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Steven Mueller

Valparaiso High School graduate Steven Mueller played two years at the University of Illinois before entering the military.

Photo courtesy, the University of Illinois

Valparaiso is turning to the past in hopes of a brighter future.

Sources have indicated the school will officially name former Vikings wide receiver Steven Mueller, a retired Army major, its next football coach at a school board meeting Jan. 18.

Mueller, who would not confirm the hiring, emailed members of the Times sports department Oct. 29, 2017, expressing his interest.

"I am looking to come back to NWI as soon as possible to start this journey," Mueller wrote. "I am seeking an opportunity to lead a group of young, hungry warriors to the Indiana high school state championship in football and nothing less. We will create a tribal culture that develops a young student-athlete like never known before in high school athletics."

Mueller played for Mark Hoffman and was All-Duneland Athletic Conference, All-State and All-American in 1987. He was an Indiana All-Star in 1988, earning Region I and game MVP honors.

In a 2007 Times article, Hoffman recalled receiving a phone call from Mueller that he was overseeing 60 people and couldn't get what he wanted out of his employees.

"I told him, 'If you're comparing them to how you used to work, then no, you're not going to get what you want,'" Hoffman said. "After two years in business ... he enlisted in the Army. That's a tough kid."

Mueller played two years at Illinois and was the Illini's top returning receiver in 1991 before having to give up football due to a congenital spine defect. He said he retired from the Army in December 2016 after 20 years of service.

While at the Command General Staff College, he was wide receivers coach at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas, developing the No. 2 receiver in NAIA. Mueller helped Valparaiso University implement a team building and excellence program last winter, volunteering with the Crusaders briefly before taking a job with the SEALs.

"He really had a fresh take in terms of team building, team bonding," VU coach Dave Cecchini said. "He did a great job helping us shape our offseason strength and conditioning programs. He's a go-getter. He has a tremendous amount of energy and passion that he'll bring to Valpo High and I'm excited to see the type of success he brings."

Mueller has spoken to several college and high school teams on culture building. Most recently, he served as defensive line coach at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. The team went 11-1 last season.

"I have football coached as much as any active duty solider could," Mueller wrote. "I know how to build a TEAM because I have worked with elite units my entire career and I know what elite is and I also know what isn't elite. I will help create a dynasty at Valpo. I believe this is definitely possible! Why wouldn't I? Faith in the players, the assistant coaches, the community and of course our mission is an absolute must."

Mueller wrote that he was being pursued by college and pro opportunities, but wanted to work with "more malleable clay."

"Ask any high school coach what leadership is and they will stumble and give you lead by example ideas," he said. "I know the formula to create players of a different breed that will stand above others because they will all be leaders. Player leadership is the foundation of any elite team."

The Vikings won a Class 5A sectional title Mueller's senior year.

"I am in it for the service, not the fame," he said. "People will come, people will most definitely come. All you have to do is help build it. Build it in Valparaiso. We will aim to dominate just one thing, the football moment! I will take all the lessons I have learned from the most elite teams in the world and develop a bone-crushing TEAM that will not stop until our mission is complete. STATE CHAMPS!"

Mueller will replace Dave Coyle, who resigned the week of sectionals. Valpo has not won a playoff game since making it to the 5A semistate in 2010.


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.