Junior calls shots for Rutgers offensive line
It was one of his first days on campus.
A burly freshman offensive lineman was about to start a successful year for the Rutgers football team, but he didn’t know it then. Instead, he was anxious for his first meeting with teammates so in order to ingratiate himself with the upperclassmen, he made a last second stop before showing up at the football house.
Pressed for time and ideas, he frantically searched for food to feed a houseful of growing 18- to 22-year-olds. The only available option was a Subway on the College Avenue campus. And on a freshman’s budget, Chris Muller had neither the time, nor the funds to purchase several footlong subs, so he improvised.
Scraping together the cash he could, the offensive lineman bought as many cookies as his funds would allow.
“I decided to buy all the subway cookies and take them to the house because I didn’t wanna show up empty-handed,” Muller said. “I just didn’t wanna make a bad first impression.”
He was soon hailed a hero of sorts upon arrival to his destination.
Four years later, Muller has been a constant for the Scarlet Knights' offensive line. His streak of 34 straight starts at right guard are second on the team only to Keith Lumpkin at left tackle, a senior who began his run just one game before the Pennsylvania native.
Muller is a small-town guy raised in Perkiomenville, a sleepy town with a population of less than 6,000, located nearly 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia and about 30 miles east of Reading, in a state he claims “has the best players.”
This was, of course, a not so veiled reference to teammate and sophomore running back Robert Martin, a Harrisburg native.
Despite his humble beginnings, Muller is far from a hermit — quite the opposite, in fact.
The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder is arguably the most outgoing and vocal member of the Knights, with a personality to match the size of his frame.
"(Muller) is definitely one of the best leaders on the team,” said sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano. “He really pushes the line and he pushes the offense.”
The junior guard can be found shouting signals to his linemates on Saturdays. No. 70 directs traffic along the line like a member of the NYPD standing in the middle of Times Square. He can be seen pointing and frantically gesturing with his hands to confirm his teammates are aware of the pre-snap reads.
“We’re just bouncing calls off of each other,” Muller said of his gyrations prior to the snap of the ball. But it goes beyond an equal interaction with first-year center Derrick Nelson.
Muller is more like a quarterback for the offensive line, Laviano said.
“He's just a big part of keeping everybody together,” the sophomore signal-caller said. “He's a big part of the communication with the offense of line."
Muller visited Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame during his high school recruitment, but chose Rutgers instead with no regrets, he said.
“I never had an allegiance to any schools in Pennsylvania,” the junior said. “So I guess I can call Rutgers my home. I feel the same amount of pride that the (New) Jersey players do running out representing this university because at the end of the day, I’m a Rutgers student and a Rutgers football player.”
Muller almost underwent a position change back in training camp. After the departure of graduating center Betim Bujari, he and Nelson were locked in competition late into August. Assessing the position battle, head coach Kyle Flood said then that he would be comfortable with Muller at either position.
“It's nice to have a guy who's played as many games as he has, who can go in if you need him to," Flood said back in August.
Fast-forward to week 11, Muller and his teammates face a win-or-go-home scenario. With three games to play, Rutgers must win out to secure bowl eligibility for a sixth straight season.
Muller will have a hand in the outcome, both in setting protections and keeping Nebraska away from his quarterback.
But even if he were to make the block that springs the game-winning touchdown, the protection shift that allows for a big game or recovers a fumble to keep a drive alive, Muller has no interest in the limelight. He prefers to live vicariously through his teammates.
“I’m okay with it because I don’t really like living in the spotlight,” he said. “I’ve been an offensive lineman all my life. I like to see other people get the glory. As long as I know I got my job done, I’ll be satisfied like that.”
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