After NFL, Ovie Mughelli’s life’s work is just beginning
Ovie Mughelli was in L.A. on Friday, auditioning for an on-air job with the new Fox Sports One network. He took a red-eye flight back to Charleston and was on the field at Porter-Gaud School on Saturday morning, braving the rain for a football/environmental education camp at his old high school.
OVIE MUGHELLI FILE
Born: June 10, 1980, Charleston
High School: Porter-Gaud
College: Wake Forest
Drafted: Ravens, 2003
NFL teams: Ravens (2003-2006); Falcons (2007-2012)
Family: Wife, Masika. Daughters, Olivia and Nesia.
Mughelli, who played fullback in the NFL for 10 years, guided his young charges through football drills, helped conduct a “Family Feud” style contest featuring questions on the environment, and patiently explained the goals of his Ovie Mughelli Foundation to a waiting TV crew.
And he did it all on little to no sleep.
“Not much sleep on the plane,” he said.
There’s been little down time for the 33-year-old Mughelli since his pro football career came to a sudden end a year ago, when he was surprisingly cut by the Atlanta Falcons after working his way back from a knee injury.
“It was a blow,” said Mughelli, who was twice All-Pro and in 2007 signed a six-year, $18-million deal with the Falcons, at that time the biggest ever for a fullback. “But I had to come to terms with it. I was coming off a Pro Bowl year, I worked my butt off to get healthy. The day I was cleared to practice, they cut me. I saw first-hand the brutality of the NFL.”
The way his career ended was unexpected — Mughelli’s attempt to hook on with the Rams was short-lived — but the Wake Forest graduate had been preparing for that day since he was drafted in the fourth round by the Ravens in 2003.
You won’t find Ovie angling for Arena Football League contracts or hanging around the golf course, telling “back in the day” stories. In many ways, he said, his life’s work is just beginning.
“My parents always told me, right here on this field, that I would not play at Porter-Gaud unless I had a B-plus average,” he said. “In our family, A was for awesome and B was for bad, so B-plus was as low as I could go. They always told me not to forget my education, no matter how long I played football.
“So even though I was surprised I got cut, I was preparing for it since my first year in the league.”
Mughelli slid smoothly into a job in local radio in Atlanta, and this year will be a color analyst for ACC games on Fox Sports South. He’s also appeared on Fox Sports South shows like “SEC Gridiron Live” and “The Panel.”
On Friday, he auditioned for Fox Sports One, and also has had talks with CBS Sports Network and Sirius Radio.
“There’s a lot of opportunity out there,” he said.
He and his wife, Masika, also are working toward their executive MBA degrees through a program at George Washington University.
But the work that is closest to Mughelli’s heart is through his Ovie Mughelli Foundation and programs such as OMF GreenCamps, ECO Challenge, Recycle on the Run and the Green Speaker’s series.
Early in his career, Mughelli knew he wanted to support a cause that was under-served and would make a difference.
“I didn’t want another life-skills camp or healthy-eating camp,” he said. “Those are great causes, but other athletes are doing that. I wanted something that people were not paying enough attention to, and we decided on the environment.”
So Mughelli has made it his goal to bring environmental awareness to kids otherwise occupied with things like sports and video games.
“These kids care as soon as they know it affects them,” said Mughelli, who compares his efforts to grass-roots movements that brought about seat-belt and anti-smoking laws. “If they think it’s all polar bears and butterflies, they don’t care. But if they know it affects them, they will care.”
Mughelli said his daughters, 4-year-old Oliva and 14-month-old Nesia, are constant reminders of how important environmental education is.
“If I can reach kids because of my background, my job, my race, that’s what I want to do,” he said. “My plate is full, and I’m excited about it. I don’t want to be one of those guys sitting around trying to get back in the league when your time is out.
“I’ve got a lot more living to do, a lot more to offer the world.”
Now if he could just get some sleep.