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Roger Brown's State of Sports: Swiezynski knew Mullen would be successful

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 03. 2017 8:59PM
Dan Mullen talks with media as he is introduced as the University of Florida's head football coach last Monday. Mullen is a former Trinity of Manchester player. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

Dan Mullen has gone from University of Florida offensive coordinator to Mississippi State head coach to the recently hired head coach at Florida in a relatively short amount of time.

Things didn’t always go as smooth in his high school football career, however. Mullen is still bitter about being pulled from the game when Trinity overcame a 27-6 third-quarter deficit to defeat Nashua 32-27 at Gill Stadium in 1988.

Mullen made that clear when he spoke with Skip Swiezynski, Trinity’s head coach in 1988, during the 2015 Massachusetts High School Football Coaches’ Association clinic at Gillette Stadium. Mullen was the starting quarterback on that Trinity team, which ran the Straight-T and stormed back to defeat Nashua without throwing a pass.

“He came up to me and said, ’You took me out of that game and put in (Justin) Fossbender,’” Swiezynski recalled at Thursday night’s Jeff Francoeur Huddle at Sweeney Post. “’I didn’t go back in until he got hurt. I was so mad.’

“I remember in that game (Mullen) did one of our keep-outs and went 40 yards untouched into the end zone. He was so good at the fakes and stuff that we did in the Straight T that no one even realized he had the football as he was heading down the sideline. I didn’t remember I had taken him out of the game. He definitely reminded me of that.”

After defeating West in the semifinals, Trinity beat Concord to win the Division I state championship that season. Fossbender kicked a field goal in the final minute to cap the scoring in a 10-9 title game that featured two Straight-T teams. Clearly, Mullen left that offense behind when he began his college coaching career.

“I remember the scoreboard broke at Gill that day,” said Swiezynski, who is currently an assistant coach on Bill Ball’s Exeter staff. “It was 27-6 when the scoreboard shut off. So when we scored you had to ask, ‘Hey what’s the score now,’ because you need to know when to go for two or one or whatever.

“(Trinity assistant coach) Jim Mullaney gave them a big speech at halftime and we came out in the second half and played great. It was amazing.”

“(Mullen) wasn’t overly athletic, but he was disciplined and knew how to run the offense. Fundamentally sound in what we did. That’s what made him so good. Had a good presence about him with the kids. The kids liked him.”

Mullen, who grew up in Londonderry, was the second former New Hampshire high school quarterback to take over a major Division I college program last month. He made the move to Florida shortly after UCLA hired former Manchester Central QB Chip Kelly to become its head coach.

“Danny doesn’t come home (to New Hampshire) as often as Chip because Danny has a family down there and things like that, but all his buddies went down (to Mississippi State) twice a year,” Swiezynski said. “He still has a lot of roots in New Hampshire. Just the fact that I hadn’t talked to him in years and we sat down and didn’t skip a beat — that tells you the type of kid Danny Mullen is.

“He was really good as a speaker. I can see how he motivates kids. He’s a tremendous motivator. I didn’t see that in him as a player, but I’m sure that’s something that grows into you as a coach.”

Mullen also surprised Swiezynski with a compliment when he agreed to do an interview with an Exeter radio station several years ago.

“On the show they asked him about his coaching influences and he said Urban Meyer, Lou Holtz and Skip Swiezynski,” Swiezynski said. “Only Danny Mullen, as nice a guy as he is, would put me in the same sentence as guys like that. It was funny.

“It’s hard to say I knew he would be at Florida 30 years after I coached him, but he was a kid you knew would be successful at what he did.”

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EXPECT Franklin Pierce Unviersity to announce in the near future that it is moving away from sprint football (178-pound weight limit) in favor of traditional 11-man football.

The Ravens, who recently completed their sixth season of sprint football, are expected to join the Northeast-10 Conference — a league that includes St. Anselm College.

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WINNACUNNET became the eighth program to finish No. 1 in the Union Leader Power Poll since the poll was introduced in 2008. The others: Nashua South (2008), Bishop Guertin (2009), Pinkerton (2010, 2014), Exeter (2011, 2012), Concord (2013), Goffstown (2015) and Bedford (2016).

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THE EXETER POST 32 baseball program has been reinstated by the New Hampshire American Legion Baseball committee and will play a full schedule in 2018. The Exeter program was suspended earlier this year in part because it had to forfeit a state tournament game when many of its players opted to participate in a showcase event rather than attend the tournament game.

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LOCAL college basketball fans will have the chance to see one of the top scorers in the country when Niagara plays at UNH on Tuesday Niagara’s Matt Scott, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, entered the weekend as the No. 3 scorer in Division I with an average of 25.6 points per game. He had scored 205 points in his first eight games.

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