Fans and experts alike will remember former Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Mike Mamula for his otherworldly performance at the 1995 NFL Scouting Combine.
Mamula was a workout warrior who prepared for the combine and the NFL dating back to his college days with the Boston College Eagles.
He recorded a 38-inch vertical leap, a 10’5″ broad jump, and twenty-six reps of 225 lbs. in the bench press.
His time of 4.58 in the 40-yard dash was the stuff of legends. He even bested some of the high-profile, speedy defensive backs of the 1995 rookie crop.
Mamula even drew comparisons to Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Charles Haley.
The Eagles wanted Mamula so badly that they traded up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to pluck him from the draft pool.
Alas, the Bucs came away with future Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the 1995 NFL Draft.
As for the Eagles, they wound up with a mediocre defensive end who never lived up to lofty expectations in the pro football ranks.
Michael Brian Mamula was born to parents Milton and Maryanne in Lackawanna, NY on August 14,1973.
He has a sister named Nickole.
Milton Mamula was a maintenance and delivery man for the local school system, per SI.com’s Peter King.
His son Mike started playing little league football when he was seven years old.
The kids in their neighborhood played coed two-hand touch football. Distances between telephone poles represented a first down.
They scored a touchdown when a teammate went past the fourth telephone pole, which represented the end zone.
Nickole told King in the spring of 1995 she banged heads with her brother after he stopped abruptly while trying to cover her during a game.
The collision broke Nickole’s front tooth. She cried while she underwent dental surgery.
On the other hand, her brother Mike didn’t. However he, too, required an operation for a hole in his head.
Mike Mamula was in fifth grade when the incident happened.
It was around that time when Mamula got busted for a shoplifting incident. He stole a 99-cent box of fishing lures he wanted to give Milton on Father’s Day.
Unfortunately, a store employee caught Mamula red-handed. The clerk called up his father, who promptly picked up Mike and his bicycle.
When they got home, Milton threw Mike’s bicycle against their house in a fit of rage.
After Milton Mamula left the bicycle badly bent, he ordered his household to call Mike “The Thief” for one month.
When Nickole mistakenly called her brother by his first name, their dad grounded her.
Despite Mike Mamula’s hardscrabble upbringing, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It was good to grow up here,” Mamula told King in April 1995. “Things weren’t handed to me. I had to work for everything.”
Had a few NFLers go to my high school.
1. Ron Jaworski
2. Mike Mamula
3. Marcus Rivers was on the Packers practice squad a bit https://t.co/BGvthxTng5
— steven (@snydxr) August 7, 2017
Mike Mamula attended Lackawanna High School.
He excelled in football, basketball, and track for the Lackawanna Steelers. He even garnered MVP honors in the two latter sports.
Before long, Mike Mamula became an All-State high school selection on the gridiron.
Despite Mamula’s emergence, not too many college football recruiters had him on their radar.
According to King, only the Boston Terriers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and Youngstown State Penguins expressed interest in Mamula.
Unfortunately, none of them dangled a scholarship offer.
With the turn of events, Mamula thought he’d take a partial scholarship from Division I-AA New Hampshire.
However, Boston College Eagles assistant football coach Mike Masser came to town to size up Mamula.
Masser came away impressed with Mamula’s all-out style of play on the football field. He asked the youngster to visit Boston College.
Mamula agreed only if the school offered him a scholarship.
To his astonishment, Masser agreed to his wishes.
With that, Mike Mamula officially became a Boston College Eagle.
College Days With The Boston College Eagles
Mike Mamula suited up for the Boston College Eagles from 1992 to 1994.
He played for Eagles head football coach Tom Coughlin, somebody that is known for running a football team like a boot camp even during his tenures with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants in the pro ranks.
Mamula redshirted his true freshman year in 1991. He admitted to King that he struggled to learn Coughlin’s system that year.
Mamula spent a lot of time in the Dawn Patrol, Coughlin’s equivalent of a hockey penalty box.
Whenever one of Coughlin’s players missed a meeting or skipped classes, he had to work out three times a week at six o’clock in the morning, per SI.com.
