Gielczyk: Bear Lake’s Mullet Reflects on NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum
“It was really cool, all the way around,” Sam Mullet said in a telephone interview from Bear Lake after her return from the NFL’s Women’s Careers in Football Forum in Indianapolis, Ind. Feb. 26-27.
Mullet, the offensive coordinator for the Lakers’ eight-man football team and assistant athletic director at the school, was among a select group of women invited to participate in the forum.
She said the forum consisted largely of panel discussions with several different groups of people, including NFL general managers, head coaches as well as women who are already employed at the professional level.
“We also did some smaller group, breakout sessions that were on specific topics like coaching, scouting and things like that,” Mullet added.
Mullet went on to say that the forum participants had sent in questions beforehand, which initiated the discussions. The participants were allowed to jump in with their questions at any time, and things just flowed in that manner.
Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead told the participants that the most important thing for them to do was “focus on the small things, and dominating where you are today,” Mullet said.
“If you dominate, and be the best you are in whatever opportunity you have right now, then more opportunities are going to show up later because you’re doing well where you are right now,” she added.
What was eye-opening for Mullet is the realization that everyone involved in the panel discussions were in it because they love their jobs.
“It was refreshing to know that even the people that are at the very top of the game, the very top of the football side and the business side are in it because they love it,” said Mullet.
“That’s why I want to be in football, because I love the game.”
As for the women are currently working in the industry, Mullet said they emphasized that you should not let anything intimidate you, or ever let anything sway you from being yourself.
Mullet added that they also emphasized that you should never lack self-confidence or be unsure of yourself, because you’ve earned what your position.
“You shouldn’t have to feel like you have to keep earning it,” Mullet said. “People are going to respect you because you’re there because you earned that spot.
“It was just a really big honor that they recognized what I’m doing and see it as valuable, and just that they found little old me in Bear Lake, Michigan and invited me.”
Among the other invitees was a women who is a college football player in Canada, and gave Mullet a different perspective on the game from a player’s standpoint.
“She has a great mindset of just going out and attacking the day,” Mullet said. “She doesn’t let anything get in her way. She’s really hard working, and you can tell that she’s passionate. She wants to show up and be the best.”
But more importantly, Mullet met a lot of people in football operations not only in the NFL but several colleges around the country, which gave her a look into what goes on behind the scenes … like planning the meals when a team goes on the road, getting the plane tickets, arranging for a bus and securing the hotel rooms.
“You kind of forget about those people having to be there because they work in the background,” Mullet said. “It was really nice to meet those people, and hear what they do to make things to make things go smoothly so coaches like me can just focus on our jobs.”
The forum was held during the annual scouting combine, so things were pretty hectic Mullet said.
Everyone was popping in and out.
“If you grabbed them on their way out the door, they would stop and take five or 10 minutes to talk to you,” Mullet said. “Even if that meant they were going to be a little late to the next thing.
“They were just really willing to give insights and information, to help us get to the next step in our plan. Everyone there was really adamant that they see the value that the other 50 percent of the population can bring to football.
“So, they were willing to stop and talk to anybody and make connections. I’ve been just been following up on those and saying thank you, and how appreciative I am of them taking time out of their day to come visit with us.”
Mullet has also been sending out resumes, hoping to utilize the connections she made into landing a position somewhere, either in college or at the professional level.
Coaching is her passion.
“I love coaching, the leadership and the team aspect,” Mullet added. “I really love offense, because of the way you can set up your strategy and build against a defense.
“There’s a lot of flexibility on both sides of the ball, but something really draws me to the offense. I think offense is where I want to stay.
“I like being the coordinator, and having those connections with all of the groups, seeing the full picture of the football team and working with the whole offense. It’s like a chess game.”
Obviously, her participation in the forum and networking with NFL and college front office personnel could open the door for employment opportunities for Mullet.
She didn’t know what she would do with the Bear Lake football team, but eagerly approached Lakers’ head coach John Prokes about helping out in any way … whether it be videotaping games, or taking game stats or even as equipment manager.
But her knowledge of the game soon found Prokes giving her more and more responsibility, until he finally handed her the offensive play calling duties before the start of the team’s first season on the gridiron.
Mullet ran with it.
“You don’t mess with a good thing,” Prokes said. “The good thing is, the players knew her so it wasn’t like bringing in somebody brand new.
“The players knew her capabilities. They knew how smart she was. They knew how hard she worked. I can honestly say, right from the get-go, there was never any issue or question about her calling the plays.
“I think the players respected that from Day One, primarily because they knew her and saw how hard she worked. No one deserved to be invited to the NFL forum than her, in my opinion.”
Mullet keeps stats for the Bear Lake baseball team, but admits that on the bus rides to and from away games she’ll get in some conversation about football with Prokes, who also coaches the baseball team.
Her mind is never off the game she loves.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas.