ORONO – Growing up in West Enfield, Matt Mulligan always thought it would be fun to play football.
He used to play catch with his cousin Kendall Ring, who played at Mattanawcook Academy and Bates College, but there was no organized football at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland.
Despite not playing organized football until his sophomore year at Husson College in Bangor, the sport may wind up being Mulligan’s meal ticket.
The University of Maine senior was the focus of four National Football League scouts Wednesday afternoon during the annual pro day testing conducted on the UMaine campus.
Scouts from the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons put five hopefuls through a variety of strength and agility drills to evaluate their skills.
Three other former UMaine players, H-back Anthony Cotrone and defensive linemen Bruno Dorismond and Reggie Paramoure, along with Husson College defensive end Shane Rogers, joined Mulligan for the workout. It was witnessed by some 30 UMaine and Husson team members, several coaches and a handful of local media.
“I think it’s real exciting not only for the players being tested but for the young guys that are here to watch their teammates,” said UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove.
Mulligan, who checked in at 6-foot-41/2, 258 pounds, put on an impressive show in Latti Fitness Center. In the bench press, he cranked out 34 consecutive repetitions with 225 pounds, which is believed to be the best effort in the country this year by a tight end in NFL testing.
He also soared to 351/2 inches in the vertical jump.
“I know it’s miles ahead of all the other tight ends in those two categories,” Mulligan said.
Cotrone pumped out 28 reps on the bench and Dorismond finished with 27.
The group then moved into the Mahaney Dome for the 40-yard dash, standing broad jump and three speed/agility runs. Mulligan, Cotrone and Rogers also ran several pass patterns.
Cotrone, who arrived at UMaine as a quarterback but was transformed into a fullback/tight end, appeared to be the fastest, most efficient performer in most of the exercises.
“I came in prepared,” said the 6-2, 253-pound Cotrone, who has been working out at DeFranco’s Training Systems in New Jersey since December.
“It’s something you always dream of and it’s finally here,” said the New York native. “I did a lot better than I thought I was going to do today as far as benching and jumping and I ran real well today, so I feel pretty good about everything.”
Cotrone said he has had interest from 10-12 NFL teams and had private workouts with the Bears and 49ers. He also has tested with the Jets, Packers and Eagles.
Mulligan, who broad-jumped 9 feet, 8 inches, was a bit disappointed with his 4.89-second clocking in the 40-yard dash. He nonetheless got plenty of positive feedback from the scouts.
“They said, ‘minus your 40 [time], you play faster and you look quicker for a big dude,’” Mulligan said, “‘we’re bringing you in for more of a blocking, check-down tight end.’”
“They know that I’m a bruising tight end,” he added.
Mulligan has been training with UMaine assistant track coach Dave Cusano, a former Black Bears football star who has worked with a handful of the Bears now on NFL rosters.
Mulligan did plenty of blocking the last two seasons in UMaine’s spread offense. He had 13 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns last fall.
It has been a whirlwind transition to football for Mulligan, who started out playing basketball at Husson (2003-04). Yet the former PVHS basketball and soccer standout seemed to be built for football.
Mulligan had always thought his size, strength and aggressive approach might not be best utilized in non-contact sports.
“Even when I played soccer, I was out to run kids over. I wasn’t really out to score goals,” he said with a laugh.
Husson athletic director and football coach Gabby Price quickly saw the potential.
“He gave me my first shot, worked with me,” Mulligan said. “I had a lot of struggles, a lot of things I didn’t understand, but he was always patient and I definitely give him a lot of credit.”
In 2005, Mulligan transferred to UMaine, where Cosgrove and the Bears’ staff continued to help teach him the game.
Mulligan’s limited experience, and the potential for improvement, have actually helped make him a commodity, according to his Boston-based agent, Kristen Kuliga.
“There’s tremendous interest in him,” she said. “He hasn’t played the game for that many years, so I think some teams look at that as a positive in that they can kind of mold him they way they want.”
Kuliga, who has represented former NFL and CFL quarterback Doug Flutie for 14 years, said 20 NFL teams have inquired about Mulligan, who is likely to be a free-agent signee.
In an effort to make himself more marketable, Mulligan is learning to be a long-snapper. He made an impromptu debut at the position during an all-star game in Virginia last fall.
“Ever since then, I’ve been working on it,” he said. “The scouts said if I work on it, that’s going to help me out immensely.”
Mulligan and Co. plan to keep working hard leading up to the NFL draft in April.