MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The 2022 NFL Draft is just days away and while some players may not hear their name called this weekend, that doesn’t mean their dream of going pro will end.
For former NMU Football player Payton Muljo his journey to professional football was an unconventional one.
“The kid’s a monster,” said Dustin Brancheau, owner, Adventedge. “He’s 6’7″-6’6″, over 300lbs.”
Muljo, a Marquette native certainly looks the part of a professional football player. But, that wasn’t always the case.
“It was probably a dream of mine, I’d say around sophomore year of high school because I sprouted up like a weed,” said Muljo. “I was like 6-foot going into sophomore year then I sprouted up to like 6’4″, 6’5″.”
After graduating from Marquette Senior High School, Muljo joined the Northern Michigan Football team as a walk-on.
“I was under-developed and I learn quickly that you can’t just be bigger than everyone else at the college level,” said Muljo. “In the U.P., I had a 6’6″ frame so I could usually just bully people around if I wanted to. At college, you got to develop and you got to develop with those other guys. So, I really leaned on some of the other guys on the team whoever took me under their wing, and just took their advice. My coaches made a big point that I needed to eat more and gain weight. I was 240 (lbs) coming in and now I’m 305, fluctuating between 310-305.”
Through hard work, he earned a starting spot along the Wildcat’s offensive line.
“That was one thing that, kind of, brought me up the ranks because I knew that I was an underdog and it built a fire under me and it got me going,” said Muljo. “Every practice, every weight lifting session, every practice I was really just trying to earn the respect from my coaches and teammates. I believe I did that towards the end of my career here at NMU.”
Muljo helped lead the way for players like standout running back Jake Mayon who finished his career with a school record of 4,220 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns.
“I feel very proud of that,” said Muljo. “I mean, he got put down in the history books and I feel like I’m a part of that because I was his offensive line. He was one of those guys that you want to block for. You have a conversation for him and you just want to protect him, you know, I’m blocking for this guy. You’re going to give him your all and stuff and I believe I did that for him when I took the field with him.”
With his college career in the books, Muljo has now turned his focus to the next level. He’s been training daily at Advantedge in Marquette preparing for his next opportunity.
Brancheau has worked closely with dozens of professional athletes and says Muljo has unlimited potential.
“You look at his frame, if he puts on 30 more pounds you’re not even going to see it,” said Brancheau. “He’s 6’6″,6’7″ and if he gets to 330 pounds I think this kid can stick on an NFL roster.”
“I believe this place is a difference-maker,” said Muljo. “Dustin’s been training me since middle school. I wasn’t a great athlete when I walked the first time through those doors at all. I mean, everything I’ve gotten, I’ve fought and clawed for. So, he was there every step along the way, and all the other trainers, Davan Ravindran and Brandon Campbell are all great guys. They’ll get on you but that’s what you need in the weight room if you’re trying to take your game to the next level.”
Last month, Muljo traveled to Saginaw for a pro-day displaying what he could bring to an NFL team. Despite being invited on short notice, Muljo excelled.
“We got a call about three days before from the (Chicago) Bears to get him into a pro day and he went there and he dominated it,” said Brancheau. “Some of the biggest things that you see on Payton is he’s very athletic, he went and he jumped over 30 inches, his short shuttle and his L-drill were top of his class and then his 40 was a pretty solid 40 as well, he ran in the 5.2’s at 300 lbs. His wingspan is one thing that is jumping out at these scouts. These scouts are seeing these measurable and these measurables are the top 1%.”
While he waits for the call from a professional team, Muljo knows he has options.
“I have my degree to lean back on,” said Muljo. “It’s in criminal justice. So, if all else fails in football I can lean back on that degree and that was really my whole plan. My mom just really wanted me to get my degree coming out of college. My mom really needed me to get that degree so she felt comfortable with me pursuing football after college.”
His work ethic and determination have brought him success on and off the field.
“You’re going to get everything from this kid,” said Brancheau. “You’re going to get work ethic, you’re going to get a high character kid, you’re going to get a person that gets his best every single day. So, I’m not sure what team would not want to have that.”
Whatever the future holds for Payton Muljo, he hopes his story can inspire younger generations.
“That’s really the thing that I’m worried about kind of the bigger picture,” said Muljo. “How can I give back to the next generation of kids that come up and want to play sports. I need to just make sure that I’m ready when I get that chance and hopefully these kids see me and see something in me that they see in themselves.”