Maryland football co-offensive coordinator Mike Miller is rising fast

Suspension

Not so long ago, Mike Miller’s coaching resume included only two seasons as a student assistant for college teams. Miller, at the age of 25 full of energy, wasn’t far behind in his playing career, so the head coach at Charlotte Christian reminded him during summer practices that he, as the offensive coordinator, needed to keep his T-shirt on. The responsibility of calling plays drew Miller to the position, and he led the unit to the state championship game.

Miller’s wife Megan, who worked as an aide in the school’s kindergarten program, said his time in Charlotte was “a nice little touchdown for the first year of our marriage.”

Miller taught offensive schemes to the teens, and also pressure-washed stadium bleachers, zip-tied streamers to the baseball field’s outfield fence, took out the trash and mowed the lawn. Still talking about the baseball field, which drivers can see from the main road. Miller wanted it to look authentic, so where indoor lawn met lawn, he trimmed it with scissors.

“It was his pride and joy to cut it the right way,” said Miller’s father, Mike, who lives about a mile from Charlotte Christian and passes the school on the way to work.

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Landscape memories remind Miller of the size of his jump and the distance he covered—because those days weren’t that long ago. Arriving at Maryland as an assistant coach, Miller was struck by the absurdity: two and a half years before he took the high school coordinator’s position he had also mowed the lawn.

After the 2016 season with Charlotte Christian, Miller’s rapid climb up the coaching ladder began. His two seasons as a graduate assistant at Alabama led him to the Terrapins program, where he was the co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. When Michael Loxley hired Miller, he was mostly an unknown assistant with only five years of coaching experience. But at this point, he’s worked under some of the most respected coaches in the game, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney, earning three playoff appearances, a conference championship and a national title — all before he turned 28.

With the Terps, he jumped from tight end coach to passing game coordinator to his now expanded role while landing rosters recognizing rookie assistants. Miller could have left for a high school Power Five role after last season — when Maryland’s offense soared and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo became an NFL fourth-round draft pick — but he stayed at College Park with the promotion to co-offensive coordinator .

Miller, 31, wants to be a head coach one day, but “until then,” he said last spring, “just bloom where you planted, do a great job and see the end.”

Connie Miller can imagine her son’s gritty teeth and the decisive answer to a simple question. I asked why he wanted to play quarterback, wondering if he was popular. Her youngest child made it clear that he wanted to drive.

“That’s why he liked the quarterback position, even though he wasn’t very good,” said Miller’s father. “Kony wouldn’t tell you that. He would say Kony is all-American.”

Miller and his mom have the same unwavering optimism. She believed her son could be the starting quarterback at Ole Miss, both parents’ alma mater. Miller’s father, a former Rebels wide receiver, had a more realistic vision. When Miller went through the hiring process, which Connie compared to dating, several coaches showed interest, she said, “but no one pulled out the ring.”

Miller joined the UAB program as a senior and was eventually awarded a scholarship, despite never playing a game. (His father’s joke topped his son’s career, because he appeared on Total Seven He plays.) Miller transitioned into student coaching after a shoulder injury and his longstanding career aspirations crystallized in his mind.

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“Mickey had a laser focus on what he felt called to,” his mother said.

Miller’s father is a pastor, and his grandfather, who was a football player at Duke, was a fighter pilot in the Air Force for three decades. As a third-generation college football player, Miller became the first to channel a common longing for driving into coaching.

When the UAB program closed after Miller’s season as a student assistant, he headed to Clemson. He needed a waiver from the NCAA to finish his degree at UAB while coaching the Tigers. Miller slept at friends’ homes and sometimes on an air mattress at the football facility. Following Sweeney’s advice, Miller then took a high school job to learn how to call plays. Jason Estep, the head coach at Charlotte Christian, gave Miller control of an offense that had a future ACC quarterback and was in the midst of changing his identity.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that he’d be the next offensive coordinator around college football,” Estep said, adding that eventually, “somebody’s going to get a real, dedicated young coach.”

After the season at Charlotte Christian, Miller interviewed for a high school head coaching job and a graduate assistant position at Duke. He didn’t land either. He turned his attention towards the role of quality control in Tennessee. Then Judy Wright, at the time an Alabama support employee and former UAB assistant, asked if Miller would be interested in a role with the Crimson Tide.

Wright told Miller to send in his resume, and Saban would get it. Instead, Miller traveled to Tuscaloosa. Estep calls this story a “Mike Miller classic”.

Miller accepted that he probably wouldn’t get the job. As he began to leave the Alabama facility, he ran into Saban in the hallway. Wright introduced Miller, explaining that he was on his way to an interview in Tennessee. Saban replied, “Don’t you just want GA here?” A few hours later, after meeting with several coaches, Miller filled the position.

“It’s just with his blood to find a way,” said Miller’s wife. “If he wants it to work, he’ll do everything he can to make it work.”

After Miller arrived in Maryland, he explained how he wanted to coach his center group. Saban-esque managers about the process clashed with Swinney-esque philosophies about how he loves his players. Miller’s father describes Alabama as a a program, with Saban the “ideal manager”. Clemson feels like social communication. Both were successful, and Miller learned from each.

During the season, the coaches work long days, so Megan and the three kids visit campus twice a week—something the Millers have brought with them from Clemson. They even value five minutes together. Megan said those moments can be the “glue” amidst the hectic lifestyle.

“It’s just not his thing,” she said. “We are all part of it.”

Five-year-old Bo pretends to be quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and throws a ball to his 3-year-old brother Gresham, telling him, “There you go, CJ, catch it!” Like tight end CJ Dipper.

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Megan brings them to home games with seven-month-old Mary Caitlin strapped to her chest. They enjoy seeing their dad and the players during the Terp Walk before matches. Bo begins to rage as he cheers for his dad’s tight ends – at least when he’s not busy with Legos. They usually arrive a quarter or two before the kids are ready to leave.

Miller’s dad visited last week, and just before 7 a.m. the boys had turned on the light and greeted him with, “Pops, let’s play!” (After that, he was sore all the time playing.) By that early hour, Miller was headed to College Park, and Megan was having another day of fun mayhem.

At night, Mike and Megan talk about the guys like they’re their own kids. They pray for them and feel a responsibility to be a constant source of support.

That’s what Miller always wanted – to be a college football coach and lead youth team – but it all happened quickly. His father sometimes sends him pictures of Charlotte Christian’s baseball field to bring up some memories. And when Miller visited last summer, he headed to the school. Miller wanted to think, so he sat down at the lawnmower alone with nostalgia, remembering where he started and how far he’d gone.

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