One of the first feature stories I ever wrote for The Seattle Times was back in March of 2007. I was assigned a player profile on Taylor Mueller, then a standout centerback for the Eastlake High School boys soccer team.
I was still in college at the time and he was still a teenager. Fast forward four years to Tuesday and I reconnected with the University of Washington senior captain upon his being selected by the Portland Timbers in the MLS Supplemental Draft.
The answer he gave to one of my questions — “I’m very big into competition,” featured above in the headline — was eerily similar to the first impression I got from him for the story back in ’07. It’s an approach that has served him well so far.
Anyways, here’s the transcript of the conversation:
* * *
How and when did you find out you were drafted?
“It’s funny how it worked actually. I had two hours of class today and (the draft) happened to be right smack in the middle of them when everything was going on. I was sitting in class trying to figure it out and keep up with the draft. My computer didn’t help too much and my sister was actually the one that told me. I was just really happy. She told me it was Portland and it’s pretty awesome to be in the Northwest still. They’ve got such a great fan base and they’ve been an up-and-coming team for the last couple years. It’s pretty exciting for me to be able to go straight down I-5. I can’t think of anything better.”
Did you have an idea you might be drafted today?
“I went to the Sounders’ combine, so that was something in the back of my head. I was hoping that might happen but they didn’t pick me up. As it went by I was just hoping it’d be one of the Northwest teams, whether it was Vancouver, Seattle or Portland. They’ve all been to some of my games and seen me over my career. Luckily that worked out. I had actually talked to Sporting Kansas City and had talked to their coaches a little bit. I guess that’s something that didn’t work out. Portland hadn’t talked to me before but we go down there for a tournament at the University of Portland every year so maybe that’s one of the times got to see me — or at Oregon State. I’m definitely really excited for it.”
Have you been getting any grief from family or friends about going to Seattle’s rival?
“I don’t think they’re too worried about that. My roommate was talking about how he has to be a Timbers fans now, so it’s kind of funny how that works. But I think everybody’s really happy for me. Brent Richards on our UW team is a huge Timbers fan, so he always has his Timbers gear on and scarves around his room.”
Richards played on Portland’s youth team, right?
“Yeah, that’s correct. Their U-23s and had a great year.”
What’s your timetable for heading down there?
“I’m actually not sure. I got a call from the coach, John Spencer, while I was at practice with the UW team and he left me a voice mail and wanted to touch base. I gave him a call back and unfortunately couldn’t get a hold of him. He was out of the office so I’ll have to talk to him tomorrow to find out the time line and figure out when I need to head down there for camp and everything. Just kind of waiting on pins and needles for that.”
Is it tough as senior that’s still taking classes to sort this out?
“Yeah, it’s pretty tough. I’m taking three classes and 15 credits. Fortunately I’ve talked to a couple of my professors and they’ve actually agreed that I can continue to take the courses electronically and finish them out that way. That’s something that I was really happy about and was surprised when they responded with that answer. I just explained the situation to them and they were very understanding. That’s something that should be helpful, but it’s also tough at the same time.”
How close are you to graduating?
“I think I have about 20 or 23 credits after this quarter. I’m pretty close. It’d just be an additional quarter or quarter and a half.”
What’s your major?
Now that the next step is in front of you, how do you look back on your college career?
“It’s crazy. It just flew by. It was an awesome time, an awesome career in my mind. I had some great memories on the Husky pitch and some great memories with that team. Unfortunately this year we weren’t chosen as a playoff team per se, but a lot of guys thought of ourselves as a playoff side with the way we would’ve gone into postseason. I think we would’ve got in the second or third round at least with the way we were playing at the end. We were really putting it together. This was a memorable year as well as my first year when we went into the playoffs and had a great year. It’s funny that the first and the last years are my most memorable. It was an amazing run.”
Competition for rosters spots down in Portland is going to be intense. What’s your mindset going into camp?
“I’m very big into competition. That’s one of the biggest things with me. Coming into UW I was that way and I like to hold to that same mentality everywhere I go. I’m a very resilient player I’d like to think. Going into this I want to soak up everything and try to get insight from veterans when I get there. They’ve got quite a list of players down there in Portland. Even before I got drafted I was looking at the players they have there, same with Vancouver, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘These are going to be competitive teams right away, just like Seattle was.’ I think it’s going to be very competitive. I was also talking about it today, with Darlington Nagbe being there — it will be interesting to play against him. There are all these Akron guys coming in and he’s supposed to be the next coming. It will be interesting to see how my level of play compares.”