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How Mississippi State football changed Florida Gators’ Dan Mullen

Weeks before the Gators coach will return to Starkville, we asked him about his time there and how it changed him.
 
BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times
Florida Gators' head coach Dan Mullen high-fives fans during Gator Walk toward Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.
BRONTE WITTPENN | Times Florida Gators' head coach Dan Mullen high-fives fans during Gator Walk toward Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.
Published Sept. 26, 2018

Not long after Dan Mullen took over the Gators in November, we began to look ahead to Sept. 29 when the new Florida coach would face his former Mississippi State team in Starkville.

With that in mind, I asked Mullen over the offseason about how his nine years with the Bulldogs changed him.

"It changed me a lot, the experience of being a head coach," Mullen said during the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. "You do it for nine years. You're running a program — I mean running every aspect of the program, dealing with every issue. The experience you gain in doing that, being a leader, you've got to make decisions every day. My day just revolves around decision-making. Well, the more decisions, the experience you get making decisions, you have hopefully an opportunity to make better decisions."

Those decisions have a different focus, too. In his first stint in Gainesville, his job was to coordinate the offense and coach quarterbacks. He remained involved in the offense at Mississippi State, too, but the job was obviously more than that.

"As the head coach you learn my job is to help us win football games," Mullen said. "51-50 or 3-0, both wins. I'd rather win 3-0 than lose 51-50. I like scoring points, but the big thing is making sure we do what's best for the team."

Mullen said he evolved as a person, too, through his time in Starkville.

"I'm probably more relaxed, maybe not as paranoid," Mullen said. "When you first start off, you're kind of paranoid. This is my one shot. If something is not done exactly the right way, everyone's out to get you. Or if a decision doesn't go your way, everyone's out to get you. You know, it's not really that way…

"I'm much better at delegating. I'm much better at leading. I'm much better at making sure everyone's heading in the same direction within the program. I think I'm probably a much better communicator with all of our administration, making sure everyone's on the same page of what we view the program to be and what it takes for the program to be successful."

One other not-so-small thing: He's a dad now.

"We didn't have any kids," Mullen said. "Now we have two. It's not just being a husband. It's being a father, having that part of your life…That's more life-changing than becoming a head coach."

I'll have plenty more on Mullen's return to Starkville leading up to Saturday's game.