Rick and Danielle DeMulling have been married for roughly seven months and a belated wedding gift came along in the form of Idaho’s and Bowling Green’s 7-5 football seasons.
Those records have landed the Vandals and Falcons in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 30, and that’s made for some interesting conversations in the couple’s home on wheels, a 37-foot, 4-inch RV.
The Vandals haven’t been bowling since 1998, when DeMulling and his teammates went from a preseason No. 112 ranking (last in Division I-A) to a Big West title and a 42-35 HumBowl victory over heavily favored Southern Mississippi.
As luck would have it, Danielle graduated from Bowling Green.
“We’ve been talking a lot of smack back and forth,” DeMulling said. “We’re trying to figure out a good bet, but it’s all about if the Vandals lose (with her). We have to figure out what she has to do if the Vandals win.”
It’s been an eventful 11 years for DeMulling since he was a sophomore left tackle on the Vandals’ 9-3 team in 1998. He earned All-Big West honors as a junior and senior before being drafted in the seventh round by Indianapolis. He spent four seasons, one with ex-Vandal Jake Scott, on the line with the Colts. DeMulling then joined Detroit for two seasons and finished with Washington in 2007.
DeMulling had the will to continue but his knees wouldn’t comply.
“The only thing I felt bad about was with Detroit,” he said. “They paid me well, but my body … I felt good, but looking back I couldn’t bend, my knees were shot and I couldn’t get low enough and my confidence went down.”
He opted for knee surgery in hopes of prolonging his career, but the hinge didn’t respond.
“It actually got worse,” said DeMulling, who stays in contact with several current Colts as they pursue an unbeaten season.
Former Bowling Green defensive lineman Brandon Hicks, one of DeMulling’s teammates with the Colts, always talked about setting up a classmate with DeMulling.
“She (Danielle) was like, ‘No, I don’t waste my time with football players,’ ” DeMulling said. “She dated one in college and she didn’t like football guys. We ended up going to the same fund-raiser. I used my Vandal charm on her. Yeah, she’s giving me the eye right now.”
They were married in May. After their honeymoon, they stayed in Spokane for three months until Danielle took a job in Cleveland. To get there, the couple motored from Seattle to Ohio in two days. They have a home in Spokane, but usually live in the RV.
“She’s a traveling nurse,” DeMulling said. “I’m a traveling husband.”
They enjoy the lifestyle. DeMulling jokes, “we’re more like Cousin Eddie” in the movie “Vacation” than Robin Williams/Cheryl Hines in “RV.”
“Danielle was like, ‘Are you sure you want to live in an RV? I feel like a hillbilly,’ ” DeMulling said. “Then she got in it. We love driving around and putting out the stops and slides. It’s our home.”
The road has taken them to Denver, Albuquerque, Topeka, Indianapolis, Seattle and Cleveland. They have a trip planned for the Carolinas and Florida.
“My first year in Indianapolis, I drove home right after the season,” DeMulling said. “I made it to Denver the first day, then to Spokane. I love being on the road. It’s pretty easy (driving the RV) once you get the hang of it, but if it’s windy it’s not much fun.”
Danielle just finished her contract at the Cleveland Clinic and is pursuing another job, preferably in Colorado or California. DeMulling assisted with the offensive line at Cheney High, his alma mater, in 2008. He recently broke 80 for the first time on the golf course.
“I’m trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life,” he said. “Fortunately enough, I don’t have to work but we want to be productive and enjoy life.”
Like many of his former teammates, DeMulling has enjoyed watching Idaho’s resurgence.
There are numerous similarities to the 1998 team. That squad closed the season with a 36-32 win over New Mexico State on a John Welsh-to-Ryan Prestimonico touchdown pass, a 36-35 win over Boise State capped by Joel Thomas’ memorable two-point conversion, and then rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat 16.5-point favorite Southern Miss on another Welsh-to-Prestimonico connection.
The ’09 Vandals, picked last in the WAC coaches’ preseason poll, have won their share of nail-biters, knocking off Louisiana Tech 35-34, Colorado State 31-29, Northern Illinois 34-31 and San Jose State 29-25.
“Our whole season, it was a lot like this year,” DeMulling said. “We knew we were better (than No. 112). We started playing well and our confidence just kept growing.”
Right on through the HumBowl.
“We just had to stay in the game. We had some playmakers. We knew Joel would get his job done, Johnny (Welsh) would find guys,” DeMulling said. “The one play that sticks out was when Ethan Jones caught a pass over the middle and (tight end) Travis Stombaugh destroyed the guy covering him. That was the tone-setter.”
The DeMullings long ago made plans to be in Indianapolis for the holidays so they won’t attend the bowl game. They’ll watch it on TV and DeMulling figures to receive text-message updates from ex-teammates who will be at Bronco Stadium.
“It’s been great to see Vandal Pride come back,” he said. “We all kept up with them, but it’s hard to text or say hi about a whole bunch of losses. We were in the same situation 11 years ago. Knowing what they’re going through and experiencing is exciting for all of us.”
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