There are just 25 days until the first Sunday of the NFL season, when the Chicago Bears will play host to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 10th. To celebrate the rapid approach of the regular season, today's installment of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff brings us to the life and career of the best player in franchise history to don the number 25, fullback Brad Muster.
Northern California Legend Brad Muster Joins Chicago Bears in 1988
A native of San Martin, California, Brad Muster attended San Marin High School, where he participated on the school's football team as a running back. Despite his dad being the coach of the rival San Rafael High School team, where both of his brothers also attended and played, Brad elected to pave his own path and had a great career as a physical runner at the high school level.
Despite his success as a high school athlete, Muster received little attention as a prospect, but after his graduation, he accepted a scholarship from the nearby Stanford University. Staying just 45 miles north of his hometown, the expectations for Muster as a Cardinal were relatively low, with a coach reportedly telling him as a freshman that he might not play during his collegiate career.
Muster, like many, redshirted his first season, but by the 1984 season, the 6'4" 230 lbs back became a critical component of new head coach Jack Elway's Stanford offense. In his first season of play, Muster had an impressive breakout season to the tune of over 1,000 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
The 1,000-yard mark proved to be the norm for a healthy Muster, who improved his total over each of the next two seasons, cumulating in a 1,700-yard season as a junior where he also scored 16 total touchdowns. Behind Muster's forceful rushing, Stanford posted their best season with the Northern California native on the roster and reached the Gator Bowl after posting an 8-4 record. Following the 1986 season, Muster was named as both a consensus All-American and was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
Heading into his senior season, Muster was one of the most nationally hyped college players and was regarded as a Heisman candidate. Unfortunately, an ankle injury during training camp would ultimately stunt those dreams, and an afflicted Muster recorded just 765 yards with a solid eight touchdowns. Following the disappointing season, Muster graduated from the school and had his eyes set on the NFL.
While Muster potentially would have likely been a top-10 pick had he declared after his junior season, his injury-riddled season hurt his draft stock in the 1988 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, Muster's cumulative collegiate resume was strong enough for him to be selected 23rd overall by the Chicago Bears, making him the fourth running back selected, and the first selection in a loaded Bears draft class that included star receiver Wendell Davis.
Brad Muster Dominates at New Position with Chicago Bears
Upon joining the team in 1988, Muster found himself buried in the depth chart of a talented Bears offensive backfield. With Neal Anderson, the team's first-round pick in 1986, and veteran fullback Matt Suhey already established starters, Muster played mainly as a reserve back as a rookie but made appearances in all 16 games where he accrued over 400 yards and a touchdown. However, the season would end up being Suhey's final as a starter, and Muster took over the lead fullback role in his second season.
At Stanford, Muster was certainly more of a pure running back than a full back, but due to his size and strength, the Bears believed that he would perfectly complement Anderson in the team's backfield. In his first season as the team's starting full back, Muster totaled nearly 600 yards and eight touchdowns and helped Anderson post an impressive 1,700-yard season. Unfortunately, in his first season as a starter, the Bears struggled and managed only six wins, a far cry from their five previous seasons under Mike Ditka, each of which saw the team post 10-plus wins.
The following year, the Bears enjoyed a resurgence and returned to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, due in part to Muster's career year at the fullback position. He finished the year with over 1,100 yards, by far the best mark of his career, and eight total touchdowns. He also helped Anderson total over 1,500 yards en route to reaching his third consecutive Pro Bowl.
Coming off of his career season, Muster had high expectations for the 1991 season but was unfortunately kept to just 11 games due to injury. Nonetheless, the Stanford product had another solid year and finished one yard shy of the 700 mark. In 1992, Muster was able to return to the backfield as a full-time healthy starter, and across 16 games, he totaled over 800 yards and five touchdowns.
Brad Muster Leaves Chicago Bears as FA, Retirement, Legacy, and Life After Football
Following his fifth season with the Bears, it became apparent to Muster that he would likely never be a lead back in Dave Wannstedt's Chicago Bears offense, and elected to enter free agency, where he would potentially have the opportunity to return to the level of dominance that he exhibited as a standout in the Pac-10. Muster signed with the New Orleans Saints, replacing fullback Craig Heyward who would ironically sign with the Bears during the same offseason.
Muster spent two seasons in New Orleans, but his stint was perhaps less successful than he anticipated. Across 20 healthy contests, Muster managed only 12 starts, although he was able to play as a true running back throughout his time with the Saints. However, between the 1993 and 1994 seasons, Muster accumulated only 500 offensive yards and four touchdowns.
During the 1995 offseason, Muster retired following a seven-year NFL career that saw five seasons spent in Chicago. As a Bear, he finished with 3,637 total yards and 27 touchdowns and spent four years as Anderson's lead blocker, helping his teammate post over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns. In team history, Muster's 2,014 rushing yards are 19th most in franchise history, and he helped Anderson reach a total that paled only to Walter Payton.
Following his retirement form the NFL, Muster received a number of awards for his time on the gridiron. In 2001, he was inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame, and more recently, was named (unofficially) as one of the top 40 players in school history.
Even today, Muster remains close to the game of football and works as the running backs coach for Santa Rosa Junior College, a school that is located incredibly close to his hometown of San Martin. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the school, where he teaches physical education. He is also heavily involved in coaching both his son and daughter in their respective sports.