DT Dan Muir is in his fourth NFL season, and third with the Colts. Since joining the league as an undrafted free agent in 2007, Muir has played in 36 games, including 21 starts with the Colts over the past two seasons. The 6-2, 312-pound Muir is an instrumental part of the Indianapolis run defense, having led all Colts defensive linemen in tackles (52) in 2009. In addition to his contributions on the field, the 27-year-old Kent State product has been very active with Outreach Inc. — a program designed to help homeless and runaway youths find a safer life while also finding religion.
Muir recently caught up with PFW to discuss his work with Outreach Inc., his team's stout red-zone "D," playing on the same line with Pro Bowl DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and his love for cooking.
PFW: Tell us a bit about your work with Outreach Inc.
DM: I'm working with unfortunate, homeless teens in Indianapolis. I've done a few events with them, and I'm getting ready to do another, a Christmas dinner, which is actually how I got started working with them through the same event last year. And it's just working with unfortunate teens in Indianapolis, trying to keep them on the right track, let them know that just because they're homeless, that doesn't mean they can't still graduate from high school, go to college and pursue their dreams. So it's really just helping them in that way.
PFW: What inspired you to get involved with the program?
DM: Well, to be honest with you, at the time I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. It just so happened that I was told about the event and when I got there, it really moved me. Just to see those kids and their attitude — how they were still so happy, so bright and filled with light, even though they are going through what they're going through. I just wanted to help out as much as I can.
PFW: What has been the most rewarding part of your time spent working with the kids?
DM: It just teaches me that there is nothing I can go through in life that even compares to what these kids have been through, dealing with broken homes and their parents. So it just makes me appreciate everything that I have even more, you know, family and friends and life.
PFW: Discuss your role in the Colts' defense and the growth you have shown during your time in Indy.
DM: My role, really, in the defense is to stop the run up the middle, keep our linebackers free and most importantly, just make plays. That's the main focus in any defense is just to come out and make plays. I was blessed with the opportunity a year ago to play and to showcase what I can do, and it has been working out ever since. Just working and continuing to try and make plays each and every week. Just because I'm a big guy, it doesn't mean I can't run. That's why I really love our defense — it makes you utilize everything that you have. We're big guys, over 300 pounds, but we can all run. We can make plays in the backfield, but we can also make plays 20, 30 yards downfield. So, it's a defense that really fits my style of play.
PFW: What part of your game are you most proud of, and what area would you most like to improve?
DM: The area I still want to improve in is stopping the run. You know, at times this year, we've struggled with it, and so we need to keep improving. We just need to get off the field on third down. Instead of having 3rd-and-2, we need to have 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-8. You can improve each and every single week and that is one area that we continue to work on and continue to try and improve.
PFW: Talk about the defense's success in the red zone this season. Is there a different mindset down there?
DM: Really, it's just hard going into the red zone. It's not a different mindset, though; every time we go out on the field the goal is to stop whatever offense is coming at you, but that doesn't always happen. When they get in the red zone, they can go up and down the field, but when they get in the red zone, you still don't want them to score. It's like a bend but don't break type of defense. There are times when we don't even want to bend, but it happens. We just don't want them to score. If they're not scoring touchdowns, they're not winning football games so that is really what matters.
PFW: How big of an impact has D-line coach John Teerlinck had on you?
DM: He has had a huge impact. When you look at his résumé, and all the guys that he has coached, there have been some great players in this league. Not just Pro Bowlers, but greats in this league. So just being able to be around him and learn football and see football the way he sees it, I've been very blessed and very fortunate to have a coach like that. You know, he's a great coach when it comes to pass defense, and that's what everybody looks at, but he is also great at coaching run defense. It's just really been a blessing learning from him.
PFW: How difficult has it been with all the injuries this season? You guys have had to carry the offense at times.
DM: It's tough. But one thing that we say is that you can't make excuses, because we're not the only banged-up team. Every team in the NFL deals with injuries. It's just trying to get as healthy as we can throughout the week during practice and battle our way back up. That's just a part of football, it's about the team. It's not just the offense out there — sometimes they carry us and sometimes we carry them — it's just a part of playing football, you've got to be able to do your job week in and week out. So, when they struggle, they look to us to help them and vice versa.
