Keith Miller had numerous transformational experiences within his youth sports participation. Read the first part of his Pathway to the Pros story at the following link: http://wp.me/p3tTRv-Fkx. Within this post, Keith discusses his involvement in football at the collegiate and professional level. Success in youth sports is possible when an intentional focus is applied towards development and growth. Enjoy the Read…
In high school you receive what you think is a lot of interest from Division 1 colleges looking to recruit you. At the time, you think that all the letters and coaches visits are setting you up for a free ride to a big- time college football program. In reality, they are sending that same propaganda to 100’s if not 1000’s of recruits just like you.
I was not offered a scholarship out of high school and instead watched my bother accept a full ride to San Jose State and my good friend/right tackle accept a full ride to Arizona. Devastated? Yup. It was crushing to receive accolades and praise from coaches and players I had competed against for years, but not have anything to show for it. I let that bother me for about 5 minutes, before I wiped away the tears and decided to go to Junior College to try again at a college football scholarship while also pursing my goal to graduate from college with a degree.
Junior College (JC). You might think I am joking, but the rule in JC is that if you have not started your college eligibility or taken more than 9 credits, you are able to play a college sport. That being said, we had 40 year old men, ex-cons, and couch potatoes trying out for the team. I guess it was my first eye-opening collegiate experience.
I split time at ILB my first year, but drummed up enough interest to get called by Arizona State, who needed a linebacker for their next season. I was back on track to fulfill my goal, but was again disappointed to find out that they did not have enough scholarship money and would not be able to offer a full ride to me at this particular time. I went back to JC for my second season and was also on track to receive my AA degree which made me eligible to transfer to a 4 year college after the first semester. During the season, I was the solo starting ILB and played against some highly sought after opponents. One particular opponent was being scouted by Steve Mariucci who coached for the University of California Berkeley. In that particular game Coach Mariucci had no idea who I was, but by the time that game was over, in which I had a number of tackles for loss against this highly sought after QB he had come to watch, he not only knew who I was, but he came personally to my house after the season to offer me a full scholarship to the University of California Berkeley. I accepted. I did take a number of recruiting trips to Division 1 schools, but with the educational strength and reputation of CAL’s academic program it was a very easy decision.
CAL. Now that I was at the next level I did my off the field work to keep me eligible and worked just as hard to earn the starting MLB spot on the team. Game 1 vs. Houston in Houston started off like a dream. I got my name called and ran out of the tunnel, I had the first two tackles of the game, but then came the 4th play of the game. Sprained knee and ankle. My season was done. The decision was made to medical redshirt that year and begin preparing for the next season. I worked on my academics and getting healthy. School was tough. The professors did not cater to athletes at CAL. In fact it was the opposite. Please understand CAL is on an academic pedestal when it comes to the top schools in the nation, and it was for this very reason that I choose to accept a scholarship there. I would not have been eligible to join this university if it were not for football, so when the professors didn’t know or care what your name was or what you did, I did not take it as an insult.
My rehab went well and I was back to training and enjoying the winter snow board season. CAL was about 2 hours from Lake Tahoe and since I had grown up snowboarding , this was an epic opportunity to head to the mountains several times that year. During the 4th trip to the mountain, I got a little ahead of myself and without warming up or taking a few runs down the slopes, I went straight to the snowboard park and off the first big jump I could find. I knew I was in trouble when at the peak of the jump, I could hear someone on the chair lift say “oh sh$t”. Needless to say, I finished the rest of the day snowboarding, in complete denial that I had dislocated my wrist and fractured a few bones.
Spring football started a few week later, and I was sidelined with my second injury at CAL. I was able to get healthy enough to play the next season in a reserve role. I played each one of the 3 linebacker positions and even played nose guard in the final two games of the year. Lesson learned- no snowboarding in the offseason.
My final year at CAL and we had two of the top rated linebackers in the nation as well as one of the top defensive backs in the country. The spotlight was set for a big year at CAL and I was finally healthy. I started that year and after a few standout games was approached by a NFL scout who said I had a shot at the NFL. He called me a diamond in the rough. 9 of the 11 guys on defense that year got tryouts to play in the NFL, in which 5 of us stuck and played. The Rams selected me during the 2000 draft as a free agent. I had graduated from CAL in December, so the first goal to graduate was complete. I was now completely focused on making the next and highest level possible for a football player.
I was blessed to play 2 seasons in the NFL over a 4 year period, with a stint in NFL Europe. I played one season with the Rams, one season with the Scottish Claymores in Scotland and 1 year in Seattle. I had a cup of coffee with the Tennessee Titans, and worked for the Browns, Texans, and Patriots. (Yes, I used to know Tom Brady…we had the same agent).
There are many paths to where we eventually end up in life and I would not trade mine for anything. I have been able to be in the movies: The Longest Yard and Invincible. I have met many celebrities, played football in front of 80,000 fans, traveled to Europe, purchased a home…and had many, many doors opened for me through my athletic experience.
I would encourage a young athlete just starting out to set goals that will allow them to get to the next level and work hard for those goals. Focus on completing your education and keep your family close to your heart at all times. Thanks for reading my story and I hope it has an impact for athletes, families, and coaches that are looking forward to working hard to reach a level of success.
Special thanks to Keith and Ellie Mae for writing and editing this great story! I was excited to get to know Keith on a closer level as I married into the family!!! Courtney Nein my amazing wife made the connection and created this opportunity. Thanks so much Court!!!
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