VOL. 132 | NO. 219 | Friday, November 3, 2017
The Press Box
Anthony Miller: A Great Catch for Memphis
By Don Wade
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo watched Anthony Miller catch 10 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns this year.
“Great route runner, great hands … faster than you realize,” Niumatalolo said.
Connecticut coach Randy Edsall tried to stop him, then tried to slow him down, then looked up and at the end of it all and saw Miller had caught 15 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns.
“He understands what they’re trying to do (on offense), understands defenses, understands how to get open, understands how to get off the line of scrimmage,” Edsall said. “He’s got a real good feel for the game.”
We cannot say the same for all the college coaches who missed on Miller.
Here’s the truth: Anthony Miller didn’t walk on at Memphis because no one had seen him play at Christian Brothers High School. He walked on because they saw him, watched him make plays, met him – “I shook a lot of coaches’ hands,” Miller said – and they went on their way.
Maybe because Miller is only 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. But Miller doesn’t really buy that, and even the NFL has plenty of smallish receivers these days.
No, Miller believes those coaches doubted him because his 40-yard dash time was in the 4.7 neighborhood in high school. They didn’t see how that would translate to the next level.
Today, if you’re one of those coaches who shook Anthony Miller’s hand and treated it as goodbye, it’s clear you played the fool.
Last season, he set Memphis records with 95 catches for 1,434 yards. In the first quarter last week against Tulane, he became the career receiving leader at Memphis with 2,987 yards. His 29 career TDs is also a program record and his 10 receiving TDs this season is second in the nation and his 107.4 receiving yards per game is fifth in the country.
When he was catching nine passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers beat a ranked UCLA team on national TV in September, Hall-of-Famer wide receiver Cris Carter was tweeting about Miller’s inevitable future in the NFL.
“Crazy,” Miller said. “One of the greatest tweeted me.”
So a quick story about “signing day” at CBHS. Miller was included, even though this was really a well-intentioned fraud. Yes, he was going to Memphis. No, he was not getting a scholarship.
“They actually made me go in there and sit at the table with a sheet of paper and there was nothing on it,” he remembered. “They just took a picture and I had the Memphis hat on.”
But he was OK with that. He ran the route that was available to play Division 1 football.
“I just wouldn’t accept me going to a Division 2 school because I always knew I could compete with the big dogs,” he said, “because I believe I’m a big dog.”
Works like a dog, too. That’s what his coach of these last two seasons, Mike Norvell, will tell you over and over.
“His work ethic is what truly separates him,” Norvell said.
Miller and the Tigers are rolling along in the midst of a special season. They are ranked in both polls and are 23rd in the College Football Playoff rankings. They have a chance to play for an American Athletic Conference championship. The road to the New Year’s Day Peach Bowl is in front of them.
And Miller is running toward possible All-American status.
True, he might not be running there in the absolute fastest time. But if there’s a route to be found, a way to get where he needs to be – like the way he finds an open patch of green on third down when quarterback Riley Ferguson needs him most – Anthony Miller will deliver.
“Nobody believed I would ever be like this,” said the player once dismissed with a hand shake and a smile. “They’re seeing now.”
Don Wade’s column appears in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.