Justin Winters holds the University at Buffalo record for most tackles in a single season.
On Wednesday he helped his alma mater land a player who he thinks has the tools to break his record.
Justin Mulbah, a linebacker from Maryland’s St. Vincent Pallotti High School, was among UB’s 15 signees in its 2016 recruiting class. Winters, who starred for UB from 2008 to 2010, is the defensive backfield coach for the Laurel, Md., school.
Winters’ 125 tackles in 2008 remains the UB record. Winters also was part of arguably the greatest play in UB history – Mike Newton’s 92-yard fumble return for a touchdown that put the Bulls ahead for good in their 42-24 win over Ball State for the 2008 Mid-American Conference championship. Winters hit Ball State QB Nate Davis first on the play, then Josh Thomas poked the ball out and Newton scooped it up.
“I feel great about this,” Winters said. “It’s kind of unreal. I didn’t know anything about Buffalo before I went to the school, and now it’s a second home to me. He wants to spend his four years there and create a legacy of his own. He says he wants to beat my tackling record and get a MAC championship for the school.”
Winters could not be any higher on Mulbah, a 6-foot, 205-pounder, who also had offers from Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Army and Navy.
“He’s the hardest-working kid I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around a lot of good players,” said Winters.
“We’ll tell him to do something in a drill, and he’ll be doing it for an hour after practice in full equipment,” Winters said. “When everyone else is dressed and ready to leave, he’s still on the field, with no lights. It could be learning two steps of footwork, and he’ll do it 1,000 times. That’s every day. We have to drag him off the field. He’s in the weight room before the weight-room session starts. He’s just the ultimate leader. He’s going to change the culture there. Even if the culture is great, he’s going to make it even better. He’ll make people be on his level.”
UB needed to stock up on linebackers after graduating three starting linebackers two years ago and four linebackers this year. Mulbah is one of three freshman linebacker recruits. He’s a hybrid safety-linebacker who figures to play the field (wide) side of the defense.
“Exactly the way Buffalo used me my sophomore year is the way we used him,” Winters said. “He never came off the field. That rover position is the most important on the field. He can cover. He trains with the corners right now to get his coverage up. And he can play in the box. A receiver can’t block him, and he can tackle in space. If they want to put him at safety, he can do that as well.”
Winters contacted UB’s coaches to make a visit to Buffalo last March, and the Bulls made Mulbah an offer immediately after the visit. Mulbah had no previous relationship with UB coach Lance Leipold.
“He reminds me of coach Gill,” Winters said, referring to his UB coach. “He’s an even-keeled guy and he’s about results, like Turner was.”
UB’s Pallotti connection may not be over. Winters said his school has six or seven Division I prospects in its 2017 class. According to 247 Sports, UB already has made offers to two of them – receiver Cameron Sullivan-Brown and linebacker James Patterson.