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Q&A: Jimmy Mullen, football and wrestling star from NJ, talks NIL, goals for senior year, and more

Jimmy Mullen
Photo credit: United World Wrestling

Jimmy Mullen, a standout senior football player and wrestler from St. Joseph’s High School in Montvale, NJ, became the first high school student-athlete in the state to ink an NIL deal back in January.

Mullen, who is in the midst of his final football season at the prestigious New Jersey high school, signed a deal with Eat Clean Bro, a company that specializes in providing and delivering nutritious foods.

“I would like to announce my first NIL deal and my partnership with an amazing company, EAT CLEAN BRO. Their food is healthy, fresh, and most importantly delicious! I’m looking forward to working with them,” Mullen tweeted out on Jan. 14.

Mullen agreed to the deal on Jan. 1, as soon as NIL went into effect, and hasn’t looked back since then.

The star defensive end and state champion wrestler recently caught up with The NIL Deal in a 1-on-1 exclusive interview to discuss his NIL experience, his favorite brands, go-to meal before a game or match, and more.

Here is the full Q&A with Mullen:

The NIL Deal: If you could partner with any brand on an NIL deal, which would you choose and why?

Mullen: “I didn’t know you were going to hit me like that (laughs). The one that I think is really cool because you see a lot of big-time athletes partner with them is Gatorade. They always have the big-time athletes, especially at the college level. When you see the Gatorade Athlete of the Year, I always thought that was really cool. And I always liked the drink itself.”

The NIL Deal: What is your favorite apparel line?

Mullen: “Nike. St. Joe’s (Montvale, NJ) is sponsored by them, so we get a ton of free stuff from the company. We have a deal with Jordan Brand. My freshman year we had Under Armour, then my sophomore year we switched over to Nike. And we had the Jordan brand. We had Jordan shoes, Jordan cleats, and a whole outfit of Jordan shirts and shorts. And a whole outfit of NIKE shirts and shorts. So, I just love wearing Nike. And I think it’s pretty cool.”

The NIL Deal: What is your go-to meal before a game or match?

Mullen: “Before a wrestling match, our coaches bring a lot of different fruits so we aren’t filling up too much. They have a little buffet with a bunch of fruit, peanut butter with bagels, and we make our own stuff. So my go-to, I usually have peanut butter on top of a bagel and I love pineapples, too. And before a football game, I go to A&J Bagels right down the street from St. Joe’s to get taylor ham and egg on a bagel.”

The NIL Deal: What is your favorite music to listen to?

Mullen: “So, it’s funny. Say before a wrestling tournament, I have a whole playlist. In the morning, I will listen to country music so I can just chill out. So I’m not getting my blood pressure going because I don’t want to get hyped up at 8 a.m. when I don’t wrestle until the afternoon. Once I get to the tournament, I put on a lot of J. Cole and Meek Mill. I’m a big J. Cole guy. He’s the best. He’s great to sing with and chill out. Before a football game, I get fired up. Whatever it is, I blast it as loud as I can. In our locker room, before we go out we listen to Dreams and Nightmares by Meek Mill. That gets us going.”

The NIL Deal: Are you going to play football or wrestle in college?

Mullen: “I’m most likely leaning toward wrestling in college. Even though I love football and I wish I could play it in college, I’m just getting a lot more interest in wrestling. I have a couple of offers for football, but it’s just not as high a level as my wrestling offers. I think most likely I’m leaning toward wrestling. A lot of the football schools are saying I’m small in size, but with wrestling, it doesn’t really matter how tall or big I am. If you go out there and you beat me, you beat me. If I’m going to pick a sport, I want to be the best at it. It’s going to be hard to win a national championship if I’m also playing football. And it’s a full-time job at that level. You need to be at your best every single day.”

The NIL Deal: What offers do you have for wrestling?

Mullen: “I have a decent amount. Penn State, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, North Carolina, and Oklahoma State. I really think I’m going to decide soon. I’m really starting to break it down, and there’s a few that really stand out to me right now. I’m done with all of the home visits, I’m done with all of the meetings and phone calls. I just want to sit down with my dad and figure out what’s best for me… For football, I had offers from Rutgers, Kent State, Temple, Duquesne and Army.”

The NIL Deal: Who do you try to model your game after?

Mullen: “For football, I was new at defensive end when I got to high school. They just threw me out there because someone got hurt my freshman year, so they pulled me up right away. I started watching (Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end) T.J. Watt and I started having that tough guy mentality. On the wrestling side, it’s weird because there are so many factors in the wrestling world. It’s hard to find a heavyweight that’s like you, so I just try to be myself. I’m wrestling my style. I know what’s comfortable for me, so I stick to what I do best.”

The NIL Deal: What is your favorite campus that you visited?

Mullen: “My favorite campus has to be North Carolina. Chapel Hill is beautiful. Every single one of them is great. Michigan had a beautiful campus. And Penn State was great, too. It doesn’t really factor into my process, but Chapel Hill, it was just really nice out there.”

The NIL Deal: What are your goals for your senior year?

Mullen: “My thing is, I want to break my own personal records for most tackles and sacks. And for wrestling, I haven’t won a national tournament in-season, so that’s a goal. Both times, I placed second. I want to go undefeated and win every tournament that I’m at. My coach is trying to put us in some of the top tournaments in the country. He knows I want to go out there and wrestle some of the best kids in the country. So, I want to go out there, go undefeated, hopefully win another state championship, and at the end of the year, after both sports, hopefully I win Athlete of the Year again for New Jersey.”

“I won two out of three state titles. The third one, the second one really, I skipped it and went to the world championships in Budapest, Hungary because they landed on the same day. It was insane. All of these different cultures, seeing different types of wrestling styles, it was really cool. It was definitely the right decision for me.”

“I wasn’t expecting it, but Budapest was beautiful. I thought it was going to be another country, but it really was something special.”

The NIL Deal: Who are your favorite sports teams?

Mullen: “Alabama for football. The New York Giants for the NFL. And wrestling, I like a lot of different schools. I like different wrestlers on each team for college.”

The NIL Deal: What do you plan on studying in college?

Mullen: “Hopefully I decide this year. I’m open to anything. Everyone keeps asking me, but I really have no clue what I want to do yet. I’m undecided.”