Congo native Mulumba raw but promising outside LB prospect for Packers
By Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette
~GREEN BAY – Ken Delgado has coached six defensive linemen in college who have played in the NFL, including former first-round draft picks Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan at California, and recent Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame inductee Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at San Diego State.
This year, the Eastern Michigan defensive line coach has a player, Andy Mulumba, who is among the most highly regarded players in the Packers’ 2013 class of undrafted free agents. That group will take the practice field Friday for the start of this weekend’s three-day rookie minicamp.
Delgado said Mulumba is not the accomplished pass rusher Gbaja-Biamila was coming out of college, when the Packers selected him in the fifth round of the 2000 draft. But if Gbaja-Biamila was the superior prospect because of the premium placed on pass rushers, Delgado considers Mulumba a comparable talent physically and a more well-rounded player even though he grew up in Congo and only started playing football in Canada as a 10th-grader.
“I’m not one to make a bold prediction on what’s going to happen,” Delgado said, “but I’m very interested to see how it unfolds, because Andy has the potential to make an NFL roster, especially with what they’re asking (outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme) to do these days.”
Mulumba is looking to become the latest undrafted rookie to play outside linebacker for the Packers since they switched to the 3-4 defense in 2009. In 2010, Frank Zombo won a roster spot and later had a sack in the Super Bowl, the high point of his three injury-dominated seasons with the Packers. In ’11, Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore made the team but made minimal impacts. And last year, Dezman Moses played 436 snaps from scrimmage and had four sacks while splitting playing time opposite Clay Matthews.
Moses was the best prospect of the group coming out of college — he had 15 1/2 sacks in his two seasons at Tulane. But Mulumba is an interesting player in his own right. Despite his limited sack production — 4 1/2 in his last two seasons — he might have untapped talent after starting the game so late in life. He played football only after moving to North America and spent his first three years in the sport in Canada rather than a more sophisticated and competitive high school program in the United States.
Mulumba has decent length (6-feet-3 1/4) and good size (260 pounds) for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He ran the 40 in 4.80 seconds, which is only OK for the position, and had a good 36-inch vertical jump. For comparison, Moses coming out was 6-1 7/8 and 248 pounds; ran the 40 in 4.90 seconds; and had an athletic 36 1/2-inch vertical.
Mulumba, though, had only one sack last season and 3 1/2 as a junior playing defensive end. He was voted the team’s most valuable player last season but went undrafted because he’s so raw as a pass rusher and still is learning the mentality of a playmaker. Delgado said the coaching staff at Eastern Michigan spent Mulumba’s first two seasons teaching him the fundamentals of football.
When the Packers drafted Gbaja-Biamila, he was undersized, didn’t make the 53-man roster at the end of his first training camp, then was promoted from the practice squad later in his rookie season. But even early on, he showed the ability to get off fast at the snap and dip his shoulder around the corner as a pass rusher, which became his trademark as an outside rusher in the NFL.
Mulumba hasn’t shown anything like that as a rusher. But Delgado said once he’s immersed in an NFL training program, Mulumba is talented enough to become proficient. He might be too raw to have much shot at the 53-man roster this year, especially since the Packers drafted another outside linebacker, Nate Palmer of Illinois State, in the sixth round.
But Mulumba is a strong developmental candidate for the practice squad.
“It’s just going to take patience from an NFL team,” Delgado said. “He brings a lot of stuff to the table as far as skills. Some of the things Andy does are very skillful. He’s an unbelievable athlete with his hips. (Outside linebackers) now have to be hybrid-type animals that can do a lot of things. Andy has all those qualities. When it comes to the old rear back and get the sack that’s changing football (games), when you’ve got that guy that can step up and make that play, Andy needs to prove he can do that. With teaching and environment, I think he can do that.
“Whether someone will have the patience to do that in the NFL, I don’t know.”
Mulumba came to football late because he grew up in Congo before his family moved to Montreal in the early 2000s. He said his parents considered Congo too dangerous to raise their six children and wanted them to benefit from an education in North America. So after his father earned his Ph.D. at Auburn University while living on his own in the U.S., he got a job with a United Nations food program and moved the family to Canada, where it was cheaper to live.
Mulumba played soccer growing up in Congo but tried football as a sophomore in Montreal. As a senior, he helped Vieux Montreal High School to the Canadian national championship and was defensive MVP of the title game. Eastern Michigan’s previous coaching staff recruited him via word of mouth from a contact who had a relative on Mulumba’s high school team.
Delgado characterized Mulumba as one of the most interesting players he’s coached — Mulumba didn’t redshirt and graduated in four years with a degree in business administration, and he speaks four languages (English, French and Congolese dialects Lingala and Tshiluba).
But even though Mulumba moved to Canada and then the U.S. in large part for the academic education, he says he’s committed to making a career in football. He was the No. 2 pick overall by Winnipeg in the CFL draft last week, but he says the CFL is only a fallback if he doesn’t make an NFL roster or practice squad.
He signed with the Packers because they were the only team that brought him in for a pre-draft visit, though Tampa Bay also offered a contract and a couple of other teams showed interest.
“It was an honor to be drafted in the CFL with the second pick,” Mulumba said. “But my goal is to play in the NFL. I want to play at the highest level.”
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