MIAMI -- Daniel Muir looked out at the field this week where crews were painting "Colts" and "Saints" in the end zone. He surveyed the mob scene of Media Day, cameras and microphones swarming around him and his Indianapolis teammates at Sun Life Stadium.
"I'm like a sponge soaking all this in," he said. "You dream about the Super Bowl. To know your hard work and prayers can take you wherever you want to go, it's awesome, man."
Muir is a 315-pound sponge, which is fortunate. There is a lot to take in when he reflects on the unlikely trip from Riverdale's Parkdale High in Prince George's County to starting at defensive tackle Sunday in the Super Bowl. From an undrafted no-name out of Kent State to the NFL waiver wire to a key cog on a team that lost two games all season. From a backup to the leading tackler on the Colts' line.
It's been a dramatic transformation, but a gradual evolution.
"I was kind of a knucklehead coming out of high school. My main thing was I knew I had to get away from home. If I had stayed around home, it probably wouldn't have worked out for me," Muir said, explaining why he didn't seriously consider playing for Maryland.
Dean Pees, recently named linebackers coach of the Ravens, lured him to Kent State, gave him an opportunity to play and planted the seed about his dreams being at his command. The vision seemed clear enough at Kent State, where he ranked third in career sacks when he left and was All-Mid-American Conference. But not so much early in what was shaping up as a journeyman NFL career.
Sometimes there are pivotal moments in the process of maturity. One of them came for Muir when he embarked on a more spiritual path while in college.
"I met my wife, Kristin, in college. There was a point where I could have lost her, and I didn't want to. I knew I had to change something in my life.
"I adopted the motto, 'Just play and pray. Just trust in God.' "
Prayers didn't prevent him from being cut by the Green Bay Packers in 2008 or elevate him in his first season with the Colts, when he was too heavy and out of step with the system.
The other pivotal event for Muir came in the past offseason, when new coach Jim Caldwell brought in Larry Coyer as defensive coordinator. Coyer made it clear he wanted more size and aggressiveness in the middle of the line.
Muir and several other reserve linemen saw that as an opportunity, and they began doing extra workouts beyond the Colts' training regimen.
"We were doing two-a-days in the offseason, getting ready," Muir said. "I cut off about 15 pounds. That's really helped me."
While the extra work reshaped him physically, Muir credits veteran defensive line coach John Teerlinck with transforming him into the player the Colts were seeking. Having Muir and similar-sized Antonio Johnson, another waiver-wire pickup, at tackle has taken pressure off the linebackers and aided the pass rush.
"He's worked extremely hard. Daniel's an ascending player, and we're really thrilled with what he's done," Teerlinck said. "He's had more tackles at our D-tackle position than anybody has in the eight years we've been here."
Muir started 10 games and recorded 66 tackles, including 54 solo. He had one of his best games in the 20-3 playoff victory over the Ravens, during which he made seven tackles. Pees might have noticed.
"He told me if I worked hard, anything I wanted could happen. It's happening, I'm in the Super Bowl," Muir said.
Recalling the detours along the way makes him more appreciative that his prayers have been answered. That was part of the message he tried to convey when he helped serve dinner and distribute winter clothes to more than 100 homeless teenagers at a church in Indianapolis before Christmas.
"One thing I told those kids, nobody's perfect, we all make mistakes. The main thing is to realize the mistakes you made and change them," said Muir, who gained as much from the experience as he gave. "Seeing how much they appreciated that little meal - seeing the smiles on their faces - makes you realize how blessed you really are."
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SUPER BOWL Sunday, 6:28 p.m. TV: Chs 13, 9 Line: Colts by 5