Vaught's Views: Miller leaves football to pursue other goals

August 24, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

RICHMOND - Rather than spend time dwelling on why he's not going to play football this season, Matt Miller has decided to look at opportunities he'll have this year he hasn't had before.

"Football is just one aspect of my life," said Miller. "I have a lot of other plans. I did football as a sport and loved it. But now I can play any sport I want. I can enjoy being a regular student and do a lot of different things my last year of college.

"You give up a lot of hours to play football. That's a whole lot of sacrificing for not getting to play a lot. I don't consider myself a quitter. I just think of this as opening new opportunities in my life."

Miller, who played on state championship teams at Boyle County in 1999 and 2000, decided last week he no longer wanted to play football at Eastern Kentucky University.


That would have seemed unimaginable just two years ago. After being redshirted in 2001, he led the Colonels in receptions with 37 for 640 yards and five scores in 2002. He was named Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year.

But things changed last year. Danny Hope succeeded Roy Kidd as head coach, a move that would have seemed to benefit Miller because Hope wanted a more wide-open offense. However, Miller had just nine catches for 162 yards in limited playing time.

Still, Miller thought things would change this year. He spent the summer in Richmond. He worked and paid his own way to attend summer school and spent more time running, lifting and catching passes than he ever had. That's why he was stunned when preseason practice started and he was listed on the third team.

"After going through so much, I just saw I wasn't going to get the playing time I thought I deserved," Miller said. "Since I only have a year left in school, I decided it would just be better for me to focus on academic and personal goals. I am on track to graduate this year and just decided I would focus on academics, not athletics."

Still, it's confusing

Still, it seems so confusing. Miller has every quality you want in a receiver. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. At 6-2, he's a good target. And if the ball is close, he'll catch it with no fear of how hard he'll be hit.

"I just feel the football coaches chose to look at Matt in a negative way," Miller's father, Tom, said. "Matt is a good kid. I'm afraid he wiill look back and be a bitter man. He was good enough to play for Roy Kidd, who is in the (College Football) Hall of Fame, and then the new coach shuts him down. I just don't understand it."

His son doesn't, either. However, rather than sulk and throw stones at the coaching staff and program, Miller is looking ahead.

"Some things happen in life that force you to decide what is best for you," Matt Miller said. "Something that is not good for me personally, athletically or academically is not what I need to be doing. It's time for me to change and focus on something else. I am actually quite happy with my decision. I have no second thoughts or regrets. I can't look, or live, in the past."

What a remarkable attitude from a 21-year-old athlete. He says he's grateful for the experiences he had during his three years playing football for Eastern, but he won't look back on giving up a chance to play two more years of football at Eastern or another school.

Instead, he's already planning a move to Spain in about 18 months to take advantage of his Spanish and international business degrees.

"I want to do a six-month tour of Spain and maybe do some kind of internship," Miller said. "I have a passion for travel. That's my plan right now and we'll just see where it takes me."

Don't feel sorry for Miller. He wants no part of that. He's happy and knows he has made the right decision even if a lot of us are always going to wonder how he went from one of the OVC's best receivers to having trouble getting on the field in only one year.

"I really don't want to talk a lot about what happened," Miller said. "I am not out to make anyone look bad. I am not out to bring down the program or coach. I still respect Eastern football and coach Hope.

"But life changes. You move on and adjust. I'll miss football, but I won't miss not getting to play."

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