By Robert Wilson

       Connor Mullins and Max Zuluaga are considered two of the best kickers-punters returning for their senior seasons in Mississippi.

       And both will be playing for new schools this year.

       Mullins, who was the first team punter on the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Team last season, has transferred from MAIS member Hartfield Academy to MHSAA member Brandon High. Zuluaga, who was the second team punter on the team last season, has transferred from MHSAA member Madison Central to MAIS member Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

       Brandon and MRA will benefit from the addition of Mullins and Zuluaga.

The 5-9, 160-pound Mullins averaged 41.6 yards on 27 punts, made 7 of 9 field goal attempts and 47 of 51 extra point attempts and had 37 touchbacks on 65 kickoffs in 12 games and helped Hartfield to a 9-3 record and the MAIS Class 6A semifinals. Mullins’ longest punt was 64 punts and longest field goal was a school-record 53 yards, tied for 11th longest in the country and longest in Mississippi last season, according to MaxPreps. He kicked a 39-yard field goal on the game’s last play to give Hartfield a 31-28 victory over three-time defending MAIS 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy, ending MRA’s streak of 19 consecutive wins against MAIS competition and a 26-game winning streak in regular season conference games, dating back to 2017. MRA had won 50 of its last 51 games against MAIS teams before Mullins’ game-winning kick.

Connor Mullins - Kicker
Connor Mullins photo by Brad Bridges

Mullins has been to camps at Mississippi State, South Alabama and Memphis and is scheduled to go to the nationally known Kohls Kicking Camp at Gatlinburg, Tenn., this weekend.

       “Connor has an extremely powerful leg,” Brandon coach Sam Williams said. “He is a great kickoff guy and is very consistent with his field goal kicking. Connor and (senior) Wyatt Salter (a 36.6-yard average on 16 punts with a long of 51 yards last season) will give us one of the best kicker-punter tandems in the state.”

       The 6-foot, 210-pound Zuluaga averaged 38.5 yards on 26 punts and made 3 of 3 field goal attempts and 47 of 48 extra point attempts and helped Madison Central to a 8-4 record and the second round of MHSAA Class 6A state playoffs. He also averaged 60 yards on 58 deep kickoffs. Zuluaga was the first team punter on the All-Metro Jackson team as a sophomore. He averaged 39.3 yards on 26 punts and a long of 53 yards. Zuluaga made 8 of 8 field goal attempts and 62 of 66 extra point attempts. His longest field goal was 45 yards. Zuluaga helped Madison Central to a 13-1 record and the 6A state championship.

       Zuluaga is ranked No. 4 in punting and No. 7 in kicking in the country in the Class of 2024 by

Max Zuluaga photo by Chris Todd

       Zuluaga said tore his hamstring in April and pulled his quad in June at the TCU specialist camp. He is expected to be a full strength by the start of the season. Zuluaga has scheduled to go to Ole Miss and Southern Miss to work out and is expected to work out at several other Division I schools this year.

       “Max is a great talent,” MRA coach Herbert Davis said. “We are looking forward to having Max play with us this season. He not only can punt and kick field goals, he kicks it into the end zone most of the time on kickoffs.”

Z Habitat Properties

       MRA and Brandon – which both finished runner-up in MAIS Class 6A and MHSAA Class 6A last season – both have one talented offensive lineman transfer to help their chances of winning a state championship.

       Senior center Joe Koury (6-foot, 280 pounds) – a first-team offensive lineman on the All-Metro Jackson team last season – has transferred to MRA from Madison Central. Senior offensive lineman Cade Shivers (6-foot, 275 pounds) has transferred from to Brandon from Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. He has offers from Division I Tennessee-Martin and many community colleges. Shivers is expected to play guard.