This subject matter is a little out of character for this blog, which is nominally about Portland news and its environs, but anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge New England Patriots fan.
Joining the team this year was Enfield native Matt Mulligan, who defied the odds to land a roster spot with the team despite not playing football in high school (Penobscot Valley High School doesn’t sponsor a team) and even in college only playing for the likes of Husson University and the University of Maine — the latter of which has produced its share of NFL players over the years, but isn’t exactly Alabama or LSU.
Now, Mulligan spent most of his time with the Patriots this year as a blocking tight end, keeping his head down, learning the playbook and working hard. That’s the type of thing that’ll get you in no-nonsense coach Bill Belichick’s good graces.
“He’s a tough kid, smart,” Belichick said of Mulligan at one point. “He came in here and picked things up and learned them pretty quickly. He hasn’t had a great deal of playing time but has been solid with the playing time that he has had. That’s the type of thing that will lead to more opportunity. He’s a hardworking guy that does his job, knows what his role is, works hard to do it.”
To say Belichick isn’t known for being verbose or publicly effusive with praise is a major understatement, so that Mulligan was able to warrant a full paragraph of commentary from his coach is huge.
With the biggest game of the Patriots’ season so far coming up tomorrow, Mulligan is taking a step out of the shadows a bit, however. New England hosts the spry Indianapolis Colts in a Saturday night game to determine who goes on to play for the AFC Championship the following week.
When Mulligan’s wife bought him a replica WWF (I realize the acronym has changed in recent years, but it’s a vintage replica) championship belt from a memorabilia store Hogan owns, the Hulkster recorded a full-on wrestling promo for him as well.
Said Mulligan to ESPN earlier this month:
She actually wanted to give me one of his belts for Christmas, because, obviously, I’m a big Hulk Hogan fan. I mean, anybody that grew up in my era, if you [weren't] watching professional wrestling, then you [weren't] watching much. … I believe there’s only a few people in life that as a grown man you’d be pretty giddy about meeting, and I think Hulk Hogan is one of them.
Now Mulligan — who Hogan called “one of the smartest men I’ve ever heard of” because the young Patriot end had the presence of mind to keep the charmed belt in his locker for good luck — is getting some publicity from the viral video.
In his breathless promo, complete with all the phrases he made famous over his illustrious wrestling career, Hogan enthusiastically throws his support behind the Patriots in the playoffs, saying if injuries befall them, they can strap his massive arms to their backs and legs to power them to “victory after victory.”
If that type of Frankenstein-like surgery was even possible, it would have been really nice to have had that option earlier in the season, when seemingly half the guys on the roster — including Pro Bowl guys like tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork — were dropping every week with injuries.
Better late than never, I guess.
We’ll see whether the title belt brings any magic to the Patriots Saturday night. I imagine in the meantime, the Colts coaching staff is trying to answer the question of “whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you.” Or, perhaps, LaGarrette Blount.