When you ask members of the University of Maine defense about teammate Chris Mulvey, they immediately break into a smile.
“There’s a lot to say about Mulvey,” junior linebacker Jaron Grayer said about the Black Bears’ versatile offensive lineman. “He is one tough S.O.B., I’ll put it like that.”
Senior defensive tackle Alejandro Oregon said Mulvey works hard and always plays until the whistle blows.
“When I first met him, I thought he was a tough guy,” Oregon said. “He was very aggressive off the ball. He was kind of annoying.”
Mulvey, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound junior, is in his third season as a starter. He can play both center and guard.
In the previous two seasons, Mulvey and the line have opened holes for back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers in Josh Mack (1,335 yards in 2017) and Ramon Jefferson (1,037 yards last year).
UMaine’s offense produced an average of 349 yards and 26.5 points per game last season en route to the Colonial Athletic Association championship and first ever trip to the Football Championship Subdivision national semifinals.
The Black Bears opened the season by scoring touchdowns on its first six possessions in a 42-14 win over Sacred Heart. UMaine racked up 582 yards of offense.
UMaine added another 359 yards in Saturday’s 26-18 loss to Football Bowl Subdivision team Georgia Southern.
Junior quarterback Chris Ferguson has been sacked only twice in the first two games.
“He has definitely meant a lot to the line,” UMaine first-year head coach Nick Charlton said. “When you have a guy who is that smart and can do a lot of different things, play a lot of different positions, it definitely helps you.”
Mulvey came to UMaine as a tight end out of Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, New York.
“I was 300 pounds and they moved me [inside] the first day of practice,” Mulvey said.
He said it did not require much of a transition because he had played some interior line previously.
“As a tight end, I did almost zero running for passes. It was pretty easy to be honest with you. I was one of the bigger tight ends around,” Mulvey said.
He believes he has improved each year and said that everything makes sense now.
“When you know what you’re looking at, it makes the physical process easier,” Mulvey said. “I can identify a lot of different defenses and coverages as well as pressures and that really helps at center and guard.”
Ferguson praised Mulvey for his leadership on the offensive line.
“He is such a smart guy, and when you have someone like him who knows what he’s doing, he can direct the show,” Ferguson said. “He can be the orchestrator on the front line.”
Mulvey began playing football in third grade and was bumped up from flag football to Pop Warner because he grew so quickly.
He eventually received a scholarship offer to play at Bryant University in Rhode Island, but after the offer was withdrawn, he planned to play at a Division III school.
“I was going to play at Hobart or Trinity, but Maine called late in the process and told me to come up for a visit,” Mulvey said. “Then they wanted me to tell them within the next two days if I was interested. I called them within an hour and told them I was coming.”
He initially walked on at UMaine but has since become a scholarship player.
The construction engineering technology major was a redshirt in 2016, then started nine games in 2017 and played in 12 a year ago despite dealing with injuries both seasons.
Mulvey said he nearly lost a finger during last year’s opener against New Hampshire.
“It got bent all the way back. They sewed it back on,” he said. “I’m going to try not to let anything weird happen like that this year.”
Mulvey said UMaine features a lot of talent in the offensive line with the likes of sophomores Mike Gerace, Matthias Staalsoe and Tyler Royal along with junior Liam Dobson.
“He’s not one of the biggest guys, but he has great technique and he knows what he’s doing,” Grayer said. “He’s a great player. I love that guy.”