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Living the Razorback dream with Lucas Miller

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Living the Razorback dream with Lucas Miller

Senior Lucas Miller is living the dream. Not everyone’s dream but his. And it’s one he shares with many native Arkansans.A native of Greenwood, Ark. and a Greenwood High School alum, Miller is one of the few that see their hopes and dreams of playing for the Razorbacks coming true. Not only is he playing but he’s contributing in every sense of the word, on and off the field. “It’s special to play at Arkansas and wear this jersey,” Miller said. “It’s a lot of fun. You grow up dreaming about it but you never think it’s going to be a reality. To run through the “A”, contribute to the team, have kids come up to you and want to be like you, the whole process is really special.”

Miller attributes his ability to haul in passes from his early days as a basketball player. Pointed out by his high school football coach, he has taken his basketball knowledge and applied it to playing wide receiver. “Coach Jones pointed out to me that I have a special knack for going after the ball and I think that comes from my basketball roots,” Miller said. “Playing basketball, blocking for a rebound, defending the ball, Coach Jones said that really helped me when I was catching passes. There’s definitely a direct correlation between playing basketball and being a receiver playing football.”

During his senior year of high school, Miller had aspirations of wearing black and orange and playing in Stillwater, Okla.“I actually thought I was going to play basketball at Oklahoma State,” Miller said. “Sports have always been a big part of my life and basketball was my first love. My high school football coach made me realize I might have a future in football. Football was new to me. I played basketball my whole life; I didn’t start playing football until the seventh grade.”

Miller’s short trip to Fayetteville wasn’t an easy one. Choosing between two very important aspects of his life, football and basketball, led him to two very different recruiting trips.“It was definitely a tough decision choosing between basketball and football,” Miller said. “When I went on my official visit to Oklahoma State, I just didn’t feel it. It wasn’t there for me. A few days later I got a call from the Arkansas staff wanting me to come visit. All my friends were here, my parents wanted me to be closer to home; it all fell in place for me to come to Arkansas. I did a lot of praying about it and it just made sense.” A supportive and knowledgeable coaching staff also helped cement Miller’s decision to come to Fayetteville. “The coaching staff here did a great job of putting it into perspective for me,” Miller said. “They are home-state guys with deep roots in football and basketball and know what it’s like to have to make a choice between two sports you love. We definitely connected on that level. They helped me realize Arkansas was the best fit for me.”

A staple during some of Arkansas’ best football days, he’s also seen his share of heartache and disappointment. However, Miller hasn’t let shoulder and knee surgeries and a broken collar bone stand in his way of carrying on a mission he started as a young true freshman in 2006. “My dad has always been my biggest fan,” Miller said. “He always let me know what he thought I was capable of. He really kept me motivated, especially during my surgeries. Hopefully, we have all these injuries in the past now and it is my time. I just want to be able to help this program in my last season.” While recovering from major surgeries and stressful injuries, Miller took the best from those situations and kept his focus on the game and on the field. “Someone recently told me that bad things come in threes so I should be done,” Miller said. “A lot of people don’t know I had shoulder surgery as a freshman. I took that and ran with it. I hope I’ve gotten these surgeries out of the way. I can concentrate on helping the team and bettering myself, bettering my skills. The guys on the team call me the bionic man now because I’ve had three surgeries. They have all been successful and hopefully they have made me stronger. I have great people taking care of me with our coaching staff, athletic training staff and our team of doctors.”

Miller had his breakout season in 2008, with head coach Bobby Petrino’s explosive, through the air attack falling into place, he got his chance to prove himself and earn a regular spot in Arkansas wide receiver rotation. “The 2008 season was a year with an offense that I could finally contribute in,” Miller said. “In years past, I was used as Darren McFadden and Felix Jones’ blocking receiver. It was an offense where we ran the ball, ran the ball and from time to time you get a pass. When you have guys like Marcus Monk in front of you, I got a little overshadowed until he got hurt and I had to step in.” Miller shined in games against Tulsa, South Carolina and Mississippi State. He finished the 2008 season fourth on the team with 30 receptions and had the second-highest receiving yard total (490). He also had a pair of touchdowns. He averaged 40.8 receiving yards per game and 16.3 yards per reception.

“I was excited for the new coaching staff to put their system into place,” Miller said. “I knew what they were bringing offensively. For our coaches to give me the opportunities that they did last year, it was a lot of fun. It takes a lot to gain their trust as coaches. We had to do a lot to prove ourselves to show them what we are capable of. This year, you see a lot of players that have grown up, that have matured. A year under this coaching staff has made the difference.” Miller had a career game against Mississippi State with 10 catches for 201 yards and a career-long 87-yard touchdown. His 201 yards were the second-highest single-game total in school history and just three yards shy of the record. His 87-yard TD reception was the longest by any Razorback in 2008. Miller’s 201 yards receiving was just the second time in Arkansas history that someone had caught balls for more than 200 yards.

Miller’s experience and abilities were missed in Arkansas’ first two games. Despite a deep and talented receiving corp, experience is something that is learned, not passed on and is a crucial part of what Miller brings to the table. Quarterback Ryan Mallett was one of the few that mentioned Miller’s name numerous times while he was recovering from a broken collar bone. “The quarterback/wide receiver relationship is key,” Miller said. “Ryan has that swagger about him that you like to see in the huddle. It really told me something when he kept saying the team needed to get me back. I told him during the five weeks or so that I was out, that I was coming back, don’t forget about me. I think he believed that.” Miller and Mallett are picking up right where they left off before Miller’s injury.“These past two weeks on the practice field, we have really gotten to where need to be, back where we were,” Miller said. “It was almost like I hadn’t missed five weeks. That’s one of the special things about our relationship. He knew where I was going to be and I knew where he was going to put it. Our relationship goes past football and that’s how we build our chemistry.”

Miller’s Razorback football memories aren’t all laced with injuries. He has been an important part of some of Arkansas’s most memorable wins; 2006’s 27-10 win at No. 2 Auburn and 2007’s 50-48 win at No. 1 LSU. “Both of those big wins were at two of the most hostile environments you can go to,” Miller said. “To come out with wins over top teams, it’s incredible. The team we have this year is very capable of that. I’ve never been more confident in a team than what we have this year. There are no limits to the potential of this team.”

Miller had difficult choices to make leading into and during his athletic career. Razorback fans are lucky he made the right one. Because of his play production on the field and the character he shows as a man, Miller will always be special to the Razorbacks and the Razorbacks special to Miller.



Sports Category : Football