Football Friday: Catching up with Ryan Mueller
"First off, I absolutely love it out here in San Diego," said Mueller over the phone on Wednesday evening after finishing a long day of meetings and practices. "You can't complain about anything. The weather is beautiful; we practice outside all the time - the Chargers don't even have an indoor facility to practice at because it never rains here in Southern California. If I went anywhere else in the NFL it might be difficult, and I might be a little homesick. But being in San Diego, it's beautiful weather and the people are really, really friendly."
So, what does a typical day look like for Ryan Mueller?
"I start the day with a 5:15 alarm clock," he explained. "I get up, get dressed and have a meeting at 6 a.m. The biggest difference between college and the NFL so far is just the meeting times; there are a lot more meetings than there are actual practice times of being on the field.
"So, we do the meetings for about an hour and a half, have a lift immediately after that, then practice for an hour and a half to two hours," he continued. "Then we have these little seminars talking about things like how to manage your money, how to understand your current surroundings and how to represent the Chargers."
Though he's been enjoying the journey, going into the NFL as an undrafted free agent isn't easy. It takes a lot of work to stick around; many don't make it past the first summer. Of the 90-man active roster he is currently part of, only 53 players will make the final cut for the regular season.
But for Mueller, he's faced a similar situation in his past.
Mueller arrived at K-State as a walk-on in 2010. He could have accepted a scholarship to play football at a smaller school, but he knew in his heart he was good enough to play Division I football and in the Big 12 Conference.
He went on to prove it, to say the least.
After redshirting his first season with the Cats, Mueller played in every game from 2011-14, including 26-straight starts over his junior and senior seasons.
He was a two-time All-Big 12 First Team recipient (2013-14), the 2013 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year and earned Second Team All-America honors in 2013 after tying the school record for sacks with 11. 5.
All odds were against him coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, but Mueller kept grinding, and it all paid off in the end.
Now in San Diego, he's ready to prove himself once again.
"It couldn't be any more similar," said Mueller comparing his time as a walk-on to his current situation with the Chargers. "It's certainly not the easy road. It was definitely a tough road at K-State, but the biggest difference is, I had five years to prove myself at K-State... now I have five weeks.
"You just have to be patient," he continued. "You have to be motivated every single day to go to work and to have success when a small - a very small - opportunity is given to you. You have to take advantage of it when the opportunity presents itself because if you blink, that opportunity will be gone."
Having an exceptional coaching staff under Chargers head coach Mike McCoy has helped the NFL rookie on his journey, too.
"It certainly has been a first-class experience; it's awesome," said Mueller of the Charger organization. "The coaches do everything possible to help you earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Of course you're going to have to do some diligence yourself, but they have certainly offered every opportunity to you to help you make the 53."
Along with his hard work ethic and supportive coaches in San Diego, Mueller also knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the many, many people who helped him at K-State.
"I've taken a lot of the things that I learned and used at K-State and applied them here in San Diego," said Mueller. "I have a lot of people to thank for that, people who helped me at K-State, because those skills and traits have really helped me for what I'm up against right now. San Diego runs their program very similar to how it was for me at K-State, so it's been a very easy adjustment for me as far as making the transition to the NFL and surrounding yourself around people who have the same expectations.
"I certainly feel comfortable," he added. "I don't feel like I'm out of my element or anything. It's been a smooth adjustment and I think it's been a smooth adjustment because of all the people at Kansas State, the football staff, who helped me prepare for this."
Finally, Mueller said he has one special request for K-State fans.
"I would like to let the fans know that Kaiden (Schroeder) has had a little bit of a setback and would like continued support and prayers, if at all possible," he explained.
In May of 2009, Schroeder was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, and it has been a long road for the 10-year-old since then. Mueller met Schroeder in the spring of 2013, and the two became quick friends. They talked on the phone and wrote letters to each other during Mueller's time at K-State. Mueller even visited Schroeder during a long visit at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia last summer.
And who could forget Schroeder's touchdown at the 2014 Purple/White Spring Game in Bill Snyder Family Stadium?
"We Snapchat back and forth, and I sent him some San Diego Chargers gear," said Mueller. "With me here in San Diego, it gives him new things to be excited about and look forward to. Now that he has a professional athlete friend to support, I've got to give him as much as I possibly can. I tried to do that at K-State. He's got a lot of K-State gear, so now he's got to switch it up and add some San Diego Chargers gear."
Although they are two time zones away, Mueller has continued to take his friend under his wing in every way he can.
You can read Kaiden's full story and check out updates from his mom, Jenny, by clicking here.