Ryan Mueller might be one of the smallest defensive ends in the country.
Describing himself as, “maybe 240 pounds soaking wet, maybe,” whatever the 6-foot-1 Mueller lacks in size, he makes up for with a good work ethic and drive to perfect his game.
“I just try to give it my all on every single play,” Mueller said this week. “I don’t think it matters how big you are. I try to beat guys with my speed and quickness… any role that is presented to me I’d love to flourish in it and be the best I can be to help this team win.”
A sophomore for Kansas State, Mueller has played in both of the Wildcats’ first two games this season, recording two tackles with a fumble recovery.
Mueller — a former walk-on — redshirted as a freshman and then played in all 13 games last season. It was enough to earn a scholarship this season.
Mueller said he had a meeting with defensive ends coach Job Bob Clements after the Cotton Bowl, where he recovered a fumble, about the potential of getting on scholarship. Mueller was told he was the number one defensive candidate for a scholarship.
It wasn’t until this past summer that Mueller would receive the good news.
“It means a lot,” Mueller said. “I worked really hard to get it, being a walk-on is definitely challenging, very difficult and demanding, so when I finally got my scholarship this summer I was pumped.”
Out of high school, Mueller said he wasn’t offered any scholarships for football. He said he looked at Missouri State and Pittsburgh State, but there was no offer from either school.
“I took a visit to Missouri State, sat in (head coach) Terry Allen’s office, and he didn’t give me a scholarship,” Mueller said.
But that wasn’t the last time Mueller would meet Allen. Back in Week 1, he played against Allen’s Bears, helping defeat Missouri State 51-9.
“I talked to him after the game, shook his hand, and said, ‘good game coach.’ I think he remembered me.”
Mueller said he chose to walk-on at K-State because he wanted to play in front of 50,000 fans “screaming their heads off.” He said, since he was going to be a walk-on anyways, he wanted to play at the highest level. Plus, Clements, a former walk-on himself at K-State in 1995, understood the path Mueller was willing to take.
“Joe Bob was a walk-on, and he told me when I was getting recruited out of high school, that I was going to be a walk-on,” Mueller said. “So, I kind of liked that about him, he knew what I was going to be going through and could relate.”
However, Mueller said Clements has been anything but easy on his group of defensive ends, including seniors Meshak Williams and Adam Davis — demanding perfection from the group that helped the Wildcats produce five sacks a week ago against Miami.
“If it’s not perfect, he’s not very happy about it,” Mueller said.
This Saturday, the K-State defense will face North Texas, one of only nine teams nationally that hasn’t allowed a sack yet this season through two games.
Mueller said he and his teammates will have to find ways to break through a large and physical Mean Green offensive line.
“That’s obviously a significant challenge (Clements) presented,” Mueller said about UNT’s tough offense. “But we’re going to have to study the tapes, try to find a way to overcome that and find a way to get to the quarterback.”
With his go-get-em attitude, Mueller has become an anchor of the Wildcats’ defense, a versatile player going in to spell Williams or Davis on the outside or for various packages.
Mueller said his team is neither cocky nor worried about Saturday night’s game, that regardless of the opponent, he and his team will work hard.
“It doesn’t matter what opponent we play,” Mueller said, “We try not to focus on who we’re playing. We just try to go out there and play football and get the job done.”