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Thursday, May 19, 2022
<p dir="ltr"><span>Coach Dan Mullen built up the Mississippi State football team for nine years before accepting the Florida job. "The people of Starkville were great to me and my family," he said. "The fans, unbelievable."</span></p><p><span> </span></p>

Coach Dan Mullen built up the Mississippi State football team for nine years before accepting the Florida job. "The people of Starkville were great to me and my family," he said. "The fans, unbelievable."

 

It has been roughly 10 months since Florida head coach Dan Mullen made the jump from Starkville, Mississippi, to Gainesville.

He left behind a team he helped build from the ground up to take over a new one, a team that also just happened to need rebuilding. He had spent nearly 10 years transforming Mississippi State into a solid SEC West contender.

The Gators, Mullen’s new team, will face the Bulldogs, his old team, on Saturday at 6 p.m. It will also be the first time the first-year Florida coach heads back to his old stomping grounds.

So naturally, he was asked about the sentimental value of this trip back to the so-called “Starkvegas” during Monday’s press conference.

“The people of Starkville were great to me and my family. Both my kids were born there,” Mullen said. “The fans, unbelievable.”

He said the fan support made his job a lot easier, especially when it came to changing the culture of the program.

“It was a place I went to and asked them on Day 1,” Mullen said, "told them we need you to show up and sell out the stadium, and if you do that we can build a program here. And you know what? The fans believed in that. The fans bought into that.”

He said Mississippi State sold out Davis Wade Stadium during his first season, even after the team went 2-5 at home. But those sentiments are easy for Mullen to put aside.

Mullen said the emotions of going back to Starkville will be easy for him to get over because he is focused on his new team.

“That’s not hard for me, you know what I mean?” Mullen said. “I guess that takes pressure off everyone else. Our guys can focus on the opponent, beating an excellent team.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who coached at Mississippi State last season with Mullen, echoed that statement.

“My time there was enjoyable, I enjoyed it,” Grantham said. “There’s a lot of guys I care about on that team. But come Saturday, we’re competing against each other to play and get a win.”

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While a lot of the coaching staff followed Mullen from MSU, Florida’s players didn’t. But they know the Bulldogs have had this game circled on their calendars.

None of that matters to them, though.

When the Gators take the field on Saturday, they will play for their coach. Not because of his history with MSU, but to show they buy into the program he is trying to build in Gainesville.

“You know, coming into this game, it’s not about that,” Cleveland said. “He tells us to just play physical and be consistent and just come out there and work hard, play hard, play physical and give relentless effort.”

 

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake or contact him at jdreilinger@alligator.org. 

 

Coach Dan Mullen built up the Mississippi State football team for nine years before accepting the Florida job. "The people of Starkville were great to me and my family," he said. "The fans, unbelievable."

 

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