For Kenny Mullen, comfort matters. No, we don't mean soft pillows, relaxing music and good food. The Bishop Luers football standout has orally committed to Indiana over Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State for more-practical reasons.
When Mullen visited IU's campus Wednesday and talked to coaches, met with academic representatives, toured the facilities and, perhaps most importantly, chatted with Hoosier players (and Fort Wayne guys) Damarlo Belcher, Lawrence Barnett, Mick Mentzer and Dre Muhammad, it just felt right.
“I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I looked at Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State, but I had a different feeling at IU than those other schools.”
Fort Wayne players have thrived as Hoosiers in recent years, including James Hardy, a record-setting All-America receiver and former Elmhurst standout now playing for the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
Belcher is a two-year starter at receiver. Mentzer is a key contributor at defensive tackle. Muhammad looks to break into a talented receiving group. Barnett, a former Luers standout, has a shot at becoming the starting cornerback.
“I talked to all those guys and came to the conclusion it would be a good fit for me,” Mullen said. “They thought it would be a good move for me to make. They told me they would look out for me. I felt comfortable with that, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger.”
The 5-10, 178-pound Mullen, who has been timed in 4.46 seconds for the 40-yard dash, is rated as the nation's No. 75 cornerback by Scout.com, a national Internet recruiting service. The Hoosiers have a big need for quality defensive backs. But it's his versatility that made him a prime recruiting target for IU coach Bill Lynch. At Luers last year Mullen rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and 30 touchdowns. He caught 21 passes for 251 yards and a TD. He was dangerous as a kick returner.
Mullen helped Luers beat Monrovia 24-17 in last year's Class 2A title game — the Knights' eighth state championship overall — by rushing for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He also was an all-SAC basketball player.
All this is why Mullen, if he develops the necessary fitness, toughness and concentration, could play offense and defense at IU.
“The coaches told me they recruited me as as a corner, but it wouldn't be a bad idea if I went both ways if I position myself in that aspect,” Mullen said. “They like what I did on offense, and also what I did on defense. I'll just wait until I get there and see what fits.”
Mullen is one of 14 high school players to orally commit to the Hoosiers. Two more defensive backs, Center Grove's Nick Stoner and Mark Murphy of Akron, Ohio, also committed Thursday.
Stoner chose IU over Iowa State, Louisville, Western Kentucky and Toledo. He is listed at 6-1 and 155 pounds. He finished second in the state 100-meter dash earlier this month in a time of 10.82 seconds.
Murphy, a 6-2, 195-pound safety, also had scholarship offers from Air Force, Arizona and Kent State.
Indiana coaches cannot comment on recruits until they sign a national letter of intent. The football signing period is in February.
Ten of IU's commitments are on defense. It figures to sign around 25 players.
Mullen has a hectic summer scheduled. He will spend the next couple of days at a football camp at Michigan State. Camps at Iowa and Cincinnati will follow.
And then, of course, there's one last state championship to shoot for.
“The keys for me are to be a good leader, lead by example, never take a day off,” he said. “For the team it's go to practice every day ready to work. Get done everything we need to get done. We should be a great team again.”