Ryan Mullen didn't have to draw on his Ryan Mullen intelligence when offered a Division I football scholarship from Miami (Ohio) University.
This was an easy call for a kid whose high school coach calls wise beyond his years.
"I knew that I would get other offers -- and I have," the Lakes junior lineman said. "But I just figured, 'What is going to be better than Miami anyway?' I couldn't think of it. So I said, 'I might as well take a great thing (the scholarship offer) while I have it, before it's gone."
A 6 foot 3, 270-pounder and varsity starter since his sophomore year, Mullen also had offers from Western Michigan, Ball State, Colgate, UConn and Harvard. He carries a 4.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale and scored a 33 -- three off perfection -- on his ACT.
"Ryan's experience and intelligence basically gives us a coach on the field," Lakes coach Luke Mertens said. "He sees and understands the big picture, which is key to any student-athlete's success. The schools recruiting him want to make him a center because that is the position that sets all of the protections and makes the calls upfront. Ryan will be perfect in that role."
"(Miami) is recruiting me for offense, but defense is not out of the picture," Mullen said.
Mullen has started at offensive guard the last two seasons. Despite playing sparingly on defense last season, the large kid had what Mertens called a "large impact" with 30 tackles, including 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 3 quarterback pressures from his nose guard position.
Mullen plans to pursue pre-med at Miami, with long-term interest in anesthesiology or general practice.
"My parents have always been very strong about maintaining my grades and just keeping up with school -- school, first," said Mullen, the son of Daniel and Sarah.
Located in Oxford, Ohio, Miami appealed to Mullen immediately. While the football team has struggled, going winless in 2013 and capturing just 8 wins in the last three years, Mullen is confident better days are ahead for the RedHawks.
Last December, former Notre Dame assistant Chuck Martin was named Miami's new head coach. Martin was previously the head coach for Grand Valley State, where he won two Division II national championships.
"It's just a great place," Mullen said. "As soon as I got on campus, it just felt like home. The campus is beautiful. Everyone there just seemed like they were having fun."
Mullen's commitment is only a verbal one. Which means he can change his mind if, say, a bigger school comes in at any point before the national letter-of-intent signing date next February and offers him a scholarship. He's not thinking about that, however.
"At this point I would say it's a solid commit," Mullen said.
This Friday, Mullen and his Lakes track and field teammates compete in the Class 3A Huntley sectional, where Muller will be looking to qualify for state for the first time. At last Friday's North Suburban Conference meet, he heaved the shot a foot over state-qualifying. His PR in the discus is a foot over for the state-qualifying mark.
"Hopefully, if all goes as planned, I will be qualifying," Mullen said.
After summer, it's time for Mullen's senior year and what should be another strong season for Lakes football. The Eagles have made the state playoffs six times in their nine seasons as a varsity program. They'll be seeking their sixth straight playoff berth.
"Really, our goals haven't changed," Mullen said. "This is our 10th year of football, and we're out to win a state title. That's been our goal since Day 1. My goal and my job is just to try to help us do that as best as I can."
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