I believe incredible value is found through historical perspective. In conversations with many parents and athletes over the years, a large portion have limited knowledge of the pathway taken by successful athletes. Reinventing the pathway wheel is not always necessary in reaching a goal, but with limited personal knowledge we often do this in youth sports.
Within our Pathway to the Pros series, I will provide intriguing descriptions of developmental pathways written from the viewpoint of the athlete by the athlete. Providing these examples to young athletes and inexperienced parents will allow for more goals and successes to happen in youth sports. Success in youth sports is possible when an intentional focus is applied towards development and growth.
I am extremely excited that Keith Miller is our first individual participating in our Pathway to the Pros series. Keith participated in numerous sports throughout his life and was able to attend The University of California on an athletic scholarship and following graduation, play in the National Football League. The passage will be broken into two blog posts for an opportunity to reflect about the various parts of his life. Enjoy the read…
Keith Miller: Born 1976, High School Degree, Junior College AA, University BA, and 2 years NFL experience.
It took each one of the subject items listed above and much more to collectively create my life experience.
FAMILY, SCHOOL, SPORTS were the three keys to my early story.
I grew up with an identical twin brother and, as I’ll try to explain, every day was an adventure. Growing up in the 80’s you were expected to be home when Mom whistled out the front door (one time) or within 2 minutes of the streetlights coming on. There were no exceptions to family rules. If the family needed you or if someone offended the family you were required to address the issue at once.
Although I did not serve in our military, my father and grandfather did. I would not say I had a drill sergeant of a dad, but again, like mom’s one whistle to get home, you were only asked to do things one time. If it wasn’t done, there were consequences. This type of upbringing set the tempo for always getting to school early and not getting into unnecessary trouble.
Early grade school was not easy for my brother and I. We were diagnosed with dyslexia during our 2nd grade year and were asked to repeat the grade to allow for catching up on our lack of reading skills. Good or bad, it was a decision that was made for us. Personally, I used that setback as a means to force myself not to fall behind again and to do what was needed to keep a good grade point average (GPA). A good GPA also kept me eligible to play sports. Even before High School and Collegiate GPA rules, I had to keep my grades up in order to play sports in elementary school and junior high school. It was during our grade school years that we played just about every sport we could and found out over time that football, basketball and volleyball would be our main 3.
Sports were the number three focus growing up (behind family and school). Each sport we participated in was always pushed to the limits. For example, when playing basketball and baseball we always played in the division or age group above the one assigned to us. My dad was insistent that better competition (or getting our butt kicked) was the best way to develop our skills quickly and efficiently. He was right, even if driving to the inner city to play pickup basketball meant waiting our turn to get on the court or to get picked up by the kids we didn’t know to play on their team. What I learned was that the key to getting picked up was playing good defense, passing the ball to teammates for the score and not missing shots when you got the chance.
During the sports seasons we dedicated every moment not spent with Family or School to sports or extracurricular activities, like surfing, snowboarding, and motorcycle riding… We attended volleyball camps, basketball camps, soccer camps… you name it, if it was on a week we didn’t have school or on a weekend, we were there.
Ok, now that the basics have been established, let me share with you my football story. I began playing football in the 5th grade. We didn’t have flag football at that time, so we all played tackle right from the start. During our first week or so of practice I remember being tested right away. The “bull in the ring” is one test that comes to mind. The full team makes a large circle and one player is chosen to stand in the middle. At random or maybe not so random the coach would call a player’s name and the player would run full speed and collide with the player in the middle. As soon as the collision was over, another name would be called and you had to locate where the next attack was coming from. It was awesome, because no matter the player’s size or skill level, we all had to do it. A young player could earn a lot of street cred by making a stand and taking the short-lived beating. I learned very quickly that I like to be the hitter rather than the receiver.
Pop Warner football was obviously just the beginning, but I was able to grasp the basics for the next level, which was high school. 9th grade was the first year of high school for me and football season begins in the summer and runs through November. I played defensive line and offensive line my freshman year. The next year (my sophomore year), I was asked to join the varsity offensive line. I guess it was a big deal, but to me it was what my dad had always wanted us to do, play up a level. I joined an experienced offensive line that (no joke) averaged 6’3” 280lbs. I was 6’0’ 200lbs. Thankfully the guy next to me was 6’4” 300lbs with the nick name “meat head”, so I felt a little more comfortable. Well, I was comfortable until my first game as the starting left guard, playing against a dominantly Samoan high school rival. The first opponent I played against was Joe Salave’a. Joe played a number of years in the NFL and I actually got to reminisce with him about our high school meeting while I was at camp with the Tennessee Titans in 2001. He didn’t remember it like I did. Joe picked me up on the first play, carried me back to the QB, threw me down and sacked the QB. Welcome to Varsity!
I learned quickly from that point on and was able to finish the year healthy and looking forward to my junior year and competing with my brother, friends and classmates on the same level. Junior year I started at ILB and again on the OL. We had a few two way players including myself and my brother that year. Linebacker was my favorite position. I enjoyed calling the plays for the defense and utilizing my defensive line to make big plays. Life was good, until a playoff game in which I suffered an ACL/MCL sprain in my right knee, which required surgery. My season was done, basketball was done and even volleyball was done. I never competed in scholastic basketball or volleyball again and began to concentrate on football. Once I got healthy and was ready to resume my starting ILB and OL duties, I was approached by our coach and asked to play on the DL as defensive end. I accepted my new role for the team and was able to obtain all-first team honors my senior year.
Blog post Part II coming soon…The College and NFL experience…
Empowering athletes, families, coaches, and organizations to create opportunities for lifetime success,
CLICK HERE to learn our WHY…