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Catching Up With ...
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-07-20

            Debbie Mack Mullen and William Mullen met in typing class as sophomores at Upper Perkiomen High School. They sat next to each other, each trying to type faster than the other. William Mullen says he was faster on the keyboard, but generally got more words wrong.

            The 16-year-olds immediately started dating. In August 1978, William Mullen proposed to Debbie inside the football stadium at the high school. She says they were getting ready to go on a run. They married in December 1980.

 

Debbie Mack Mullen and William Mullen married in December of 1980.

 

Debbie Mack Mullen

            In high school, Debbie Mack Mullen yearned to be on a team. At Upper Perkiomen, she competed in basketball, field hockey and softball.

            Later in life, Mullen discovered an appreciation for tennis. The Green Lane native said the sport satisfied her competitive juices. She also claimed to enjoy its individuality.

            "I wish I would have gone out for it in high school," Mullen said. "I did well."

Mullen says her best sport in high school was softball. She hit .455 as a senior and played second base.

            She started three seasons on the field hockey team on defense. After graduating in 1976, Mullen continued to play on a club team with her classmates.

            On the basketball court, Mullen says she thrived on defense. Though she scored a career-high 20 points, offense wasn't her strength.  "Everyone tried to get the ball to Peg Pennepacker," Mullen said. "She was our scorer."

            Mullen still keeps in touch with several of her former teammates. She says the relationships have significant meaning.  "I loved being on a team," Mullen said.

            As the oldest of two girls, Mullen figures she developed a competitive streak trying to keep up with several aunts and uncles. She said she liked winning card and board games during the weekly game nights.  "I don't know if they let me win or not," said Mullen, who currently lives in Upper Hanover. "But I liked winning."

            She surprised herself when she started playing competitive tennis after high school. Mullen developed into a solid volleyer, participating in several United States Tennis Association tournaments at the Quakertown YMCA.

            "I didn't have to worry about any teammates," said Mullen, who also played doubles for 10 years. "Whatever success or failure I had was all on me."

            After graduation, she enrolled in Montgomery County Community College to be a dental hygienist. The curriculum limited her participation on the school's basketball team.

            Athletic opportunities for girls were scarce. So were career options. According to Mullen, those going to college were limited to teaching, nursing or secretarial work. She said she didn't think she wanted to attend a four-year university, and her future mother-in-law suggested that she would be a good hygienist.  "I wanted to do something different," Mullen said.

            In 2020, she retired after 42 years as a dental hygienist. That included a 35-year stint working at Upper Perk Family Dentistry in Upper Hanover. Mullen said she enjoyed talking sports with her patients.

            In retrospect, Mullen said she wished she would have become an official in one of her former team sports. She described it as a good way to remain active and stay close to the game.

 

William Mullen

            More than two years after completing his college football career, William Mullen received two invitations to try out for the United States Football League. He had two months to train and hired an agent.

            However, Mullen didn't earn a contract with the Philadelphia Stars or the New Jersey Generals, two members of the original upstart league, following the 1982 workouts. A few years earlier, the Pennsburg native figures he might have had a better chance.

            "I was in pretty good shape, but things just didn't pan out," said Mullen, a 1976 graduate of Upper Perkiomen High School. "It was a great experience. I found myself next to so many guys I had only heard about."

            Following an impressive high school career, Mullen started at tailback for three seasons at Delaware Valley College. He graduated in 1980 as the record holder for touchdowns and total points scored in a season. His 462 rushing attempts, and 23 career touchdown runs, both currently stand as the ninth best in Aggies' history.

            Mullen could have attended the University of Delaware. He met with legendary head coach Tubby Raymond, who told him he might get on the field on special teams after taking a redshirt as a freshman.

            However, the Pennsburg native didn't want to wait. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Mullen didn't think he had a future in professional football.

             "I was looking for an education," said Mullen, who currently lives in Upper Hanover. So his interest shifted to three Division III schools, Del Val, Weidner and Moravian. Mullen signed with the Aggies because they had a major he wanted (business administration), and he liked new head coach Al Wilson.

            As a senior in 1979, Mullen – who missed his freshman season with a broken arm – helped lead Del Val to a 5-4 record, its first winning season under Wilson. He earned first-team AllMiddle Atlantic Conference honors.

            At Upper Perkiomen, Mullen became the main ball carrier midway through his junior season. As a senior, he finished with 1,300 rushing yards and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.

            Besides competing in the Montgomery County All-Star game, Mullen – who played sparingly on defense at cornerback and returned kicks for the Indians – earned All-State honorable mention and was named to the All-Bux-Mont team.

            "I had a great time playing football in high school," said Mullen, who currently manages a Hatfield plant owned by a large snack food company. "The guys I played with were great."

            In the spring, Mullen competed in the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes while also throwing the javelin. As a senior, his 880-relay team finished fifth at the PIAA Championships at Penn State University.


 

 

 

 

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