Oct. 11, 2012
By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Ryan Mueller vividly remembers sitting in the office of Missouri State head football coach Terry Allen on a recruiting visit, “ … but he never offered me a scholarship.”
And, he remembers taking a visit to Pittsburg State, “ … but they never offered me a scholarship.”
Nope, despite being the Eastern Kansas League Defensive Player of the Year, and the Kansas City Metro Defensive Player of the Year, the St. Thomas Aquinas High School standout could not generate enough interest to receive a scholarship offer.
Nope, not even from Division I-AA Missouri State; not even Division II Pittsburg State.
Mueller battles with his emotions when he tells the story, and speaks with a choked-up voice when telling how and when he finally received a scholarship for playing football at Kansas State.
Instead of going small-time out of high school, Mueller opted to be a walk-on with the Wildcats.
“Joe Bob (Clements, defensive ends coach) told me during the recruiting process how he was a walk-on, and how he wanted me to be a walk-on,” said Mueller. “I understood that he would understand what I would be going through and could relate to it.”
As a 6-foot-1, 240 pound (“… when I’m soaking wet”) defensive end/tackle, Mueller continued, “I knew wherever I went, football would be very demanding and that it would take my best effort. I just decided ‘why not do it at the highest level.’ I wanted to play in front of 50,000 people screaming their heads off. I wanted to play in the big time.”
Today, Mueller is doing just that as a scholarship Wildcat playing in significant pass-rush situations as a defensive end, or, the most undersized tackle in big-time football.
After playing in all 13 games on last year’s 10-3 K-State team that placed second in the Big 12, Mueller went to Clements’ office for a where-do-I-stand visit.
It had been a common question: What does it take to earn a scholarship?
“He always told me that it took making plays on Saturday,” said Mueller.
So in the post-Cotton Bowl conversation Mueller brought up the fact that he played in all 13 games, posted a half-sack against Eastern Kentucky, made a solo stop against Iowa State, broke up a pass against Texas A&M and recovered a fumble against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.
“That’s when he told me that there were no promises, but I was the No. 1 player on the defensive side in line to get a scholarship,” said the now K-State sophomore.
That was it until the summer, when Mueller was working for a landscaper back home in Kansas City and his folks found him to tell him the good news.
“They just said they had just talked to Joe Bob and I was going on scholarship,” Mueller said in a quivering voice. “When they got out of the car they really looked happy, so I knew something good had happened.”
Mueller hasn’t disappointed in his play with the Wildcats.
“Coaches do a good job of putting me in situations where I can use my speed and quickness so I can be successful at my size in attacking the weakness of an opposing player,” said Mueller. “I just try to give it my all on every single play. It doesn’t matter how big you are when you do that.”
In situational football, Mueller’s No. 44 number is called on passing plays, and he’s made the most of those opportunities.
He had a pass deflection against Missouri State, plus had two tackles and recovered a fumble against Miami, and then a fumble recovery and three tackles against Oklahoma.
For the season, he has eight tackles, three passes broken up, one quarterback hurry and two recovered fumbles.
While watching those plays on tape can bring a smile, Mueller says of the overall experience of grading his play, “It can be really frustrating because you know you can do better. That’s how every player is. You critique your craft to be the best that you can be.”
That’s just the Kansas State way.
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