BIG HORN — Seth Mullinax knows he dominated a football game when opposing linemen compliment him after a play.
Mullinax, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound All-State lineman for Big Horn High School, gets every opponent’s best shot — at least initially.
“They come out and they’re just steaming out of their nose and they’re ready,” Mullinax said. “I pop them a couple times and then they’re like, ‘Man, you’re good. Good job man. Nice hit.’ … They just keep saying ‘Nice hit.’ I never take it easy on them, but I always say, ‘Thanks.’”
Facing Mullinax is a tall task for any 1A lineman, and few have had much success against him this year. A four-year starter, Mullinax anchors the offensive and defensive lines for the undefeated Rams, who are making their third consecutive appearance in the state championship Saturday afternoon against Cokeville.
Big Horn has a bevy of talented players, but perhaps none stand out as much as Mullinax. That is partially due to his size but also his ability to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage. On offense, Mullinax plays left guard and paves lanes for the Rams’ quality running backs. Defensively, he lines up at nose guard, stuffing rushing attempts and clearing blockers for Big Horn’s linebackers.
Assistant coach Andrew Marcure said Mullinax is without a doubt the best lineman he has coached in seven years at Big Horn.
“Our game plan and everything that we do, we need a kid like him,” Marcure said. “It makes things so much easier. We have so many different personnels because we can just run right behind that big guy.”
Big Horn head coach Kirk McLaughlin said Mullinax’s size, athleticism and attitude create a formidable combination.
“He has a whole highlight reel of him knocking people down when he pulls or he’s blocking downfield,” McLaughlin said. “He’s got that tough guy mentality. He’s just got the right temperament to play the game. He wants to kick butt. He’s out there to win.”
Despite his current affection for the sport, Mullinax considered quitting during elementary school when he played flag football.
Once he began playing tackle football however, Mullinax relished the opportunity.
“I always told myself I was never going to play in high school,” Mullinax said. “I never really liked [football] as a kid, but my parents always told me to keep playing. … Middle school football came and I got the taste of hitting somebody and that’s always stayed in my mouth. I’ve loved it ever since.”
Mullinax’s enjoyment and abilities led to him earning All-State honors as a sophomore and junior. He was also named the 1A Lineman of the Year and was part of the Super 25 team in 2017, awards that he is expected to repeat this year.
Although Mullinax dominates most games now, his success didn’t happen overnight. In his first game as a freshman, Mullinax weighed about 190 pounds and was not an intimidating force.
“I was just absolutely scared,” Mullinax said. “I didn’t even want to play, but I did it and I held my ground.”
Mullinax said his freshman year felt like a blur, but he improved over the course of that season. He became a lot more comfortable during his sophomore year and played with more ferocity. It showed on the field, where he was a vital component of the Rams’ state championship team.
“Freshman year, I didn’t really have that switch,” Mullinax said. “I would always play scared and then sophomore year, I kind of had that switch of aggressiveness. It just hasn’t ever turned off since then.”
Mullinax said he was most locked in during the Rams’ victory in the 2016 state championship against Greybull.
“I just felt light that game, like I could do anything,” Mullinax said. “I kind of had that mindset and I’ve always tried to recapture that.”
To play his best, Mullinax works himself into a rage in the few hours before kickoff, blaring music in his headphones and barely speaking to anyone. He then takes that anger out on the field.
“It doesn’t really matter who I’m playing,” Mullinax said. “It’s not even a specific memory, I just get mad.”
Marcure called it awe-inspiring to see Mullinax dominate a game and leave multiple defenders in his wake. He sometimes flattens multiple opponents on the same play.
“It’s absolutely amazing to watch him take over,” Marcure said. “Just absolutely move a guy against his will, or do it three times over on a play: knock a guy down, keep going, knock another guy down. It’s so much fun to watch.”
Mullinax shared similar sentiments.
“The whole point of football is physicality,” Mullinax said. “When you make somebody feel like they can’t even do anything against you, that’s a pretty fun feeling.”
Mullinax has also sharpened his focus and control this year. In previous seasons, he would get called for penalties and personal fouls for late hits. Mullinax hasn’t had any such errors this year.
“He’s learned the kind of game he needs to play for us, and that’s huge,” Marcure said.
This season, Mullinax ranks fourth on the team with 97 defensive points. He has 56 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks and a blocked kick.
Numbers don’t tell the full story, however. Big Horn has thoroughly outclassed its opponents this year, so Mullinax has rarely played more than three quarters in any game. Moreover, there are no official stats for offensive linemen.
Marcure, though, grades every blocker on how well they performed each play. The assistant coach is usually pleased if a player executes his task on at least 70 percent of the offensive plays. As a freshman, Mullinax would block correctly on only about 20 percent of plays. This year, he often receives 90 percent.
“His mistakes are few and far between,” Marcure said. “Seth is one of our leaders in assignment, alignment and effort the last two years; most definitely effort.”
Saturday will mark the final game of Mullinax’s high school football career, but he plans to continue playing the sport at the collegiate level.
Mullinax has received interest from multiple Division I schools, including a preferred walk-on offer from Nebraska and a partial scholarship from Montana. He also has several offers from Division II and NAIA colleges.
Mullinax said it is bittersweet to see his senior year wind down.
“Of course I want to win state, but I don’t want [the season] to end,” Mullinax said. “If I could play one more week of football, I would. That’s kind of [why] I want to play college football. I want to keep it going, no matter where I go.”
Mullinax has evolved from a timid freshman to a player who strikes fear and appreciation into the hearts of opponents.
He and the Rams face Cokeville Saturday at 1 p.m. in Laramie at War Memorial Stadium.