Mark Mueller has spent much of the past two decades helping mold high school football players academically and athletically.
After one of the most successful seasons any of his teams has enjoyed, Mueller realized he needed to step back before he became too busy to watch his own children grow up.
Mueller resigned as New Albany football coach March 4, ending an eight-year run at the helm of the Eagles and, for now, 20 seasons of coaching football.
"I've been thinking about it for a long time, since the season was over," said Mueller, who went 69-24 with the Eagles. "It wasn't an easy decision, but it was in my best interests. It's something where my kids are getting to that age where I'm not getting to witness a lot of their activities. I missed most of my son's seventh-grade football season and there's not much time left to enjoy those activities before I start missing out completely.
"At the same time, it's a good time to walk away from the program. There's a lot of talent left here."
Mueller and his wife, Elyse, have three children -- Kyler, 13, Keegan, 10 and Kerinne, 7.
Mueller came to New Albany as an assistant to Jamie Masi in 2000. He stayed on when Mike Golden was hired for the 2004 season, then succeeded Golden in May 2005 after Golden left for Upper Arlington. That made Mueller the Eagles' seventh head coach in 13 seasons, but he quickly established consistency and a winning culture.
The Eagles went 10-2 that first year, losing to DeSales 35-14 in a Division III regional semifinal. The next year, New Albany went 9-5 and advanced to a Division III state semifinal before losing 31-7 to eventual state runner-up Kettering Alter.
The 2012 Eagles started 0-2 then reeled off 11 consecutive wins before losing to defending state champion and eventual state runner-up Trotwood-Madison 33-32 in a Division II state semifinal. New Albany also won its fourth consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship, going 7-0 to finish ahead of Olentangy (6-1), Big Walnut (4-3), Olentangy Orange (4-3), Mount Vernon (3-4), Delaware (2-5), Watkins Memorial (2-5) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
"I'm so proud of the accomplishments we've had from this program," athletics director Kevin Reed said. "When we do things here, we do them in the best interests of the kids, and Mark has always done stuff the right way. He's a quality person who always has had his kids' best interests in mind and run a first-class program."
Mueller was an all-state linebacker at Cincinnati Finneytown who played football and basketball at Ashland University. After graduating from Ashland in 1993, he was an assistant football coach at Mansfield Senior for six seasons before coming to New Albany.
The Eagles are expected to return six starters on defense -- juniors Nick Clemons (LB), Tyrell Howard (CB), O.B. Oppong (S), Trey Quillin (DE) and Joe Siegenthaler (S) and sophomore Jack Schroer (DE). Leslie Anokye (RB), Will Mooney (LT), Siegenthaler (WR) and Ryan Wilson (RG) are the expected returning starters on offense.
Losses to graduation include quarterback/safety Darron Lee, an Ohio State signee, and running back Alan Watson, a Columbia University recruit. Lee accounted for 1,698 total yards and 21 touchdowns and had five interceptions last season, and Watson rushed for 1,388 yards and 21 touchdowns on 173 carries.
"(Mueller) is one of the men I look up to and respect tremendously," Watson said. "He taught me, and all of us, about being resilient and about being humble, being proud of your accomplishments but walking that line and keeping a level head. Especially with the success we had this year, that was something he taught over and over again."
Reed said the job was posted internally for three days, and an outside posting would not be made until after any internal candidates were interviewed.
The Eagles open the 2013 season at home Aug. 30 against Reynoldsburg, and Mueller plans to be paying attention. He will continue teaching health and physical education at the high school.
"We love the community, we love football and we love New Albany football," Mueller said. "(Coaching) is what I've done for 20 years now. It'll be something I miss."