PFW: Do you feel added pressure to produce given all of the injuries to the linebacker corps and in the secondary? What about playing alongside two Pro Bowl DEs (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis), who tend to generate a lot of double-teams. Does that make the need for the interior guys to get in the backfield even greater?
DM: I mean, I wouldn't say it is added pressure, because when you start to put too much pressure on yourself to make plays, you start to mess up, you start to press. All you can do, even with the injuries, is go out and do your job. The plays will come your way, all you can do is go out do what you do best, which is maintain your gaps and cover your responsibilities and the plays will come. So it's not really added pressure, it's just coming out and performing. The guys we have, Pat Angerer and (Kavell) Conner and all these guys we have backing up Clint (Session) and GB (Gary Brackett) they are playing well, too. So it doesn't matter who's in there, we just need to be able to perform at a high level every week.
PFW: Talk a little bit about playing with Freeney and Mathis.
DM: When you first start playing next to Rob and Free, you realize how they can make your job a lot easier, because of their play, and it can spoil you, but as you grow with them, it makes you realize and makes you appreciate what they do even more, because those are two of the very best defensive ends, I mean just outstanding, defensive ends in this league. And it's not only their pass rush, which everyone tends to focus on; Rob and Free can also play the run very well. So it just makes you appreciate what you have. They are not big, bulky, long-and-tall ends, they're extremely quick and strong, and they are so good at what they do. So, being able to play alongside those two guys, you learn a lot, and like I said with Coach Teerlinck, it's a total blessing. You won't find two DEs in the league like them.
PFW: Discuss the struggles of the run defense at times this season. It has improved, but what do you guys need to do in that area to finish out the season strong and make another run to the Super Bowl?
DM: The play has improved, but we just need to continue doing what we do. We practice and watch a lot of film, you know we're in there every morning at 7 am, going home and watching film. So, it's just the little things that you do. People get caught up in practice, and that's really important, but it's all about the little extra details. Film study, staying late and working, a little extra conditioning, any little thing you can do to help yourself perform at a higher level every single week. That's what is important. We have great leadership, especially in our defensive line room with Dwight and Robert, letting us see all of the extra time they're putting in. I just came from the facility, and Robert is in there all day treating his body, watching film, getting himself right for the upcoming week. So, it's all those little things that you learn, that help you see what you have to do. So it's not anything out of the ordinary or any little secret that has allowed us to pick it up a bit in the past couple of weeks, it's just doing everything that we do, but just doing it a little bit more.
PFW: In college at Kent State you were a big sack guy. Has it been difficult being asked to focus more on being a run stuffer with the Colts?
DM: It's definitely a role change. The way our defense is structured, we come out there and we have to stop the run, and then we let guys like Eric Foster, Keyunta Dawson, Rob and Free come out and rush the passer. It's all about how we're structured. Of course, everybody wants to go out there and get the big sacks and make the huge plays, but you have to look at first and second down also, and that is stopping the run. Right now that is my job, and that's what I'm trying to do and do to the best of my ability.
PFW: Talk about your love for cooking. Have you been cooking for a long time? Is there a favorite meal you like to make?
DM: Well, I don't really have a particular meal, I just cook. I just like to eat all kinds of food and cook. And the best way to learn how to cook is to mess up, and I've done a lot of that also. But you get the hang of it because you don't want to keep wasting the money. Growing up my dad did a lot of cooking, so that is where I got my love for it. He used to teach me a lot in the kitchen.
PFW: No signature Muir dish at this point, though?
DM: Nah, no signature dish. I'm great on the grill, but everybody claims that. So, when guys tell me they're great on the grill, I tell them they haven't had my food yet.
PFW: I heard you can do a little dancing. Who's the better dancer: you or teammate Eric Foster?
DM: (laughing) Eric's got me. Eric's got me beat. I try and keep up with him, but it's hard to — Eric has the dancing down pat.