Isaiah Mullens once thought he was going to be a basketball player. But when Harvest Prep football coach Milan Smith caught a glance of Mullens’ big frame, he knew a future in football awaited.
It took some time for Mullens, who attended a small K-12 private school in Ohio, to see the big picture. Once college coaches saw the 6-foot-6 defensive end blossom, however, scholarship offers began to roll in. Mullens ultimately used his faith and perseverance to guide him to Wisconsin as a member of the Badgers’ 2018 recruiting class. You can read more of Mullens’ story here.
Mullens recapped his recruitment with Land of 10 and shared stories and advice he learned throughout the process. Here is his recruiting rewind:
Q: If you could give a junior only one piece of advice about the recruiting process, what would it be?
Mullens: My thing I would tell them is just take your time. Don’t go to a school just because it’s Wisconsin, it’s Ohio State, it’s Michigan, it’s a really big school. Go to a school where you can fit in. Don’t go to a school just because of the name. That’s what people were always telling me. Be patient. Don’t just go there just because it’s that school.
Also, get to know the people. Get to know your future teammates. Get to know the atmosphere, the culture of where you’re going. And just sit down and ask God, ‘Is this the right place for me?’ There’s going to be some times where it’s going to be tough. You’re going to get stressed out about people calling you, texting you, ‘Come to my school.’ Stuff like that. But just be patient.
Your family is a big part of it. But it’s your decision. So just talk to your family. Get their information, talk to them and just be yourself.
Q: What school came in second? What could they have done a little better?
Mullens: My top five was Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue and I think Toledo. It’s not about what they could have done better. Don’t get me wrong. I loved those schools. They really talked to me. They really got to know me. I just had to sit down and really think what is the best decision for me? I talked to my family. I prayed about it. Wisconsin was the perfect decision.
Q: What is the funniest thing any head coach said to you during the entire recruiting process, either on phone or in person?
Mullens: I don’t remember the funniest thing. But Coach [Paul] Chyrst and Coach [Joe] Rudolph came to my house after the Big Ten championship game. They came over that Sunday. We were just talking, having a good time, laughing. Just about our family, their family, about what I need to do before I get down there.
I don’t remember a specific thing they said to me. But it was just socializing with them, having a good time. Just talking about life and football.
Q: What was the funniest story that happened on one of your recruiting trips?
Mullens: I remember I went to Wisconsin on my official visit. We were watching the guys scrimmage. I remember it was the twos or something like that, the second-string. They were scrimmaging and the offense was running a play. The next thing you know, the quarterback throws the ball. The guy gets smacked. You hear the shoulder pads on the helmet. It was just hard. Ball flies out. You see this little guy, Coach Rudolph told me he was a walk-on or something like that.
This little guy just kicks the ball up and starts running for the touchdown. The guy was really little. That’s the thing I really loved about it. When he took the ball and ran for a touchdown, everybody, the whole team ran over there and started celebrating. That’s what I loved about it. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is the perfect place for me.’
That was the funniest part on my official visit. A guy picked the ball up and his little legs were running toward a touchdown. That was hilarious. I’ll never forget that.
Q: Were you surprised that Ohio State didn’t offer you a scholarship?
Mullens: No disrespect at all, but I wasn’t surprised at all they didn’t offer me.
Q: Why weren’t you surprised?
Mullens: I guess that’s how they operate, offering guys a few days before signing day. That’s how they do it. That’s how they run their program. But I wasn’t really surprised.
Q: Which coach was it the hardest to say no to and tell them you weren’t coming there?
Mullens: Indiana. I really liked the Indiana coach [Tom Allen]. Really good coach, Christian, respectful. It was kind of hard to say no to him. But Wisconsin was the best decision for me. I developed a really good relationship with the Indiana head coach, too.
It was kind of hard saying, ‘I want to thank you for the opportunity you’ve given me about coming to your school, but I chose the University of Wisconsin because I feel like that’s the best fit for me.’ He wasn’t mad. He respected my decision. And that’s what I liked about it. Probably some other school would have been mad or something like that or disappointed. I really liked that he respected my decision.