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Manalapan mourns passing of Navy SEAL trainee

MANALAPAN – Residents in Manalapan are mourning the passing of former Manalapan High School football player Kyle Mullen, 24, of Manalapan, who died on Feb. 4 while training to become a U.S. Navy SEAL.

On Feb. 6, the Navy confirmed that Mullen, a SEAL candidate assigned to Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, died at Sharp Coronado Hospital, Coronado, Calif., at 5:42 p.m. Feb. 4.

The Navy said that earlier on Feb. 4, Mullen and his Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) class successfully completed Hell Week, an assessment event during the first phase of the Navy SEAL attribute assessment and selection pathway.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to Seaman Mullen’s family for their loss,” said Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. “We  are extending every form of support we can to the Mullen family and to Kyle’s BUD/S classmates.”

The Navy said the cause of Mullen’s death is under investigation.

Charles Sampson, the superintendent of schools in the Freehold Regional High School District, said in a statement issued on Feb. 7 that “we are all heartbroken to hear of Kyle’s passing. He was an outstanding young man whose dedication to serving our country was commendable. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Kyle’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

FRHSD spokeswoman Rebecca Policastro said a moment of silence was held at Manalapan High School on the morning of Feb. 7 and that counseling services are available to students and staff members in need. She said Mullen will be honored at the school’s upcoming football banquet.

Policastro said school administrators are looking into having players wear Mullen’s number on their helmets during the 2022 season and retiring his number.

Mullen, a 2015 graduate of Manalapan High School, was an honors student. He played on the varsity football and basketball teams.

Mullen helped the Braves win the 2014 Central Jersey Group V state sectional football championship. That same season, Mullen was named Shore Conference Defensive Player of the Year in recognition of his play on the defensive line.

“He was one of the best players I have ever had on and off the field,” former Manalapan football coach Ed Gurrieri said after the news about Mullen’s passing became public. “He was the perfect person to be a Navy SEAL. He was a great leader. He did everything the right way. He was special.”

Gurrieri said he was informed by Mullen’s mother, Regina, on Feb. 5 that his former player had passed away. He said military officials visited he Mullen home in Manalapan to inform the family of Kyle’s passing.

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance you never are prepared for. He was 24 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him,” Gurrieri said.

Becoming a Navy SEAL was something Gurrieri knew Mullen always wanted to pursue. He said his former player was the “perfect fit” to be a SEAL and to serve the nation.

“To be a Navy SEAL, you have to be the best of the best and he was that,” Gurrieri said.

After receiving the news of Mullen’s passing, Gurrieri informed his former players and coaches who were part of the 2014 state sectional championship team.

Gurrieri said some of Mullen’s Manalapan teammates went to the high school over the weekend to paint Mullen’s No. 44 and his initials on the football field.

“He was such a bright light and a great leader for our program on and off the field. “He will always be remembered as the best of the best,” Gurrieri said.

Mullen attended Yale University, New Haven, Conn., after graduating from Manalapan. He continued his football career and earned second team All-Ivy League honors while playing for the Bulldogs.

Mullen finished his collegiate football career with a postgraduate season at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, in 2019, He recorded 26.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks to help the Hawks go 11-3 and advance to the second round of the NCAA FCS Division I playoffs.

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