Mularkey, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, missed his entire junior season after tearing his labrum during the previous spring. Playing for three high schools in his prep career also didn't help his cause.
"You don't know a lot about a kid coming in," GAC head football coach Ken Robinson said. "I knew that his dad was a coach for the [Atlanta] Falcons. I knew that growing up in a football family – my son is at the University of Georgia – he's getting coaching whether he wants it or not in the car or when we're sitting around the dinner table. I kind of figured we'd get a kid that knew what would be expected of him… But you never know until you see a kid in pads what you're going to get."
Once in pads, Mularkey didn't disappoint. Playing bandit (hybrid safety/linebacker) on defense and tight end on offense, Mularkey not only grabbed the attention of the GAC coaching staff, but also the college recruiters visiting GAC during the Evaluation Period.
"We had a lot of people asking about him when they came through," Robinson said.
A handful of schools did more than just ask about Mularkey. He was impressive enough in practice to land a scholarship offer from Central Florida, and camp invitations from Clemson, Florida, Louisiana Tech, North Carolina, and NC State.
Area recruiter Steve Hagen extended the invitation on behalf of UNC.
"[Hagen] spent quite a bit of time just watching us go through practices," Robinson said. "He came over and said ‘Coach, this young man is going to make a lot of plays for you on both sides of the ball.'"
Heading into his lengthy camping schedule, Mularkey was already favoring UNC.
"That's been one of my favorite schools growing up," Mularkey said. "I've just always been a Tar Heel basketball fan. Obviously, they're ridiculous academically and in all sports – you really can't go wrong with them. But I've always just liked them – I don't know why."
Mularkey attended just the Friday night session of UNC's One-Day Camp, where he worked out exclusively with the linebackers.
"It was unbelievable," Mularkey said. "It was the most fun I've ever had… I had a pretty solid performance.
"Coach [Butch] Davis actually helped me out a couple of times – just him working one-on-one with me, which helped me out a lot. That was awesome just to work with him and Coach [Tommy] Thigpen."
Mularkey's father, Mike – who has coached in the NFL for 15 seasons – accompanied him on his North Carolina trip.
"I think, actually, when we were up at camp that was the first time [my dad and Davis] met," Mularkey said. "They coached against each other, I think, but that's as far as they go back."
Before leaving Chapel Hill that night, Mularkey and his father met with Davis in his office.
"He just said he was really impressed with my performance," Mularkey said. "He said they would let me know what they were thinking about in the next couple of days."
Mularkey's camping experience at UNC did nothing but further cement the Tar Heels as his leader.
"It made it even more clear in my mind that's where I wanted to go," Mularkey said. "Now, there's no doubt. I had a couple of thoughts before that and now it's just that's where I wanted to go."
After finishing up at NC State's Camp Saturday afternoon, Mularkey was informed that UNC indeed was going to offer him a scholarship.
"I was so pumped," Mularkey said. "I could not wait to get up there. It was just incredible. It was just a good feeling."
Mularkey wanted to wait for the luster from the visit to wear off to make sure he was making the right decision. Nearly a week and a half later, he contacted Hagen and verbally committed to UNC.
"He was excited," Mularkey said of Hagen's reaction. "… He said everybody is pretty excited about it because they liked what I did at camp. So they're excited to see what I can do this season."
UNC is recruiting Mularkey as an outside linebacker.