Heath Miller's biggest challenge lies ahead
BY BRIAN WOODSON
Bristol Herald Courier
Apr 20, 4:00 AM EDT
Heath Miller was the best Group A high school quarterback in Virginia at Honaker High School, and later became the top college tight end in the nation playing for the University of Virginia.
However, Miller?s biggest challenge lies ahead, as the 2001 Honaker graduate attempts to become the best at his position in the National Football League. He left Virginia with one year of football eligibility remaining to take his chances in this weekend?s NFL Draft, when he will likely be a first round pick.
Not everyone is ready to make the jump to the NFL, but even Virginia head coach Al Groh had to admit that Miller was making a good decision when he made his announcement on Jan. 10. Groh should know, he coached 13 years in the NFL.
"There is a significant difference between a player being ready to be drafted and that of a player being ready to play well in the NFL. Heath clearly fits into both categories," said Groh, on Virginia?s official Web site.
It?s been a hectic few months for Miller, who played the end of last season at Virginia with a "sports hernia" and had to undergo surgery in the off-season to repair damaged abdominal muscles. His recovery didn?t allow him to participate fully at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February, and it still hasn?t allowed him to do a full workout for individual teams. While concerns over that injury have caused the 6-foot-5, 254-pound Miller to drop on some draft boards, Miller is still considered the top tight end in the draft.
Miller?s march to the NFL draft began in Swords Creek, a small community near Honaker. He enjoyed a stellar three-year career at quarterback for Honaker, accumulating 6,182 yards of offense and accounting for 77 touchdowns. As a senior in 2000, Miller led the Tigers to an 13-1 record, and a runner-up finish to King William in the Division 2 state title game.
After choosing Virginia early in the recruiting process over Virginia Tech and Iowa, Miller stayed committed to his decision when then-Virginia head coach George Welsh retired, and Groh was hired. Miller was redshirted, shifted to tight end, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In three seasons, Miller set school and ACC records for a tight end, recording 144 catches and 20 touchdowns, along with winning the Mackey Award as the nation?s best at that position. He was a unanimous first-team All-America selection as a junior, a second-team All-America pick as a sophomore, and was on numerous Freshman All-America squads in his first season at the position.
With Miller already close to completing his degree in sociology, Miller had little left to prove on the collegiate level.
Nicknamed "Big Money" by his Virginia teammates, Miller will, no doubt, make some "big" money soon. Depending on where he is drafted, he could receive several million dollars as a signing bonus. But, more importantly, a dream will be realized.
The 22-year-old Miller, who did not return calls seeking comment for this series of stories, will be in Charlottesville on Saturday when his name is called, according to family members. Once that announcement is made, Miller will get on a plane and take off for his new home.
That is when the quest to be the best will start all over again. Miller has done it twice before. Don?t bet against him doing it firstname.lastname@example.org
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