The two became friendly if not friends but had only scarcely broached the topic of playing together. This spring, Jackson and Mughelli, acting on their mutual interest in the art of film making, attended the NFL’s Hollywood boot camp, which allows current players to learn about the business.
As it happens, Jackson and Mughelli ended up in the same group and made a movie together, a short film called ‘What’s My App?’ about people who use a phone app to travel back to western times and get stuck there.
The final product was “so terrible it was funny” according to Mughelli.
“He was behind the camera, producing everything and directing,” Mughelli said. “I was in front of the camera. We filmed at Universal Studios, it was a cowboy western and we had a great time. We interacted and had a lot of fun.”
While Jackson and Mughelli didn’t know it at the time, there was a bit of foreshadowing in their movie making dalliance. It was only appropriate that Mughelli was out in front with Jackson behind the camera offering instruction and guidance.
When the Rams inked Mughelli to a one-year contract last Saturday, the fiction of Hollywood became a St. Louis reality. Mughelli has been a Ram for only a handful of days and practices but he’s taken quickly to St. Louis and to the idea of becoming the lead blocker and personal protector for Jackson.
For his part, Jackson has long been at his most productive with a quality blocking fullback clearing out linebackers for him.
“Ovie comes with 10 years of experience,” Jackson said. “He comes from Atlanta, and he also played in Baltimore for a while, so he’s used to some winning. It’s always good to have someone with that wealth of knowledge at the position and have some guys competing. He’s a big body. I’ve known him for a while now, just through our careers. It was another signing that made me smile at the addition of what we’re trying to do as a team and as an offense.”
Ah, yes, the offense, an offense that makes no bones about what it’s trying to be. As Mughelli noted, he’s one of four fullbacks in this year’s training camp competing for what will likely be just one spot on the final 53.
If you have any leftover questions about what the Rams’ offensive philosophy under new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will entail, simply look at a roster that’s carrying not just one but four fullbacks. Not too shabby for a position that many believe is headed toward extinction in the pass happy NFL.
“If that doesn’t tell you that we are going to run the ball and be aggressive and be a hard nosed running team then nothing will,” Mughelli said.
Of those four fullbacks, Mughelli comes with what is clearly the most impressive resume and the largest wealth of experience.
Mughelli is entering his 10th season in the league, having accomplished quite a bit in his previous nine seasons split almost evenly between Baltimore and Atlanta.
The Ravens selected Mughelli in the fourth round out of Wake Forest in the 2003 NFL Draft. He spent his first four seasons in Baltimore, earning an All Pro nod in 2006 as the lead hammer for tailback Jamal Lewis.
That season earned Mughelli one of the most lucrative contracts a fullback has received from Atlanta in that offseason. Upon arrival, Mughelli cleared a path for tailback Michael Turner and was key to the Falcons’ power running scheme in five years there, earning another All Pro nod as well as his first Pro Bowl berth along the way.
In starting last season in Atlanta, Mughelli and the Falcons were off to another terrific start running the ball before he suffered a season ending MCL tear against Detroit seven games into the year.
In need of cap room and with a 32-year old fullback coming off a knee injury and making north of $3 million, the Falcons opted to release Mughelli on May 8.
Mughelli had no hard feelings against Atlanta but acknowledged he was a bit surprised. He also believed he wouldn’t be waiting for work for long.
“I still feel like I am one of the best fullbacks in the league,” Mughelli said. “And for a team to see me out there on the market and not want to get me would be crazy. But that’s my confidence. That’s how I operate so I knew somebody would take advantage of the opportunity.”
Figuring out just who that somebody would be took a little bit of time. Mughelli’s knee was still healing and he had interest from a number of teams. The Rams made contact with him early on and brought him to St. Louis for a visit.
Mughelli went through a workout in his time in St. Louis and showed he still has plenty of gas in the tank, something he could sense even as he was completing the workout.
“I feel great, fully healthy,” Mughelli said. “The knee is great. I worked out for these guys and it was my first time working out for anybody in a while but it was fun. It was exciting to know that every step I took I knew I impressed them. I felt great and I hadn’t felt that good since before I hurt my knee. So I knew they would be impressed and I could sign with them and show them even more with pads on.”
While promising to stay in touch, Mughelli and the Rams didn’t come to an agreement right away and parted ways until training camp. Then, late last week, everything came together quickly.
Mughelli arrived in St. Louis on Friday night and signed his deal on Saturday. In coming to the Rams, he cited the presence of Fisher and Jackson and the planned power running game as appealing but also acknowledged a certain comfort level with the team from his relationship with general manager Les Snead and line coach Paul Boudreau, both of whom he spent time with in Atlanta.
Listed at 6’1, 260-plus pounds, Mughelli provides the Rams another enticing option to add to what they hope is a powerful ground attack.
“He’s one of the better fullbacks to play in the, we refer to it, in the modern era,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s a fullback-playing football player. He healed up this offseason and worked hard and got into shape and we were able to put it together, so. One could imagine what it’ll look like when Steven lines up in the backfield behind him.”
Mughelli has taken to St. Louis right away, saying he and Jackson have bonded right away and that he has a special place in his heart for his fellow fullbacks considering they’re thought to be something of an endangered species.
But make no mistake, Mughelli isn’t just here to win friends and influence people. He’s had a stellar career but believes he has something to prove as he battles
Mughelli believes he brings a lot to the table and can help the Rams offense by doing more than just creating openings for Jackson, though that will always be his bread and butter.
“I am crazy,” Mughelli said. “You do have to be a little bit crazy but I do enjoy getting on the field and becoming a different person. It’s almost like a character I play. I love the whole playing in an arena type deal, you feel like a gladiator with an invincible sort of feel. You feel like defenses and linebackers shouldn’t be on the field with you and you want to go out there and just destroy everything you touch. Every time I hit someone, I don’t just want to block, I want to make an example out of people. I’m a hard nosed gritty fullback who enjoys contact. I do have a lot better hands than people give me credit for. I can help in the passing game; I’ve caught a lot of touchdowns and first downs. And even on third and 1, fourth and 1, I can be an asset all over the board for our football team.”
At the Pro Bowl in 2010, Mughelli’s family sat near Jackson’s family at the game as Mughelli took his first opportunity to lead the way for Jackson.
Both families cheered for their favorite player before soon realizing that Jackson’s success was directly attributed to what Mughelli was doing and vice versa. The two sides hit it off right away.
“They talked about how we work great together and we should play together,” Mughelli said. “It’s funny how things work out because now we are here and now we are going to make a lot of noise.”
What a movie that would make.