Matt Mulligan has fond memories of his time at the University of Maine. Now, he is giving back to the school.
The Enfield native and UMaine product has joined head coach Nick Charlton’s program as a volunteer assistant coach and sports performance assistant.
“Matt is a tremendous addition to our program, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former Black Bear and NFL player,” Charlton said.
“His impact on our players was very important to me and something I felt would be critical to our preparations for the 2021 season,” Charlton said.
Mulligan enjoyed a nine-year career in the National Football League. He had never played football before he attended Husson University in Bangor, but transferred to UMaine and his career took off.
Mulligan had been the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the NFL’s Washington Football Team but wanted to return to his home state with his family.
Mulligan, wife Stephanie, and children Clara, Emmett and Lena live in Lincoln.
“There is no place like Maine. I wanted to return to where I grew up and to where my family is,” said the 36-year-old former tight end, whose NFL career included stints with Miami, Tennessee, the New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay, New England, Chicago, St. Louis, Buffalo and Detroit.
Mulligan got to know Charlton and offered to help out when he had the opportunity.
“Nick is a great coach but he is also a good human being and that’s what won me over,” Mulligan said.
“It’s a great opportunity and I wanted to be part of something special,” he said.
When he isn’t working with them in the weight room, Mulligan is sharing some of the extensive knowledge he attained with the tight ends, receivers and the offensive line.
He started on June 3 and said he is enjoying the experience.
“This is a great group of young men. They work tremendously hard and bring their lunchpails every day. They just want to get better,” Mulligan said.
He also noted how close-knit the players are.
“These players have a real connection with each other. You want to work with people like this,” he said.
Mulligan isn’t concerned that he isn’t getting paid for his efforts.
“For me, it isn’t about money, it’s about the opportunity to work with these young men. I remember being a Black Bear. I wanted to be a sponge and soak everything in,” said Mulligan, who is a member of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.
Mulligan played basketball, soccer and tennis at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland, which doesn’t have a football team. He overcame his lack of experience to play in 89 NFL regular-season games.
He caught 18 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard scoring reception from Tom Brady when he was with New England in 2013. He also played in seven playoff games.
Mulligan played basketball at Husson before trying his hand at football.
He said it is an exciting time to be at UMaine with the $90 million Harold Alfond Foundation gift for facilities upgrades, including a new FieldTurf surface on Morse Field in Alfond Stadium that should be finished by the first week in July.
He said the upgrades are “long overdue for the student-athletes and the fans. And this will be a great recruiting tool.”
It was just three years ago when UMaine won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title and reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in program history, so expectations are high. Mulligan intends to do whatever he can to help the program achieve its goals and guide the players so they can thrive.
Mulligan isn’t the only established professional in his household. Wife Stephanie is an accomplished author and publisher who has a number of books on the market including “How to Catch a Keeper”, in which she describes the art of catching a lobster, and another one about her husband’s incredible career called “Just a Kid from Maine.”
“It tells kids that just because you are from Maine doesn’t mean you can’t realize your dreams,” said Mulligan, who is living proof that it can happen.