Rick Mirer was a standout quarterback and field general from a very young age. During his senior year at Goshen High School in Goshen, Indiana, the young star threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, the second most in national prep history. He passed Indiana high school great Jeff George’s Indiana high school passing records. Mirer was widely regarded as the best quarterback and even the top high school football player in the country.
The statistically superior signal caller attended the University of Notre Dame where he posted a career record of 29-7-1 as a starter. Mirer led the Fighting Irish to three bowl games during his tenure.
In 1991, he set the single season touchdown record and left South Bend as the school’s record holder in career touchdowns while ranking second in completions, passing yards and total offense.
The Seattle Seahawks selected Mirer second overall in the 1993 NFL Draft and he set the NFL rookie records for attempts, completions and yards while starting all of his team’s games that season. Ironically, he shared NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with his former Notre Dame teammate and backfield mate then Los Angeles Rams battering ram Jerome Bettis.
After three productive years in Seattle, Mirer battled through a wide array of injury setbacks throughout the rest of his career.
After four seasons in Seattle, Mirer spent brief stints with the Bears, signed with the Packers, played for the Jets, 49ers, Raiders and eventually retired after spending time in Detroit for a single season in 2004.
He finished his career with over 1,000 completions for nearly 12,000 yards and 50 touchdowns while rushing for over a 1,000 yards over the course of his 13-year NFL career.
Mirer has spent nearly three decades as the founder and director of the Mirer Family Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on children’s health and education. The established entrepreneur is also the founder of Mirror Napa Valley, devoting much of his time to the wine industry. He is also the managing director of Play Like a Champion Capital, L.L.C., engaging with high quality organizations for licensing and branding opportunities for the Play Like a Champion Today brand.
The Notre Dame great spent time talking about his unforgettable Classic brand cards, collecting the sports superstars of the 1980s and fun Quarterback Challenge memories.
Tony Reid– You were a tar high school quarterback, a star quarterback at Notre Dame and a top five NFL draft pick. When was the first time someone approached you for an autograph?
Rick Mirer-It was probably in high school. We were state champions in 1988. There were little kids and siblings hanging around. We actually signed a few things, which was funny. Definitely when I got on campus in South Bend it was a different level. There were big crowds at the spring game and in the fall, too.
TR-We all know the Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, that South Bend, Notre Dame environment is such a special and unique place. What was it like being the guy at that time on one of the better Notre Dame teams ever?
RM-It was fun. It was a very different time than it is now with the social media stuff and even the internet. I walked into a situation that was kind of perfect. Tony Rice was coming back for a senior year. The pressure wasn’t on me. I got some reps and got comfortable. The pressure was to win every game and it was for four more years. Those are the kind of environment that you want to be in. We had our sights on winning a national championship every year and we were close.
The stadium, back then, was just under 60,000 so it wasn’t chaos like it was when we traveled to other big, huge, loud stadiums. We got to play in a lot of meaningful games and big bowl games. We knew everybody was watching because the NBC thing happened (when the network bought the rights to televise Notre Dame football). The whole country was looking at us.
TR–Who is the most memorable fan from your entire career?
RM-My favorite goes back to high school. There was a woman in our town of Goshen, Indiana named Dorothy Zook. She had to be in her late 80s when I met her. I am pretty confident she got into her 90s. I was young. She was a veteran. He took a liking to me. She would save newspaper clippings. I actually had a chance to go meet her at her house. We stayed in touch through the mail and a couple of phone calls until she passed away a few years later. If you ask my parents, they would say Dorothy Dale Zook. At her age, it was amazing that she watched football and being from the same town, she followed my every move. She was a true fan and a hometown friend.
TR–How much mail do you get these days?
RM– I get fan mail every day. It’s crazy. It did spike in the couple of years we were all stuck at home. All of the memorabilia stuff blew up and every one had time to go through it and get nostalgic. I was a collector as a kid. I remember getting autographs. I had favorite players. I have never not signed them. Every single one that comes in gets sent back signed. When we leave town for a week or two I come back and there is a pile of the stuff. It’s funny. I can’t believe it all these years later. It’s fun to go back and relive it a little bit and see those old pictures.
TR-You mentioned collecting cards as a kid and having favorite players. What teams and players did you love most as a youngster?
RM-I was a Tigers fan and a Lions fan. I was close to Chicago, so the Bears were hot, especially the 1985 team. Michael Jordan was happening. Joe Montana was a guy I really looked up to all the way back to those years in high school. Those were the years where Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were hot rookie cards back then. I had Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards that were a lot older and really, really cool to see. I just watched all the sports. We ate it up. We didn’t have all of the options that we have today. We got the local games and the weekend stuff. I was a big fan of all of the guys that were winning the big games.
TR–Once you became a pro, who did you look to for inspiration and maybe even camaraderie?
RM– There were a lot of guys. It was mostly the quarterbacks I got to meet when I was a young, newly drafted guy. Drew Bledsoe and I became close friends back then and then we got invited to the Quarterback Challenge and we were rubbing shoulders with Dan Marino, John Elway, Jim Kelly and Vinny Testaverde and guys that were ahead of us a ways and we knew a lot about them and they didn’t know much about us, so we got a chance to talk. Drew and Brett Favre and I were kind of on the same wave. It was fun to hang out socially with those guys and not game day stuff. They were always nice to us. As we got older we became the older group.
TR There were a number of those old Quarterback Club cards that you were pictured on with plenty of Zubaz. The one had you with Randall Cunningham, Bernie Kosar and other stars. You were pictured right next to Favre in the one image. To be amongst that company and to become friends had to be a special experience.
RM– It was really cool. It was a fun vacation with a little competition built in. The wives and girlfriends and family and friends were there. I always looked forward to doing that. I got to do it a handful of times. Those were formidable years and it was fun to be around the guys we looked up to. You blink your eyes and we are the old guys and the young guys were asking us how things work.
TR–With your decade plus long career in the league, do you have an area with memorabilia displayed?
RM-I don’t. What I do have is Rock and Roll art. That is what I do have in the house. I have a lot of old posters from the 60s and 70s.
TR–What are some of your earliest memories of seeing yourself on trading cards?
RM-After the draft, Drew and I did a deal with Classic. We actually had contracts with them. I remember those cards the most. We were still on our college uniforms. At some point, I remember doing a photo shoot or two in a uniform. It wasn’t game day. It was a little staged and it wasn’t the right helmets and stuff. We look so young. It was crazy.
TR–The jersey swap is a new way that the current generation shows admiration and respect for their contemporaries. If you could go back and swap jerseys with anyone you played with or against, who you it be?
RM-I never did it. Nobody did it. We didn’t have extra jerseys. It didn’t feel quite like it is today. After every game now you see guys peeling off their jerseys. At the Quarterback Challenge we did it at the end. Guys were trying to trade stuff. You might have a golf tournament or fundraiser. I got Randall’s jersey and Jim Kelly’s jersey. I have footballs and shoes from those events. On the field, it never happened.