When Liam Mulgrave faced a very tough period of his life, he turned to football.
He also turned to helping others.
Not only did it get him through the tough times, he’s done his best to drag others up with him.
Mulgrave is a senior two-way tackle on the Father Judge High School football team, and when he was as sophomore, his father passed away. It was a very tough time for him, as it would be for any high school kid, but he was determined not to let that be the end of his story.
“Football was great because I really worked hard to put my attention there after he died and I ended up starting both ways my junior year,” said Mulgrave, who stands 6 feet 3 and weighs about 300 pounds. “My brother (Jake) did, too. He’s the other tackle and defensive end and he got really good at that time, too. Me and my brother got really close then.
“It’s hard, you see a lot of people go to bad things after something like that happens and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do the right thing. I tried to help my brother, too, but he was the same way. We really used football.”
Mulgrave certainly had help.
He knows his football teammates were there for him at all times, but his grandparents really stepped up. He lives with them in Fox Chase and whatever he needs, they’re there.
“My grandparents are my everything,” Mulgrave said. “They helped us so much. It’s me and my two brothers, also have my brother, Devon, who is 3. I try to be there for them and I am, we are there for each other, but my grandparents really look out for us.”
On Saturday night, his grandparents were probably very happy watching their two grandsons help Judge knock off Archbishop Ryan 24-10 in a Catholic League Red Division game. It was a big win for Crusaders coach Frank McArdle, who coached at Ryan last year, and it was a big win for Mulgrave and other seniors on the team.
“They beat us the past few years, they’re a good team,” Mulgrave said. “We really didn’t want to be a class that never beat them. It’s a huge rivalry, so you want to win. I thought we played really well, it was a game we knew we had to win.”
It was a Red Division opener, and the division is absolutely loaded this year with St. Joe’s Prep, La Salle, Roman Catholic and Archbishop Wood all among the top teams in the area.
Mulgrave, as one of the leaders on this year’s team, knows the road ahead is a challenging one, but he’s ready to lead his troops into battle.
“I would love to see us finish above .500 and win a lot of games,” Mulgrave said. “But it’ll be tough. I want to see us play our best every week, though. I want to see us do what we can do. We can control how hard we work and what we do. We need to practice hard.”
Mulgrave has been a leader all season and it’s paying off for the Crusaders, who do have a talented line. They also have a good, but inexperienced quarterback.
Starter Aidan Dooley suffered a shoulder injury, and sophomore Mike Van Horn has taken over. Mulgrave misses his boy, but is happy for the youngster.
“I’m very good friends with Aidan so it was really hard to see him go down, but he’ll be better,” Mulgrave said. “But Michael is doing really good. I try to talk to him before every game and I’m there for him if he needs anything. He came in and is doing really good. He’s a good quarterback.”
It should be no surprise to anyone who knows Mulgrave that he’s a great leader on the football field. When he was a sophomore, he was the only 10th-grader accepted into a Salesian leadership program. He’s been in ever since and continues to help people through the program.
“We go on missionary trips,” Mulgrave said. “We’ve gone to homeless shelters in Camden and feed people who need it. We do other things, too, just to help people who need it and do things like that.
“It’s good because you’re helping people, but it also lets you know how fortunate you are. We have a lot of things other people don’t have.”
A lot of that is grandmom’s cooking.
When you have two football players living in your house who are a combined weight of more than 500 pounds, you’re going to spend some time over the stove. According to Mulgrave, his grandmom is a great cook.
“We eat a lot of pasta and a lot of chicken,” he said. “Sometimes she makes too much. We usually take care of that, though. She’s a great cook.”
Next year, Mulgrave might end up longing for home cooking when he’s playing college football. He’s unsure where he’ll end up, but he has high hopes both in football and in the classroom.
“I want to study accounting,” said Mulgrave, who maintains a 3.2 grade point average. “I do pretty well in school and I love numbers, so accounting will be good.”