Mamula recalled doing a drill at Alumni Stadium that had him lying on one sideline and rolling back and forth to the other sideline in freezing conditions.
Mamula eventually got his act together in 1992. He weighed 232 pounds entering his redshirt freshman campaign.
Coughlin eventually made Mamula his starting outside linebacker.
Despite a shoulder injury that sidelined him for three games in 1992, Mamula returned with a vengeance.
He had 11.0 sacks as a redshirt sophomore defensive end in 1993.
Mamula’s best game of that year was his two-sack, 14-tackle showing in the Eagles’ 41-39 upset of Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
He wound up with NBC Player of the Game honors.
Mamula averaged an impressive 3.2 tackles for loss per game as a redshirt junior a year later. The 242-lb. juggernaut also had 13.0 sacks to boot.
7 Days until the #NFLDraft !!
1995 was the last time the #Eagles picked at 7 — The selection:
Mike Mamula, DE – Boston College pic.twitter.com/ZpTB8iXn2m
— James Nagle (@NagleNFL) April 22, 2021
Boston College won seven games and earned a spot in the 1994 Aloha Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats.
Mamula earned 1994 Aloha Bowl MVP honors with his scintillating four-sack performance in the Eagles’ 12-7 victory.
“Every time I looked up he was there,” Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Chad May told King in the spring of 1995.
Mamula added another feather to his cap by earning All-Big East honors after his redshirt junior campaign in Boston.
Mike Mamula earned a reputation as a workout freak during his college days with the Eagles.
He was one of the first players who trained for combine-specific drills during his era.
It all started with Eagles strength coach Jerry Palmieri, whose drills were similar to those of the NFL Combine.
Palmieri made his players run sprints, execute the four-cone drill, and do bench presses, per ESPN’s David M. Hale.
For his part, Mamula loved the workout environment Palmieri created at Boston College. The former would eventually turn plenty of heads at the NFL Combine several years later.
Mamula wasn’t one to slow down even during walk-throughs.
When Dan Henning took over as Eagles head football coach during the 1994 NCAA season, he’d run Mamula and his teammates through a two-minute drill without pads on Fridays.
While the other Eagles players walked through the drill, Mamula went full throttle on virtually every rep.
Henning told a Kansas City Chiefs scout that sometime later, Mamula’s reckless style of play reminded him of New York Giants great Lawrence Taylor, per SI.com.
Mamula declared for the 1995 NFL Draft after his redshirt junior season at Boston College in 1994.
Mike Mamula would eventually turn in one of the most incredible performances in NFL Combine history before embarking on a six-year pro football career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pro Football Career
The Philadelphia Eagles made Mike Mamula the seventh overall selection of the 1995 NFL Draft.
Mamula became Philly’s highest-chosen defensive player since 1971 when the Eagles drafted Grambling State Tigers defensive end Richard Harris fifth overall.
Mike Mamula – Eagles pic.twitter.com/VwzZbvn72p
— Random Philly Athletes (@PhillyRandom) April 29, 2021
Mamula promptly picked up where he left off during his pre-combine training sessions with Jerry Palmieri at Boston College.
This time around, Mamula worked with Boston Bruins strength coach Mike Boyle.
Boyle designed a five-day training split for Mamula that helped prepare him for the combine drills and the rigors of the National Football League, per King.
Prior to wearing Eagles Green and White, Mike Mamula turned in one of the best performances in NFL Combine history.
Mamula recorded a 38.5 vertical leap and did twenty-six reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Mamula also recorded a broad jump of 10’5″ – an inch farther than highly-touted wideout Michael Westbrook of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The former Boston College Eagles standout also scored 33 in the 50-item Wonderlic test, the league’s standard intelligence exam.
NFL prospects averaged 19 on the Wonderlic during Mamula’s time.
His mother Maryanne couldn’t believe her son scored that high considering he was just a C student at Boston College, per King.
However, Mike Mamula’s performance in the 40-yard dash was one for the ages.
His agent Brad Bank remembered telling him he’d run a 4.5.
Mamula also made a bet with him: if he ran that fast, Bank had to buy him a new television.
