Coconut Creek High School senior Trayvon Mullen is one of the most sought-after football players in the country
By Michelle F. Solomon and Photography by Luccia Photos
Trayvon Mullen isn’t much different from other high school seniors. He likes playing Xbox; his favorite place to eat is Bella Roma, a restaurant close to Coconut Creek High School; his pastime is “chillin’ at home”; and he can’t wait to graduate. But what separates this 6-foot-2-inch 18-year-old from his peers is that, as far colleges go, he had his pick.
As one of the most sought-after high school cornerbacks (ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPN), Mullen was courted by some of the top college football programs in the nation, including Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, LSU, Ohio State, Auburn, Tennessee and TCU – and the list goes on. In total, 32 colleges and universities made him offers.
For months, Mr. Shutdown (his Twitter handle) tweeted that he was excited about the prospects of playing football in college, but fans would have to wait; he and Coconut Creek High’s head coach, Kareem Reid, strategically decided that he would make his announcement to a national television audience on ESPN on Feb. 3, National Signing Day.
The verdict: In the fall, he’ll be playing for Clemson University in South Carolina.
“I picked Clemson because I felt the love and I loved the environment,” Mullen says. “I can see myself there for 3 to 4 years, being focused with a straight head, getting well developed, and becoming a better man.” He also says playing for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney swayed his decision, too.
Football is something that’s always been a part of Mullen’s life. “I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old. I’ve never taken a year off from football,” he says, adding that he started with the youth football league, the Power Broncos, now the Lauderdale Broncos. As a freshman at Boyd Anderson High School, Mullen says he was playing varsity football with teammates who are now in college.
“His God-given abilities make him one of the elite athletes in the country,” says Reid, who took over the high school’s program before the 2013 season. “[Mullen] has the height and the speed that teams on all levels of football covet in a cornerback. He’s also one of the more mature kids that I’ve coached. He gets it, whatever ‘it’ is. When it comes to what he wants out of life, he has a pretty good grasp of what he needs to get done to accomplish his goals.”
Mullen says he does have goals, but not all of them are wrapped up in a professional football career. He has plans of majoring in business management in college, and if the NFL doesn’t work out, he has hopes of becoming a sports agent. The career merges two of his favorite subjects: psychology and math. Owning his own business or working in some other aspect of finance would be fine, too, he says.
When asked about the possibility of becoming a future Hall of Famer – the next Ronnie Lott or Deion Sanders – the down-to-earth teenager says, “I just want to make my parents proud and set an example for my younger brothers and other kids.”
In the living room of her Coral Springs home, Mullen’s mother, Lucretia Peterman, has a football shrine set up with trophies and awards with more added every day. A recent addition is her son’s U.S. Army All American Bowl No. 23 jersey and an autographed football from the same game. “To My Mother,” it reads, with the signature T. Mullen Jr. (In January, Mullen was one of 90 of the nation’s top players to be invited to San Antonio, Texas, to participate in the prestigious bowl game.) “I have a three-bedroom house, but a lot of times I sleep downstairs so I can wake to this,” Peterman says, referring to her shrine.
“I just want to make my parents proud and set an example for my younger brothers and other kids.”
His mother remembers her oldest son, Nathaniel Watson, 19, a student at Broward College, always being quarterback to Mullen’s receiver. “They won Super Bowls together, they lost Super Bowls together,” she says jokingly.
Mullen’s other brother, Tiawan, 15, a freshman cornerback on the Coconut Creek High team, is following in his brother’s footsteps. “They call him, ‘the next Mullen up,’” Peterman says.
“He’s going to be as good as me,” Mullen adds.
His youngest brother, Trevell, 13, plays for the youth football team, the Tamarac Cougars. “Each one of my boys is a leader for the next,” Peterman says. “I choose for my boys to not be street statistics, but smart statistics.”
His mother’s beliefs have resonated with him. While being recruited by top schools and being an elite athlete offers opportunities for Mullen to meet people and see the world that awaits him outside of South Florida, “It’s still about putting in the work,” he says. “I’m a winner even if I lose. At the end of the day, there’s a higher goal than winning.”