Navy SEAL Candidate from Manalapan, NJ, former high school and Monmouth University football standout, Dies After “Hell Week”
A Navy SEAL candidate who was a star football player at Manalapan High School, Yale University, and Monmouth University died on Friday after completing a training regimen known as "Hell Week".
Kyle Mullen, a 2015 graduate of Manalapan High School and former captain of the Yale football team who finished his career at Monmouth, was transported to Sharp Coronado Hospital in California where he later died, according to Navy officials. Another trainee was also taken to the hospital and was listed in stable condition at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
Navy officials initially did not identify Mullen but confirmed his passing on Sunday. He was 24 years old.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to Seaman Mullen’s family for their loss,” Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a Navy news release Sunday. “We are extending every form of support we can to the Mullen family and Kyle’s BUD/S classmates.”
Mullen was a star defensive lineman and tight end for Manalapan who helped lead the Braves to their first NJSIAA state sectional title in 2014. He was a Shore Sports Network First Team All-Shore selection in 2014 when he was also named Class A North Defensive Player of the Year by the division's coaches. As a senior, he made a team-leading 136 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, and four fumble recoveries, and was also a starting tight end who caught six touchdown passes.
"He was a better person off the field than he was on the field," said former Manalapan head coach Ed Gurrieri. "If you look at what you would want as a Navy SEAL, he fit those criteria. If anyone was going to be a SEAL, it was going to be him. They're considered the best of the best - integrity, physically gifted, intellectual - and he was all that. He's one of the best football players, students, teammates, son, brother; he checked every box."
"He was such a great kid," said Manalapan head coach Dom Lepore, who was an assistant coach for the Braves during Mullen's playing days. "Everybody that encountered him, he had such a positive effect on everybody. Just a great kid, the complete package. He had all the intangibles. One of the best kids we've ever had here."
Mullen was a rare two-way player for a Braves program that had so much depth it had players mostly playing on only one side of the ball. He was too good and too important to take off the field.
"If you look back on those days it was when we had 100 strong on the roster and rarely did we need anyone to be a two-way player," Gurrieri said. "But he was special. He never came off the field, never got tired."
Mullen then played collegiately at Yale where he was named team captain and in 2017, as a junior, helped the Bulldogs clinch their first outright Ivy League championship in 37 years. He started all 10 games and was recognized as a second-team All-Ivy selection. As a sophomore, Mullen led Yale with six sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Mullen left Yale prior to his senior year and finished up at Monmouth University where he played in 14 games during the 2019 season.
Both Mullen and the other candidate were assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command and has just completed the BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL) class to conclude "Hell Week", which is part of the first phase of the Navy SEAL assessment and selection pathway, according to a statement issued by the Navy.
The sailors were not actively training when they reported symptoms and were transported to receive emergency care, the statement said. Mullen's cause of death is not known and is currently under investigation.
Training to become a Navy SEAL is known to be exceptionally grueling with many of the candidates dropping out before completing the program. The first portion of the training is BUD/S, "a six-month mind and body obstacle course where recruits are pushed to their physical and mental limits". Hell Week is the fourth week of training and includes basic underwater demolition, survival, and combat tactics. It consists of "five-and-a-half days of continuous training with very little sleep and is designed to push students to their maximum capability both physically and mentally", according to a story on NavyTimes.com.
"Last summer I would see him at the gym and he came up to me and said he wanted to be a Navy SEAL," Lepore said. "After getting his degree he had this direction of going into the military and he was training hard to get himself ready for it."
Funeral arrangements are pending. Lepore said the team will honor Mullen's life and career during the season as well as during the team's football banquet this Friday.
"We are just in shock," Lepore said. "It's one of those things where you take a step back and you just can't believe it."