"I was worried for a day or two. But then I got the results back and I knew that I'd be able to play. It was pretty reassuring. I wasn't too worried about it after that."
Mularkey, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker from Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian, missed his entire junior season when he tore his labrum in the spring prior to that season.
"I re-aggravated it a little bit," Mularkey said. "It was a game we expected to win – and we did. So I just needed a little break. I would have been in if it was a bigger game."
Mularkey had surgery on his knee last Wednesday.
"I am still in the physical therapy process right now," Mularkey said. "But, already, I'm walking around and doing squats to strengthen it. It's not really that big of a deal."
Mularkey is expected to be back to 100 percent in roughly three weeks – a month after the surgery. Also, the injury isn't expected to create any future problems.
"They said I would never have to deal with it again," Mularkey said. "The part of the meniscus that they took off, it's just a little part that's not really even needed."
Although the Spartans earned a playoff berth for the 14th consecutive year, GAC's 2008 season was mediocre at best. The Spartans went 4-7 and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Hogansville (Ga.) Callaway.
"I had a lot of fun and a good season overall," Mularkey said. "But we were faced with some tough situations with injuries and some tough loses in the last couple minutes of games. I had fun, but overall it wasn't exactly successful, I'd say."
When his knee injury allowed him to play, Mularkey helped set the tone for GAC's defense – and team overall.
"I think he brought a certain toughness to our program," GAC head coach Ken Robinson said. "He certainly plays the game the way you want your guys to play – physical, passionate, and, like I said, with toughness.
"He had a nagging injury that slowed him. I think he could have had a lot more productive season if not for the things that nagged him throughout the year. Even through that, he held through and was there every Friday trying to contribute in any way possible."
Mularkey's production was hurt most on offense.
"I actually didn't really play any [offense] the last several games," Mularkey said. "I played the first two [games] on offense, but after the injury I really couldn't do it."
Defensively, Mularkey entered the season poised to become a playmaker at bandit, a hybrid safety/linebacker. However, opponents found a loophole to keep Mularkey out of the play as much as possible.
"What would happen is teams would motion their second guy, because at the bandit I was locked up on the No. 2 [receiver]," Mularkey said. "When they would motion him away, I'd be out of the play."
As a result, Mularkey was moved to weak-side linebacker. There he had little responsibility against the pass, as he was primarily utilized as a blitzer and run stopper.
"He's got a linebacker stature, but he runs well," Robinson said. "He just played the game physically. We were pleased with his performance.
"He brought with him intangibles – the things you look for in a football player. Obviously, when you grow up in a home with a dad that's a coach, I think you get a little extra coaching in the car and a little extra coaching at the dinner table."
Even with the injury-plagued season – and his pledge to UNC - several schools have inquired about Mularkey to Robinson. Regardless, Mularkey remains firm and will not entertain any other schools' advances.
Mularkey says communication with UNC has remained constant.
"Coach [Steve] Hagen, I talk to him once a week and he's been down to my school a couple of times to check up on me," Mularkey said. "We just talk about football – just how my season went and how I'm doing health-wise– and what they expect from me when I get up there."
This week Mularkey and Hagen will discuss scheduling an official visit for sometime in January.
"I know it's going to be for one of the basketball games," Mularkey said. "I'm not sure which one, yet."
Outside of being projected as a linebacker, Hagen hasn't discussed UNC's plans for Mularkey.
Mularkey could play several positions on the collegiate level. Robinson, though, sees Mularkey fitting best at outside linebacker, after adding weight to his frame.
"He already has a lot of the things that you're looking for [in a linebacker]," Robinson said. "The game is important to him. He plays with great effort, he plays with great passion. I'm sure they'll be able to fit him into their scheme, bulk him up, and he'll be a productive player for them." Mularkey unofficially visited UNC for the game against Notre Dame and received his first exposure to the game day atmosphere of Kenan Stadium.
"I was really surprised, honestly," Mularkey said. "UNC is all-basketball. But that game, it was sold out and it was loud. I wasn't expecting it. It was a pleasant surprise to see that [the fans] are starting to come around for the football team, too."