Matthew Mulligan TE New England Patriots – Always on Faith.
When you hear “National Football League” what are some words that you would use to describe it? Fast, tough, hard, fortune, selfish, fame, strong… Maybe some other words come to mind as well, but I’m going to guess that the following ones didn’t cross your mind: patient, servant, in His will (ok that’s actually 3), peace, and evangelist. For all that love the game, we tend to get caught up in what the world would have us focus on, but for one of the players on God’s team, Matthew Mulligan of the New England Patriots, the “end zone” is reached on a much different field.
Before Matthew Mulligan ever thought about playing football, God was firmly placed as the foundation in his life. Matt was raised in a solid Christian home, “My mom and dad are still together and my mom always made sure we got to church every Sunday and Wednesday night, just like my Grandmother did before her. So, I guess there is a good lineage there.” And how important was it having a Christ centered foundation growing up? “More than I’ll ever know. I don’t think I’ll ever know until I’m in front of Jesus, the total impact that it had on my life. When you grow up and you’re in high school and in college thinking you have all the answers you’re going to make mistakes. I’m just very thankful, and I thank the Lord for this all the time, that I have people at home that were and are taking the time to pray for me and seek the Lord’s faith on my behalf. I truly don’t believe that my life would be the same had I chosen a different path without their prayer and God in my life.”
Matthew Mulligan is a product of Enfield Maine which is about five hours away from Boston. “I went to a small high school (Penobscot Valley High School) of maybe about 200 kids in the whole school. I graduated with 38 in my class and didn’t play football in high school because they didn’t offer it. I played soccer, basketball and a little tennis and track. I really wasn’t built for football I was around 6’3” 195 but I was working out and lifting, but more for basketball. I was only benching around 335 (only 335!) at the time, so I went to a D3 school (Husson University in Bangor) to play basketball. The first year I got there in the first semester I really started lifting more and put on thirty five pounds buy the second semester. My body was maturing I guess. In that first year they were starting a football program (at Husson) and the second year I decided to try it after being asked by the head football coach. I didn’t want any regrets and gave it a try. The next year I transferred to the University of Maine, sat out a year and played two years there, and that’s where I met Mike DeVito who was a year ahead of me. Mike and I lived together for about two years in college.” (Mike Devito plays defensive end for the Chiefs and is featured in another article in SportsFaith).
Matt became a standout at Maine and with his faith, hard work ethic, and raw talent you could tell God was molding him for something more than just college ball. But the journey has been one that has required Matt to really lean on God and trust the path that lay before him. The NFL draft came and went without being selected. At 6’3” 270lbs. Matt signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins in 2008. He was released November 5th and signed by the Tennessee Titans practice squad November 19th. Tennessee released Matt September 4th 2009. The New York Jets signed Matt September 6th waived him September 23rd and RE-SIGNED him to the practice squad on the 24th… Matt was then promoted to the full-time roster in December 2009 and remained until 2011. Matt was reunited with college buddy Mike DeVito. “My Christian maturity really started to develop after I was traded from the Titans. I always had Christ as my foundation, but like I said when I was a kid I had all the answers. Now Mike and I were rooming together again and we pushed each other. You know where the Bible talks about ‘Two are better than one…’ and with Mike and I ‘Iron sharpens Iron’. I can remember nights that he and I would be up until three o’clock in the morning memorizing Bible verses! Things I should have been doing all along, but we really took a love to it and devotion to God’s word. We were engulfed in the Word and couldn’t get away from it.” God’s time is always perfect. The time with the Jets and Mike gave Matt the “Christ centered maturity” needed to continue his journey. Matt was signed by the Rams in 2012 and the Packers in 2013 before finding his home in New England with the Patriots. “I have put all my trust in the Lord, but more than that I have such a comfort knowing that my church family lead by my pastor, my mother, my grandmother and now my wife are all praying for my protection and lifting me up to the Lord. I now know that it’s their prayers that God is hearing, where before I knew it was there but it was not as vital as it is now.” But isn’t it hard to play the role of the journeyman? Matt said, “First of all, to be a journeyman that means that I was able to add value to a bunch of different teams. When I’m there I’m able to impact people for the Lord and be impacted as well. Is it tough sometimes? Sure, but that’s the faith endurance and patience the Bible talks about. When times are toughest, like not knowing if I’m going to be on the team next week, I still stay strong with the Lord. When my wife and I pray, we have a real tough time praying for ‘Oh God, if you could just keep us in one place we could do so much more for you!’ because if we are truly in God’s will you have to know that He knows what’s best and it’s better than anything I could ever imagine. Last year my wife and I had six different people give us Jeremiah 29:11 and we just really just heard God saying, ‘Look I know the thoughts that I think towards you and I know what I’m going to do with you!’ We have looked at our places in the NFL as evangelistic opportunities. We have spoken at many different seminars and churches. I know there is always someone else who needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that may be anywhere in the country. Evangelists really don’t stay in one place for a very long time and if that’s what God’s plan is for us then His will be done!”
