Matt Mulligan is back home training for another NFL season.
The Enfield native and Penobscot Valley High School graduate, who didn’t start playing football until he attended Husson University and then transferred to Maine, recently attended a mini-camp for the New York Jets after dressing for 10 games, including all three playoff games, last fall.
He had been waived by Miami and Tennessee
Mulligan is a backup tight end and special teams starter who has also tried to expand his versatility and value by becoming a long snapper. He is the backup long snapper.
Mulligan was one of seven former Black Bears who played in the NFL a year ago and one of them, Jets defensive end Mike Devito, is his roommate as he was in college.
Mulligan will be in his third pro season.
Four more are hoping to land NFL jobs this fall as wide receiver Landis Williams signed with the Denver Broncos; offensive tackle Tyler Eastman signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and defensive end Jordan Stevens and linebacker Brandon McLaughlin attended mini-camps with Detroit and Cleveland, respectively. Running back Jhamal Fluellen signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
The 25-year-old Mulligan will work out at UMaine while enjoying some home cooking in Enfield and doing some of the things he enjoys like fishing.
He will report to the Jets training camp later this summer and begin the battle to earn a roster spot. He has signed a three-year deal but he said the $395,000 he will make this year is dependent upon him winning a job.
“It’s an uphill battle every day, “ said Mulligan. “All I can do is show up every day, give 100 percent and see where things fall. They tell me they like me.
“You’re never comfortable. No one is. Any time you get comfortable, you could lose your job the next day,” said Mulligan, who was previously signed and waived by Miami and Tennessee.
He got a lot of snaps at tight end at mini-camp because Ben Hartsock, the blocking tight end, had some injury problems. Dustin Keller is the starting tight end.
“I did pretty well,” said Mulligan, a regular on the punt return and kickoff return teams.
Mulligan said it is no fluke there are so many players from the University of Maine in pro football because of the work ethic and dedication required to play for the Black Bears.
“You have to work hard at Maine. Nothing is given to you,” he said.
Seven-year pro Hartsock has been helpful, according to Mulligan.
“I’m very fortunate being able to watch him and learn how to be an NFL tight end,” said Mulligan, who caught his first NFL regular pass against Tampa Bay last fall.
“That was an amazing feeling. They called a play especially for me, I got a good ball thrown to me and made the catch,” said Mulligan, who will also cherish the memories of playing in three playoff games.
“That was fantastic. It couldn’t have been any more exciting. It was a rare opportunity. You’ve got guys who have played 14, 15, 16 years in the NFL who never get to play in a league championship game,” said Mulligan.
The Jets beat Cincinnati and San Diego before losing to the Indianapolis Colts 30-17 in the AFC title game.
Former Maine teammate DeVito has been influential in Mulligan’s career.
“I can’t list all the stuff Mike has done for me,” said Mulligan. “He is such a hard worker. He’s an animal on the field. He’s a real strong, run-stopping defensive end. He’s competing for a starting job. I try to follow in his mold.”
DeVito was involved in 28 tackles during the regular season and had 14 in the playoffs.
As for the other former Black Bears, San Diego inside linebacker Stephen Cooper led the Chargers in tackles with 102 of which 71 were unassisted. Free safety Brandon McGowan was second in tackles for the New England Patriots with 78; Chiefs rookie inside linebacker Jovan Belcher was seventh in tackles with 48; Jacksonville reserve fullback and special teams standout Montel Owens was in on a career-high 30 tackles and returned three kickoffs for an average 16.3 yards per return and Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu was in on 32 tackles in an injury-shortened season. The Pro Bowler had at least 94 tackles in each of his first four pro seasons.