July 17, 2018 8:55:14 PM
ATLANTA -- Over nine seasons with a 69-46 record at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen's suitors were frequent and consistent. He received calls from other programs with bigger stadiums, bigger athletic budgets, bigger aspirations. As Mullen remembers it, this became something his wife Megan grew accustomed to.
She saw something different in him when it was Florida on the other end of that call.
"When we got that phone call, I had gotten a lot of them in the past, but that one was different," Dan Mullen said. "She just looked at my face and we knew at that moment this one was different for us."
Mullen broke down his final hours as MSU's football coach when he appeared at Southeastern Conference Media Days Tuesday afternoon, doing so for the tenth time but the first time as Florida's coach. When asked about animosity for him in the MSU fan base after his departure, he tried to make it clear that MSU remains a special place for he and his family.
"My family and I, we gave everything we had to Mississippi State for nine years," Mullen said. "We had a lot of opportunities to go other places, you know, and we really enjoyed our time there and wanted to stay there.
"I think it had a lot more to do with the University of Florida than it had to do with Mississippi State. It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
He leaves behind a fan base with sects that feel jilted, maybe some by the departure itself but mostly those that feel the departure could have been handled better. That can't be a concern of his: now he deals in reestablishing the, "Gator standard," returning Florida to the championship level is was at when he left it for MSU in 2009.
It will be impossible to ignore on Sept. 29, the day he returns to Starkville and Davis Wade Stadium as Florida's coach, just 10 months removed from coaching there as a Bulldog. Mullen's current players know what they're in for.
"I know we're going to get Mississippi State's best effort," Florida linebacker David Reese II said. "That's going to be a great atmosphere -- I know about the cowbells, I know about them -- but that's all I have to say.
"They'll probably be way more emotional than us to start the game, but after that it's all football."
To Mullen, MSU remains a special place, the place that groomed him as a head coach. He said he went into his first season at MSU, "like a bull in a china shop," unable to delegate the way he needed to and does now.
He know his return to Starkville, "is going to be tough."
"I might be the first coach in the SEC that's coached at one school for as many years as I did, left to another school and had to play on the road at that school the following year," Mullen said. "It will be a very different game than the rest of them.
"I don't know bigger or smaller, but it will be a different game for me than the rest of them."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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