It is so important to have a spouse who is equally yoked when you are walking a path for God. God had a huge role for Matt here as well. “My wife Stephanie wasn’t in the church when I first met her but I thank the Lord Jesus that she is now and she is living for Him and loving Him now. What I said to her when I first met her was, ‘Look, I know you don’t have a big background in the Lord Jesus Christ. But, I just want you to try in an honest way to get to know Him and have a relationship with Him. Now if you give it a try and you decide that it’s not for you then fine, we’ll figure something out.’ The real thing was that I was putting my faith in the Lord. That He was going to make this work if she was willing to try and He wanted it to work. You know that a house divided against itself can’t stand, so I was trusting God to make it happen. With this marriage thing it is SO important that the one you are marrying is the one that God has planned for you. I’m not saying that people can’t make mistakes and that God can’t bless them, but for me I prayed for a long time for God to provide for me the right one. When I was still asking questions and praying to God that she was the one, one of my buddies said to me, ‘Matt, if God has provided her for you and she is good enough for God, why isn’t she good enough for you?!’ I loved this woman, but I wanted to make sure that this was of God. I wanted a neon sign from heaven to come down (on my terms) and say “This is the woman for you to marry!” I just realized that the Lord had his hand on this and had provided this wonderful woman for me. She was baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit and we have been married for over two years now. Because we have let God be the foundation, everyday has been such a blessing. She is the mother of my children (Clara (1), and one on the way), but she is also my best friend. Sometimes that is tough for guys to get. Guys will joke about how she can be my best friend because men and women are so different, but I can honestly say at the end of the day that she and I share everything together. One of the most vital parts of our marriage is that we pray together. The blessing that God gives a marriage when two come together and say, ‘Oh mighty God we come to you together as one flesh…’ there’s nothing like it!”
When you are led by the Spirit, your whole life has a purpose and meaning. “I heard from a man once and I really have been focusing on living my life this way. In Ephesians it talks about ‘one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism’. What that means is look; He’s either Lord of all or Lord of none. It’s not like tomorrow is God’s day, but today is Matt Mulligan day. Either He’s God of my life, or I’m creating myself or anything else as an idol over Him. Now what I try to do now on a daily basis is say, ‘Look God, will you go before me today and make it what you will and know that I want to put You first in everything I do.’ And that is the deciding factor in my life. If God isn’t in it, and if God isn’t first then it’s not something I need to be a part of. And that’s really stuck with me, either He’s God of everything and I’m really putting the time in to allow Him to be God of everything or He’s God of none in my life. I choose Him for everything.”
After reading this article, if you go look at the stats of Matt Mulligan, I think you missed the point and suggest you read the article again. For Matt the statement, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game…” applies. It doesn’t matter where he plays, the final tally will be measured in souls for Christ and crowns at His feet. God bless you and your family Matt.