
“You look at them, and during that time, there were so many guys that made such a huge impact.”
Tebow, of course, won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, Spikes was a first-team All-American and James is regarded as the greatest punt returner in school history.
“Everybody knows what Tim’s done for Florida, college football and the world is special,” Mullen said. “You look at Brandon Spikes, the emotional leader he was, the attitude he brought, the toughness he played with. He was just an amazing player. To be around him every day, he was just so impactful for the university and the program.
“Brandon James, I remember recruiting him. He’s maybe 5-7, 180 pounds. What position does he even play? But you say he’s a guy we want on the team. Those are the type of people you want to be around. When you say he’s a guy we want on our team, that’s something special.”
Mullen’s new normal
Mullen not only misses football, he also misses getting into his car in the morning and heading to work. He’s working at home, of course, but that’s just not the same.
“Since I was 15 years old, I’ve gone to work every day,” he said. “Whether it was having a job when I was in high school, going to college and summer jobs and all that.
“Just being thrown off in this way. Like, stay at home, don’t go to work. And I’m not someone who creates work for our coaches. We’re not going to spin our wheels to create all kinds of work. Let’s make sure we’re efficient, let’s make sure we’re getting better, finding ways to help ourselves improve as coaches.”