David Muir looks overhead and can’t see the shadows anymore. He looks ahead and sees the promised land.
Well, the yardsticks leading there, anyway.
Muir, the starting quarterback at Pierce College, is preparing for what could be the signature season of a football career that was nearly derailed.
“The career was definitely at the crossroads,” Muir said.
Now it’s on a straight path again.
This will be the year, Muir hopes, when the spotlight won’t fall elsewhere. This will be the year when his achievements are fully recognized. This will be the year when he is defined, once and for all, as a bona fide Division I prospect.
It will be the culmination of the work Muir started at Chatsworth High three seasons ago, put on hold during one redshirt stint at Washington State and rekindled last year at Pierce. In a big way.
Muir, 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds, set several Pierce single-season passing records and led the Western State Conference with 239 completions, which also was the national best according to the J.C. Grid-Wire. He passed for 2,923 yards and 27 touchdowns, and threw only seven interceptions in 421 pass attempts.
But Muir, who counterbalances his size with a quick and accurate arm, was overshadowed last season in the WSC by Valley’s Jim Arellanes and Santa Barbara’s Jarrod DeGeorgia.
Arellanes, now at Fresno State, led the conference with 3,483 yards and threw for 25 touchdowns. He set a state single-game record with 639 yards passing against Bakersfield in a South Division game. DeGeorgia, who established the WSC record with 251 completions in 1993, passed for 3,069 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Also, Valley finished 10-1 and won its second consecutive bowl game while Pierce stumbled through a 2-8 season. The team’s poor showing dampened Muir’s terrific performance.
“This is going to sound corny, but I’d trade all my numbers to turn that 2-8 into 8-2,” Muir said. “The wins and losses is all I care about.”
That’s the kind of talk Bill Norton, the Brahma coach, would like to hear from all of his players. Especially the quarterback. And Norton knows he has one who is driven toward that goal.
“David did not miss one spring practice, he did not miss one weight [training] session, he did not miss one meeting. He was here at every workout,” said Norton, now in his fifth season with the Brahmas. “He was the ultimate leader. He is harder on the [players] than I am.
“He’s very intelligent and reads coverage very well. He throws the ball so it can be caught. I know some guys with stronger arms but he has a great touch.”
Several opponents found out last season.
In the season finale, a 57-51 North Division loss to Glendale, Muir threw for six touchdowns and was 39 of 62 for a school single-game record 541 yards. The week before, in a 52-40 setback to Santa Barbara, Muir was 32 of 42 for 424 yards and four touchdowns. That came in the wake of a 301-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 34-30 victory over Ventura.
“He took a lot of punishment from us but he bounced up and did very well,” said George Rosales, Ventura coach. “He throws the ball real well.”
Rosales knew that even before the teams met. Muir practiced briefly with the Pirates after he left Washington State and went searching for a junior college team to join. He also spent time at Moorpark, Glendale and Valley before settling for Pierce because he hit it off with Norton.
“It took one phone conversation and I was hooked,” Muir said. "[Norton] is just an up-front guy. He doesn’t BS. I like that. I want to know how it is. . . . He didn’t guarantee me anything. He told me exactly who was here [quarterbacks]. Everything was exactly as he told me.”
Only a few weeks before, Muir had a similar conversation with Washington State Coach Mike Price and got some honest answers that forced his hand. Muir had walked on at Pullman, hoping to defy the odds and land a spot with the Cougars. He took that route after other Division I schools showed little interest in him, even though he passed for 1,589 yards with 14 touchdowns and led Chatsworth to the City Section 3-A Division semifinals in 1992, his senior season.
Muir spent the following season with the scout team at Washington State and then went looking for some reassurances. He never got them.
“I walked into Coach Price’s office one day and I asked him how I fit in,” Muir said. “He said, ‘David, you can play at this level, but I really don’t see you as the starting quarterback here.’ I’m glad he told me that. I really didn’t want to spend four years there lost in the shuffle.”
Muir returned home and hooked up with the Brahmas.
The first few games at Pierce, however, were difficult for Muir. He joined the team late and was still learning the system when he started in the opener against national powerhouse Palomar in a nonconference game. The Comets cruised to a 58-24 victory and Pierce took another beating two weeks later, in their second game of the year, when Bakersfield pounded the Brahmas, 49-12, in a WSC game.
“My opinion of junior college ball coming out of high school was, ‘I’ll never do that. It’ll be D-1 or nothing,’ ” Muir said. “But you get humbled. I had no clue about the competition. Then I came in and got my head beat in by Palomar and Bakersfield. My opinion went from squat to ‘these guys can play.’ ”
In the third game, a 24-16 conference loss to Compton, Muir threw three interceptions and figured he was headed for the bench.
“My confidence was steadily falling,” Muir said. “You start seeing your receivers hanging out with your backup. I had given myself three more weeks to pull it off. If I wasn’t going to start against West L.A. [the next game after Compton] I wasn’t going to walk out on Coach Norton but I was going to reconsider in three more weeks if I wasn’t playing.”
Muir played, all right. He was 17 of 28 for 214 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions to pace Pierce to a 36-20 victory. The effort earned him WSC offensive co-player of the week honors and recharged his confidence. And Muir, who is ready to start for the Brahmas in their opener against Victor Valley on Sept. 9 at home, has no doubts about his abilities anymore.