Mike Hull was the leader of the Penn State defense during his senior season as a Nittany Lion. He was projected as high as the fourth round in the 2015 NFL Draft, but fell due to his lack of speed. The 6-foot, 232 pound middle linebacker totaled 218 total tackles, one interception, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in just 23 games. His production garnered attention for the Dick Butkus award (given to the best college linebacker), but Hull failed to make the group of semifinalists in a move that shocked the college football world.
James Franklin, Hull’s coach at Penn State, weighed in on his talented linebacker by stating, “"I honestly think, if Mike can get in the right system and stay healthy, he'll play eight to 10 years in the NFL." Franklin also noted how Hull was the heart and soul of Penn State’s defense during his final year. His fellow players seemed to rally around him naturally.
It was Hull’s college tape that first opened the eyes of Dolphins linebacker coach Mark Duffner. Duffner, in an article written by Dolphins’ columnist Andy Cohen, offered the following comments on Hull: “Every time I looked at Penn State tapes, Mike Hull was in the picture. He IS a productive player.” The Dolphins have had a track record of consistent playmakers at the linebacker position. In fact, Dolphins’ coaches were singing similar praises about another productive linebacker that fell into the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft.
Who was it?
Like Hull, Zach Thomas was considered a smaller, slower prospect when he entered the draft out of Texas Tech. The 5-foot-11, 230 pound Thomas watched as he continued to slide into the later rounds, until he was taken by the Dolphins 154th overall in the draft. At the time, Jimmie Johnson was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, and like Coach Franklin, Johnson noted how “All [Thomas] did when I looked at tape of him was make plays!” Johnson could not have been more correct. Thomas, a finalist for the Dick Butkus award, continued to make plays for the duration of his 12 seasons with the Dolphins. Thomas totaled an outstanding 1,035 tackles (with 598 assisted tackles), 19.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 17 interceptions and four touchdowns. Thomas’ role with the team surpasses his Hall of Fame caliber statistics. He was the heart and soul of the entire Dolphins team, much like Hull was at Penn State. There was not a big play that Thomas wasn’t a part of. As a result, he was recently named to the Dolphins ring of honor .
I am by no means saying that Mike Hull will become the next Zach Thomas, but the similarities between the two at this moment in Hull’s career are worth noting. Arguably the most notable similarity between the two players is that they both entered the league with a chip on their shoulder. Hull, like Thomas, has something to prove. The fact that he was considered a fourth round prospect and went undrafted should fuel him to compete at a high level every day, which is exactly what Hull knows he has to do to make this team, let alone become the player he wants to become.
Will Mike Hull go on to become the next Zach Thomas for the Miami Dolphins?
No, most likely not. But he may very well go on to become the next Mike Hull.