“Under pressure, we don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training."
I was intrigued by the quote, originally attributed to Greek poet, Archilochus, though frequently credited to an anonymous Navy SEAL, when I read it the other day, just before Valparaiso officially hired Steven Mueller as its head football coach.
A SEAL himself (as well as an Army Ranger and Green Beret), Mueller is going to bring his own brand of training, physical as well as mental, to the Vikings sideline. It won't be West Point or Annapolis, but some of those tenets that Mueller learned in 20 years of military service will figure prominently.
A big question around the Region is, what kind of fit will it be in Valpo? After Dave Coyle's hastened resignation, some suggested it was a case of coddled kids not liking being yelled at. The other side said it wasn't an issue with discipline, it was an issue with a lack of consistency and balance in the discipline, that the players actually crave and will thrive under the structure Mueller will bring.
It will be a subplot for what will be a top two Region football story line in 2018.
Familiarity or a fresh outlook was Valpo's quandary in hiring a coach.
It managed to get both in naming Mueller in concert with making Bill Marshall the associate head coach to help the transition that comes with any change.
Mueller's background in football coaching is not extensive — some graduate assistant work at Illinois, a little time as a receivers coach at the NAIA level and a year at a North Carolina high school — but his background in the sport is. You don't build his military resume without knowing how to lead and knowing that delegating is a crucial element in the leadership process. Mueller knows that having a staff familiar with both the players and the day-to-day dealings of a prep football team is invaluable.
"We're all going to do this together," he said. "We'll sit down and collectively determine who we're going to be in 2018."
It didn't take long to get a feel for Mueller's love of football and his drive to succeed.
He talked about the time in college when he sat in a doctor's office, drawing a picture of a SEAL trident and was told he couldn't play football anymore due to a bruised spinal cord.
"I had a passion to play in the NFL, to be a Wayne Chrebet, a Julian Edelman," Mueller said. "I'd spent 12 years bleeding football to have it ripped away. It was hard to take. There was so much more out there. I wanted to be something special, something elite."
That energy would be channeled into the service of the armed forces and reached great heights from modest beginnings. Mueller didn't even know how to swim when he decided to join the Navy with a goal of becoming a SEAL. That accomplished at 29, he would later return to the military in the Army branch, attaining both Green Beret and Ranger status.
"I became a recruiting poster boy," Mueller said.
Mueller did considerable character and team building work with college and professional teams, concepts he'll now apply at Valpo. He and Marshall aim to develop Vikings from the ground up, starting at the Pop Warner level up through middle school and into high school. If a player wants to continue football in college, he's going to help facilitate it.
"Coach (Mark) Hoffman was that guy for me," Mueller said. "We're building something special and we want them to be someone special."
He didn't talk in terms a of specific goals, but Mueller made it clear they won't be setting limitations. The Vikings haven't won a sectional game since 2010 and having to play Penn will not fly as an excuse with Mueller.
Valpo is in a talent cycle that can return the program to prominence. It's banking that Mueller the man to lead it there.