Mueller presses team play in hopes of winning title for Mars
Editor's note: The countdown to the high school football season begins with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Top 10 players in the WPIAL and City League. The daily series continues with No. 8 Brad Mueller of Mars Area. Look for No. 7 in Monday's Trib.
Brad Mueller said the first day of football practice Monday was the hardest one he has had in his entire career.
It also was the best.
"Those kinds of practices will only make us better," said Mueller, a senior running back/defensive back at Mars Area. "Conditioning this summer was ridiculous. But it will pay off … in the playoffs."
With Mueller in the backfield, the Fightin' Planets should be quicker than ever this season. Mueller is a speedster, and the fastest player on Mars team. His legs carried him for 1,202 yards and 12 touchdowns on 158 carries for the Fightin' Planets, who shared the Allegheny Conference title last season with Apollo-Ridge. Mars advanced to the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs before losing to North Catholic.
"Brad was a big factor in our success last year," Mars coach Scott Heinhauer said.
"He is dangerous because he can run for a touchdown any time he touches the ball. He also can run down any player on defense, too."
Mueller has been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.23 seconds. He demonstrated his quickness at the WPIAL Class AA track and field championships this past spring. Mueller won the 100- and 200-meter sprints in 10.97 and 23.32 seconds, respectively. He also was on the gold-medal winning 1,600-meter relay with Zach Rosswog, Chris Gallagher and Dan Carlino. At the PIAA Class AA championships, Mueller captured gold in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.65.
He uses track season to help stay in shape for football.
As a defensive back, Mueller intercepted two passes and had 36 tackles, including 23 solo last year.
"I want to help this team get back to the playoffs and to the championship game at Heinz Field," said Mueller, who plans to study law in college. "We all have to do our part. We have to do it together, or it won't happen."
Mueller credits his linemen for clearing a path for him, but the line is even bigger this season, Mueller said, thanks to time spent in the weight room. Mueller has been working outside the Mars gym twice a week with a personal trainer at Eagle Physical Therapy in Gibsonia for the past five years. He has been on the gridiron since he was 5 years old.
He credits two things for his speed.
"Hereditary and working hard," Mueller said. "You can't really teach speed. You just do it, but you can improve by working hard every day."
He has had motivation to work hard to get back to the postseason and take his team to the title game before he graduates. Mueller recalled his most memorable moment from last season when Mars was down 13-0 against Steel Valley and came back to win.
In that game, he had a 50- and 60-yard run for touchdowns.
"That was great, but we wanted more," he said. "This is the year. I want to be a leader on this team this season, especially since I am a senior. The upperclassmen know what it takes to make it to the playoffs, and we can set an example for the underclassmen. We have such a great group of players. I think this is our most athletic group yet."
School : Mars Area
Height, weight: 6-foot, 170 pounds
Notable: Mueller rushed for 1,202 yards and 12 touchdowns on 158 carries. He also won the 100- and 200-meter sprints in the WPIAL Class AA track and field championships and was part of the gold-medal winning 1,600-meter relay team. He also finished first in the PIAA Class AA 100-meter dash. He is getting interest from Boston College, Florida, Wisconsin, Maryland, Duke and West Virginia.