Wheaton North's Mueller brothers missing out at Northwestern
When Xander Mueller was in middle school, the journey to play football with his older brother seemed much farther away than the distance between Wheaton North's bleachers and the sideline.
That distance just became a little longer.
Erik and Xander Mueller were all set to take the field together as linebackers competing for Northwestern before the Big Ten announced it was postponing fall sports -- football included -- until next spring.
With Erik a senior and Xander a freshman, this will be their first and only chance to play together. If the spring season is canceled, well ... it's something they'd rather not think about right now.
"It's kind of up in the air," Xander said. "We'll see what happens but there's a lot of uncertainty."
After waiting through weeks of quarantining, COVID-19 testing and workouts, the all-state linebackers from Wheaton North enjoyed only two days of practicing together before everything came to a halt last Monday. Team activities were canceled as the rumor mill swirled about the season actually happening.
The Muellers received news of the postponement Tuesday and met with the rest of the linebacker unit on Wednesday before going their separate ways ... for now.
"I've definitely got a lot to think about if we go ahead and hopefully have a spring season to play," Erik said. "If that happens I'll have a lot on my plate to figure out."
Erik is applying to medical schools and staying in his Evanston apartment while he figures out his next step. After spending a couple days at home in Wheaton, Xander planned to return to his dorm at Northwestern and continue working out.
They don't talk much about "what if" scenarios, but there's a brotherly understanding of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that might be lost.
"It's always been the dream to play with him, and it was cool to practice with him even though it was only for a couple days," Xander said. "I was really excited for this. Hopefully we get the chance to play in the spring."
Xander was a freshman at Wheaton North when Erik was a senior in 2016. They came close to playing together that season but the Falcons didn't make the playoffs and Xander didn't get the postseason promotion to varsity.
As Erik found his niche at Northwestern -- he's appeared in 25 games the last two seasons -- Xander attracted massive college attention. He received a dozen scholarship offers but the day he was offered by Northwestern, he committed.
It was a no-brainer decision to join his brother with the Wildcats.
If only the prospect of having a season together was as definite.
"That's the thing I was looking forward to most about this fall, making a run at the Big Ten championship with the guys and playing with my brother for the first time," Erik said. "I'm hoping to be on the field with him this spring. It's been our dream for a while. Lord willing, we'll get the opportunity."