Mamula made good on his promise: his time of 4.58 was even better than those of some defensive backs at the combine.
“He blew up the combine,” Eagles director of college scouting John Wooten told ESPN some twenty-five years later. “He blew it up.”
Mamula told PhiladelphiaEagles.com in 2016 the combine drills were easy because he had already practiced them thousands of times.
Bank couldn’t believe it. He kept his end of the bargain and purchased a new television set for his client at the Chestnut Hill Mall.
Unfortunately, the television didn’t last long to Mamula’s dismay.
“I should’ve had (Blank) buy me a TV every year for the next twenty years,” Mamula told Hale in February 2020. “To keep up with technology.”
Several big-name coaches – the Arizona Cardinals’ Buddy Ryan, the Miami Dolphins’ Don Shula, and the New England Patriots’ Bill Parcells – were in the stands when Mamula blew the competition away in the 40-yard dash, per SI.com.
Reporter Will McDonough left a message on Blank’s answering machine. He told the agent almost everyone he knew was raving about Mamula’s performance at the combine.
One team that couldn’t get over Mamula’s act was the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles were still on the lookout for a first-rate pass rusher two years after the great Reggie White departed for the Green Bay Packers.
According to Hale, the Eagles were also eyeing Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
However, reports claiming Sapp failed several drug tests left a sour taste in the Eagles’ mouths.
Mike Mamula was their man.
Cheers to Mike Mamula as yet another NFL combine begins today. He is The Godfather of creating NFL Combine hype. pic.twitter.com/MN9gOwP71D
— Jeremy Lee (@BigPoppa703) March 3, 2022
Philly traded the No. 12 overall selection and two second-round draft picks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so they could snag Mamula at No. 7 in the draft.
Then-Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay wasn’t done wheeling and dealing.
McKay dealt the two second-rounders he obtained from Philly to the Dallas Cowboys for the 28th overall selection in 1995.
Tampa Bay selected Sapp twelfth overall and Florida State Seminoles linebacker Derrick Brooks twenty-eighth.
Sapp and Brooks went on to enjoy productive careers with the Buccaneers.
They combined for eighteen Pro Bowl appearances and earned Super Bowl rings with the Bucs following the 2002 NFL season.
Incredibly, Mike Mamula had already retired three years before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Sapp and Brooks are also enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
As for Mike Mamula, he spent six under-the-radar seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1995 to 2000.
Mamula started right away at defensive end for first-year Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes, who thought his rookie was stronger and faster than San Francisco 49ers legend Charles Haley.
Mamula got off to a decent start in his pro football career: he had a combined 13.5 sacks and 130 tackles in 1995 and 1996.
Philly won ten games each time but could go no farther than the NFC Divisional Round.
Mamula recalled the defense held its own during that stretch.
Unfortunately, the offense stagnated somewhat with Rodney Peete and Ty Detmer quarterbacking for the Eagles in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
Philadelphia’s embarrassing 14-0 shutout loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1995 NFC Wild Card Game epitomized the Eagles’ struggles on offense.
While the Eagles had 283 all-purpose yards, they were a measly 2-of-12 on third-down conversions.
They just couldn’t move the sticks against the 49ers.
Mamula regressed in his third season in Philadelphia. He had just 4.0 sacks in the 1997 NFL season.
The Eagles struggled mightily in Rhodes’ third year at the helm. They won just six games and didn’t qualify for the postseason.
Mamula and Co. reached rock bottom the following year.
Mamula unexpectedly blew out his knee during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998.
To make matters worse, Mamula sustained the season-ending knee injury in the first series on his twenty-fifth birthday.
“My fiancee at that point and my parents were in town and they had my whole house dressed up for my birthday and I had to wait to blow out the candles the next day because I immediately had surgery,” Mamula told the Eagles’ official website almost eighteen years after the incident.
With Mamula out of commission, Philadelphia won just three games in 1998. It was the Eagles’ worst record in sixteen years.
Consequently, the Eagles fired Rhodes and hired former Green Bay Packers assistant Andy Reid.
Reid went on to coach the Eagles for the next fourteen seasons. He led them to nine postseason appearances during his tenure in Philly.
