Mr. Mirer, first off, we'd like to take a moment to say thank you for taking the time to interview with us here at Matt and Mike Sports. As one of the great players in Notre Dame history, what was it like playing under head coach Lou Holtz?
Thanks. I feel really fortunate to have been at Notre Dame the years I was. Coach Holtz created an environment for us where we completely expected to win every game. It’s hard to do that in such a convincing way, but coach Holtz had us believing in ourselves and it showed.
The 1992 Notre Dame-Penn State game stands out as one of the great college football games of the 1990s. Tell us a bit about your experiences in that game.
It was senior day and that was significant. Our class was very close and winning the final home game was important to us all. Although we fell behind we believed in each other and the drama that day is unforgettable. Basically we made the plays necessary coming down the stretch. We had great respect for Penn State and their style of play. Winning with a 2 pt play was particularly satisfying considering there was no overtime back then. I’m forever grateful that Reggie caught that last pass in the old stadium.
How did your time at Notre Dame help prepare you for a career in the NFL?
The media attention never overwhelmed me at the next level. I had already lived it. The football at ND and the schedule we played was the best prep for the NFL available at the time.
You were selected by the Seahawks with the second pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, and opted not to attend the draft. What factors led to your decision?
It felt like a good day to spend with my family and closest friends. We did not know which way Seattle and New England were going to go so I didn’t feel like being in NY with unknown. Going to the draft is a different responsibility now. I wanted to go about draft day my way and that's what happened.
How has the draft changed since you were drafted in 1993?
Its a circus now.
As a rookie, you threw 2833 yards and 12 touchdowns while being sacked 47 times. Many young quarterbacks struggle when facing pressure; you thrived, putting together a successful rookie year. How were you able to perform at a high level while taking a huge number of hits?
It was tough, but I competed and I’m proud of that. A little more prep would have been nice however. Playing all 16 games was an achievement few rookie QB’s have been able to achieve. The situation was what it was following a 2-14 season in 1992. I just did my job.
You played through a coaching change between the 1994 and 1995 seasons. What effect did that transition have on you as a player? How difficult is for a young player to learn a new offensive system in the NFL after a year or two in a different one?
It’s always tough when the coach who drafted you leaves. I feel terrible that we couldn’t win enough to keep Tom Flores his job longer. He was truly a gentleman and deserved better. The NFL is a business though and tough decisions constantly need to be made. I had many more changes over the next several years.
Speaking of coaching, what NFL coach (head coach, positional coach, or coordinator) had the greatest impact on you as a player? Which coach impacted you the most in college?
That’s tough, but I would say Matt Cavanaugh in Chicago, Mike McCarthy in GB and Gregg Knapp in SF all helped me learn how to play QB in the NFL. They all taught the West Coast Offense and had very similar styles. Unfortunately, those guys didn’t appear for me until year after my 4th season.
What are some of the challenges faced by a quarterback selected early in the first round of the NFL Draft? How did you prepare to meet those challenges?
Mostly it’s the style of play. Passing is such a big part of NFL football and the protections, audibles, sight adjustments etc that need to be second nature. The college kids being taught pro style offense have such an advantage. I did not have that.
Fans often expect first round picks at quarterback to carry their team on their shoulders. Do these expectations put added pressure on a young quarterback to succeed? Are these expectations unfair?
It’s human nature to expect a high pick to make a big impact. Sometimes its a perfect fit stylistically and guys hit it running day 1. Those who have to learn the language and system need some time.
From your perspective, does the recent growth of social media put additional pressure on young players?
No. Its a potential distraction however. If used properly it can be a great tool to develop your personal brand and connect with those who care about what you have to say. If mis-used it can be very dangerous.
What are your thoughts on the growth of fantasy football? As a player who played through the early development of web-based fantasy football (the first free online fantasy football leagues were launched in 1997), have you noticed a difference in the way that fans approach the game?
I can’t believe what it has become to be honest. It’s such a selfish way to look at players in my opinion. I do understand the popularity that football has and that's why it exists and keeps growing.
What are some of the most significant changes in the game since you retired in 2004?
The biggest one is the PAT. They aren’t a gimme anymore.
If you could go back and retroactively (in 1993, your rookie season) enact one rule change enacted by the NFL since you retired, what rule change would it be? Why?
I would have liked roughing the passer to be enforced the way it is now. Its amazing what a penalty is these days. I was roughed hundreds of times based on the new rules.
As a player, how did you prepare for life after football? What advice would you give to current NFL players planning for their futures?
It’s important to understand that its actually going to end someday. It does not feel like it ever will as you are going through the first several seasons. Life is long and guys need to develop other interests and prep for other things.
Many NFL players struggle to end their NFL careers. Brett Favre returned from retirement multiple times, and Marshawn Lynch recently came out of retirement to play for the Oakland Raiders. Did you have moments following your retirement where you considered returning to the game?
No. When I was done I moved on. I know I could have physically played longer, but when you know you know.
What are some of your favorite memories as a player?
The camaraderie is what I miss the most. Being on a Super Bowl team was such an honor as expected. I was with the Raiders in 2002 vs Tampa and it was my 10th season so I completely respected the experience.
As a former NFL player coaching youth football, have you ever had a moment where a young player has caught your eye and made you think "wow, he could have a future in the sport?”
Yes, there are moments where guys jump out at you. Time will tell if some of our youth studs turn into big time players. Health, academics, luck all play a part.
Following your career as an NFL player, you helped launch Mirror Wine Company. Tell us a bit about your company.
Passion project turned real business. It’s been a crash course and I have learned a lot along the way. We are really proud of our product and how we have been able to develop.
You and your wife founded the Mirer Family Foundation (link here) in 1996. Tell us more about the work your foundation does. What are some of your most rewarding experiences with the foundation?
It’s awesome to look back and see how many people we have been able to help. The letters I receive from the kids at Notre Dame that we scholarship always make my day.
Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to interview with us, and we look forward to following your work with both Mirror Wine Company and the Mirer Family Foundation in the future.
-Mike Bertasso and Matt Koontz, www.mattandmikesports.com