Pallotti's Mulbah signs to play football for University of Buffalo
By David Driver
Feb 10, 2016 at 11:23 AM
Justin Mulbah was born in Liberia and moved with his family to New York as an infant.
He began playing pickup football in the streets of Staten Island but started organized football at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club soon after his family moved to Laurel when he was about nine years old.
Now, after four years at St. Vincent Pallotti High, he will be on the move again, as Mulbah signed a National Letter of Intent for a full scholarship on Feb. 3 to play football at the University of Buffalo.
While some local prep standouts signed with big-time football programs, the Laurel resident is happy with his choice. He comes from a Pallotti program that plays in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference.
"It doesn't matter where you come from as long as you are willing to work hard and not back down from a challenge," Mulbah said. "You don't have to go to an SEC school or a Big Ten school to go to the next level."
He notes that former University of Buffalo defender Khalil Mack was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2014.
"I have been an underdog my whole life. It is not going to be something new to me. I am a fierce competitor. People around me think I am a workaholic," added Mulbah, whose grade-point average is around 3.3.
Mulbah attended Laurel Elementary School and Eisenhower Middle School. He ran track early on at Pallotti but then focused on football as a senior at the Laurel private school.
Mulbah, listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, saw action as a running back and linebacker at Pallotti and on defense last season had 118 tackles with eight sacks and two interceptions.
He also ran for 415 yards as a running back but is expected to play linebacker at Buffalo, a member of the Division I Mid-American Conference.
"They are looking at me as third safety on the field, coming off the edge, blitzing and pass coverage," Mulbah said.
Mulbah benefited from the coaching of Pallotti head coach Ian Thomas, a former linebacker at DeMatha Catholic High and the University of Illinois.
"He is a big part of my growing process," Mulbah said. "I call it stealing (knowledge). A lot of kids don't have the (football) knowledge I have."
"His pursuit to the ball is his strength," Thomas said of Mulbah. "He really gets after it. Over the years I have seen his footwork get better. He has improved on his angles. I think Buffalo has a great plan for him."
Mulbah is expected to be a linebacker at Buffalo who covers the slot receiver. "That is his strongest position on defense. I think he will do well," Thomas said.
Other schools that he considered were Eastern Michigan, Army, Navy, Pittsburgh, Temple and Kent State.
Mulbah was allowed to make five official visits to schools but made only one – to Buffalo. He visited the school several times and on one trip he was joined by Pallotti offensive coordinator Justin Winters, a 2007 graduate of Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt who played at Buffalo under former coach Turner Gill.
"He never really forced it upon me. He told me about his experiences there," Mulbah said of Winters. "I thought it would be cool to go to the school of one of my coaches and do a better job than they did. That is a motivating factor for me."
Buffalo was 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the MAC in 2015. The head coach is Lance Leipold, 52, who won six Division III national titles at Wisconsin-Whitewater before he became the Buffalo coach in December, 2014. Mulbah was the only Maryland resident signed by Buffalo.
"We were able to address a lot of needs that we had with graduation and create depth," Leipold said on the school website on signing day. "We've got an outstanding group that I think is going to add to the speed and athleticism of our program."
Mulbah's recruiting coordinator at Buffalo was Matt Simon, a former running backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens. "We are excited to have Justin; he is an excellent defender with toughness to play against the run and coverage skills to match up in man coverage. We love his intense practice habits and his lead-by-example work ethic. Great get for our program," Simon wrote in an e-mail.
So now Mulbah will be going to college in the snow belt of upstate New York. "It doesn't matter to me, as long as I am going to school free," he said.
Notes: Another Pallotti senior looking to play college football is Eddie O'Neill, who was a tight end and defensive end last season. He is a standout student who is interested in engineering, according to Thomas … Former Pallotti standout Demitri McCray-Buggs was a freshman last season for Howard University. The defensive back is from Burtonsville.