By Jeff Mays and Tom Liddy
HARLEM — Andre Muller was his son's biggest fan, tossing the football around with him, tailgating at games and trying to help him avoid the troubled past that had plagued him.
On graduation day Tuesday, the future seemed bright for Isayah Muller, a gridiron phenom who helped lead Truman HS to its first PSAL Bowl victory last November.
Muller, an ex-con, was so proud of Isayah's accomplishments that he wanted to bring the whole family to City Island to celebrate his son's commencement.
But all that changed in an instant when a brutal fight erupted in a Bronx parking garage over a missing bottle of cologne.
In the end Isayah, 19, lay dead, his father was charged with assault and menacing, and a devastated neighborhood was left asking why.
"It seems like all the good people finish last," said Melanie Coakley, who lives in the Muller’s East 115th Street building.
"For someone to be one step from reaching their goal and not making it is sad."
On Tuesday, Isayah, a star running back who rushed for 908 yards and scored 15 touchdowns last season, graduated from Truman HS in The Bronx in a ceremony at nearby Lehman College.
Cops said that the family was on their way to City Island to celebrate, when Andre Muller, 40, realized that an expensive bottle of cologne was missing from his car, police said.
So he returned to the garage, M.T. Town Corp., where a fight broke out, leaving Isayah mortally wounded.
Now Andre, who has convictions for robbery and drug sale, is charged with weapons possession and assault for allegedly sparking the melee by hitting one of the attendants with a snow shovel.
Although cops say the case is still open, no one else has been charged, leaving neighbors outraged.
"Why are they going to charge the father? I don’t believe it," said Connie Odom, who lives in the same building at the Jefferson Houses as the Mullers.
"The whole family were good people. They are quiet and keep to themselves. They are good people."
Giselle Avila, 26, a friend of Isayah's mother, said: "He was a good kid who didn't deserve this."
"The parking attendant needs to get charged," she added. "He has a job that doesn't require him to carry a weapon.
And Deoonne Moultrie, 24, said that the dad was a quiet person who kept to himself.
"He's so nice," she said. "Him and his wife are nice people."
"His son was going to be an NFL player. He finished high school, so you know he was brought up the right way."
Coakley said that Andre cared deeply for his son.
"I really thought the boy was going to make it," she said. "[Andre] was a family man. I never saw him raise his voice."
Father and son could often be seen tossing the football around in the courtyard and Andre could be found setting up for tailgate parties.
"You could see that he was very proud of his son and maybe didn’t want him to follow in his footsteps," Coakley said.
"A lot of kids in this neighborhood don’t have their father. I really thought he was going to make it out of here."
Coakley recalled overhearing an ecstatic Isayah talking to a pal about the new cleats his father was going to buy for him.
"He said the cleats were so expensive but his father was going to buy them. He was so happy," she said.
"Now he's lying in the morgue."