Boyertown (Pa.) Boyertown Area Senior offensive tackle Chris Muller has had quite a year on and off the field. The Rutgers commitment was initially close to committing to a Penn State program that is in disarray, he has been targeted on the field as the biggest player in his conference and he was most recently honored with his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey. The big man from the small school reflects on all of it.
"It's been a fun ride and I've learned a lot," said the 6-foot-6, 287-pounder. "Being selected to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and receiving the jersey is a great honor. When I first heard about it and was invited, I got off the phone and began literally jumping up and down around my room. My best friend was with me and he thought I was going crazy. It's an amazing honor."
Muller, who plays at a small school of less than 700 students and is easily the biggest player on the field each time he suits up, has simple goals for the week in San Antonio and the game itself.
"I want to excel and I expect to excel," he said. "I think I play my best when the competition is at its best. It's going to be an amazing challenge because there are so many good players in the game so I'll be going against top players in practice and in the end, but I hope to do well."
This season Muller has had a target on his back in each and every game because of his size and his reputation.
"Our next biggest lineman is 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds so I stand out a bit and of course they all know I'm committed to a BCS school and had all these offers," said Muller, who also had offers from Penn State, Michigan, Florida, Miami, Notre Dame and others. "The refs didn't make any calls because I'm bigger than everyone else, I got high-lowed on defense and even on offense to take me out of the play, it was crazy. I wore knee braces all season because I knew they were coming after me."
Muller's team finished 6-6 on the season and he hopes to finish his high school career on a higher note at the Army Bowl. He admitted that he's excited and nervous all at once about the first day down at practice.
"It will be like the first day of high school practice," he said. "It will be nice to go against a whole different level of competition but also I'll have some butterflies as well."
When it comes to recruiting, Muller ended the process in June by committing to Greg Schiano and Rutgers. However, before falling in love with the Scarlet Knights everyone expected the home-state product to choose Penn State. However, things changed quickly for Muller.
"I believed in coach Schiano because I felt I was being lied to by Penn State," he said. "I like the players at Penn State, they are a great group of guys and I don't feel they deserve to deal with all of this, but the coaches told me some lies. I had a long talk with J.J. Denman (fellow in-state offensive lineman) and they told him I was committing to Penn State so he better commit as well. It worked and he committed but when I didn't commit he realized he was lied to as well. Now he's committed to Wisconsin and I'm committed to Rutgers and we're both happy. I just felt Rutgers was more honest and up front with me."
Muller also felt more comfortable with the Rutgers coaches.
"I believed coach Schiano when they said they would win this year and they went 4-8 despite being picked last in the Big East," he said. "I relate much better to the coaches there and they have a very young team that will only get better. I think they can be dominant in the Big East with the right players. At Penn State I didn't really relate to the coaches. I mean no offense by this, but the offensive line coach at Penn State is 72 years old and the players told me that no one really talked to Joe Paterno. I just wanted to go to a school with coaches I could relate to a little better."
What does Muller think of the scandal at Penn State?
"I think it's awful," he said. "That's still my big home state school and I always liked Penn State, but the whole thing isn't good. I honestly feel like I dodged a bullet and I feel for the players and of course the victims. It's just a bad situation all around."
Muller's commitment has not stopped other schools from recruiting the nation's No. 13 offensive tackle and No. 79 player overall.
"Schools bash Rutgers all the time because of the conference they play in and I take offense to it," said Muller who said at least two major programs are still recruiting him weekly. "I don't know if Rutgers will stay or leave the Big East, I can't predict that but I don't like it when schools tell me I made a bad decision. That was another thing that upset me about Penn State, they bashed Rutgers pretty good. I respect schools that focus on their own strengths and sell their own program, but I still tell everyone respectfully that I take pride in my decision to play at Rutgers and I'm sticking to it."
Muller could play tackle or guard down in San Antonio at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and doesn't care.
"Wherever they need me, I'm there," he said. "I can't wait for it, it will be the fulfillment of a dream."