Dan Mullen didn’t feel right.
It was a big week for the 35-year old offensive coordinator. The Gators were 4-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country with Auburn, the only team that beat the Gators the previous season, coming to town. Florida had won its last 11 games, one shy of tying a school record.
The week went anything but according to plan for Mullen.
It started sometime on Thursday before the game. Mullen recalled sitting in a staff meeting in a thick sweat.
“I went downstairs to the training room and laid down a couple minutes, they gave me some medicine, went out to practice,” Mullen recalled on Wednesday. “Urban’s like, ‘Hey, you’re doing the radio show tonight, too.’ So I had to go do the radio show [on] Thursday. I was feeling a little better.”
Friday came and it got worse. That didn’t stop Mullen from going about his normal Friday routine. The coach went to meetings in the morning, walkthrough and even ate with the team before going home that night.
“Megan picked me up from the walkthrough and brought me right over to Shands and Dr. (Christopher) Cassisi was waiting at a backdoor for us to get us in because they didn’t want me walking in the front door the night before a game, so they brought us in a back door. If you want to see a big-time guy, go see Dr. Cassisi right there. He’s got some juice. That was pretty impressive.”
Mullen went through scans and the results came back that he needed emergency surgery to remove his appendix less than 24 hours before kickoff against Auburn. Mullen asked — and quickly denied — if they could just wait to do the surgery until after the game on Saturday night.
“I remember calling Urban (Meyer) at like 10:30 or 11 and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to have an emergency appendectomy right now. Not sure I’m going to be able to coach.’ He probably didn’t sleep really,” said Mullen. “He’s like, ‘Well, who’s going to call the plays?’ I said, ‘I’m going to try to be there and coach.’ He said, ‘We’ll figure it out.”
Mullen had the surgery and then had only one thing on his mind. How quickly could he be out of Shands Hospital and back with the team?
“Before you can get signed out, you’ve got to, like, pee so many times, right? Walk around. I was given this big jug, and I’m, like, pounding water, and I’m, like, doing laps,” Mullen said. “The lady’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m walking around trying to drink so I can pee so you guys can get me out of here and I can go coach a football game. They’re like, will you just go relax? They had me go relax. Came and signed me out to go to the last walkthrough.”
Mullen was released and he and his wife, along with Meyer made a plan. The coach wouldn’t travel with the team on the busses and do Gator Walk. Instead, he would travel in a police car and head into the stadium on a different route in order to get set up in the booth, where he had just recently moved that season after coaching on the sidelines for most of his career.
Even the trip to the stadium didn’t go according to plan.
“I end up getting in a minor fender-bender car accident on the police ride over here,” Mullen recalled. “Everything’s just insanity.”
Mullen ultimately got to the stadium safe and on time. He got a few hours to sleep and try to get comfortable before calling the game.
Prior to the game, Florida had set up a phone in the coaching box to allow Mullen to phone down to the locker room at halftime to help make adjustments. Then Florida was held scoreless in the first half, so Mullen made the trip down in person.
Ultimately the Gators lost on a last-second Wes Byrum field goal but Mullen kept the surgery a secret but his re-telling of the 72-hour ordeal was a wild one.