After sitting out the entire 1998 NFL season, Mamula had to undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his ankle the following summer.
Mamula told PhiladelphiaEagles.com in 2016 he felt like a rookie again after the surgery.
Indeed, Mike Mamula received a second lease on life.
He had a career-high 8.5 sacks, 28 solo tackles, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Mamula’s 3.0 sacks against the New England Patriots on December 19, 1999 earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
His crowning moment during the 1999 NFL campaign came against rookie quarterback Kurt Warner’s St. Louis Rams two weeks later.
Mamula picked off Warner’s pass and returned it 41 yards the other way for the first and only pick-six of his NFL career.
It was a big deal considering the Rams went on to become Super Bowl XXXIV champions. Warner eventually earned Super Bowl MVP honors.
Alas, the Eagles finished with a 5-11 win-loss record in Reid’s first year at the helm. They failed to qualify for the postseason for the third straight year.
Mamula couldn’t build on his success in the 1999 NFL campaign.
He suited up mainly on passing downs for the Eagles in 2000. He finished the year with 5.5 sacks, three passes defensed, and 18 solo tackles in just six appearances that year.
Philly turned its fortunes around with an eleven-win campaign in 2000.
Regrettably, the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Round, 20-10.
The Eagles released Mamula to free up $2.7 million in cap space in April 2001.
The 27-year-old Mamula retired from the National Football League after just six seasons.
He had 156 solo tackles, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, six passes defensed, one interception, and one pick-six in 77 career games for the Eagles.
Mamula’s former agent Brad Blank doesn’t consider him a bust.
Mamula averaged approximately 6.0 sacks per season during his Eagles tenure. Blank told Hale in 2020 that statistic commands a salary of $10 million a year in today’s NFL.
— Mike Schmidt (@mjs80377) November 25, 2021
Former Eagles defensive tackle Hollis Thomas concurs with Blank’s observation.
Thomas and Mamula were together on Philly’s defensive line for five seasons. Thomas has been working as a talk show host in the Philadelphia area for more than a decade.
Thomas considered the likes of Jonathan Sullivan and Jon Harris busts, not Mamula.
“I’ve seen total busts,” Thomas told The Athletic’s Bob McGinn in the fall of 2020. “Mamula worked at trying to get better. ‘Sully’ didn’t even try. Jon Harris – that was just godawful. He was a total bust.”
Instead, Mike Mamula turned out to be a decent gridiron warrior.
Unfortunately, his off-the-charts performance at the NFL Combine in 1995 set unrealistic expectations he didn’t meet during his pro football career.
Perhaps people who remembered him cranking out twenty-six reps of 225 pounds in the bench press expected him to rack up more than 6.0 sacks per year.
It just didn’t turn out that way for Mike Mamula.
For his part, Mamula has no issues with how people perceive him with the way his pro football career transpired.
“Everyone’s got their opinion,” Mamula told ESPN in 2020. “I don’t care either way. I know what I did and I’m still feeling it to this day, so I have no problem with what everybody thinks.”
Mike Mamula, his wife Chantal, and their twins Milton and Luca reside in the Philadelphia, PA area.
Mamula was the director of business development of Comprehensive Screening Solutions (CSS, Inc.), an employment screening company located in Gibbsboro, NJ, from 2003 to 2020.
Mamula’s former defensive line teammate with the Philadelphia Eagles, Mike Chalenski, hired him in 2003. Chalenski is the founder and CEO of CSS, Inc.
Chalenski tipped his hat off to Mamula for digging his heels in and becoming successful in the business world following his retirement in 2000.
“You gotta work for it, and he did,” Chalenski told Jersey Man Magazine’s Kurt Smith in November 2018. “He showed up every day and tried to get better at whatever it is, and now he’s good at business development.”
After Mamula left CSS, Inc., he became the vice president of First Nationwide Title Agency in December 2021, per his official LinkedIn page.
During the height of Mamula’s success in the employment screening industry, he became a member of the Boston College Varsity Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
Mamula’s son Milton has followed his footsteps on the gridiron. He plays defensive end for the Montana Grizzlies.