Darrian Miller is the most productive large high school running back in the history of the state.
Editor’s note: Darrian Miller is the most productive large high school running back in the history of the state.
The Blue Springs High School graduate put a lot of distance between the previous Missouri big class rushing mark of 6,346 yards set by former Fort Osage standout Dalton Krysa when Miller, The Examiner’s 2010 Offensive Player of the Year, finished his career with a remarkable 6,566 career yards and 92 touchdowns, 88 of which came on the ground.
He was named the Missouri Gatorade High School Football Player of the Year in 2009 and was a finalist as a junior and senior for the Simone Award given to the top high school football player in the Kansas City metro area.
After graduating from Blue Springs in December, he enrolled in classes at the University of Kansas, where he hopes to earn a spot in the backfield as a true freshman.
Miller recently sat down with The Examiner’s Bill Althaus and talked about life as a Wildcat, the ups and downs of being the most recognized student in his high school, the pressures he faced as a high-profile recruit and how he got his start in a backyard in Mayview, a small town located near Odessa, Mo. The following is transcribed and edited from a three-hour interview with Althaus.
Let’s start from the beginning. When I was a little kid, I liked to climb trees and play with my friends in Mayview, which is real close to Odessa. We’d climb on bales of hay and run around – all the stuff kids do in a small town.
Back then, I didn’t know anything about football. All I knew about football was what I saw on the TV screen when I was playing old Madden NFL video games. Then one day my cousins were playing football, and they’re passing the ball around, and I get it and start running and no one could tackle me.
I guess you could say once I touched that football I started running – and people have been having a tough time tackling me ever since those days of backyard football with my cousins.
We moved to Blue Springs, and I started playing BSAA football in the fourth grade. I was the little chubby kid on the team. My coach was always pumping me up, calling me a stud who knew how to find the end zone. When I started playing football for BSAA, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I grew up a little bit – wish I was a little bit taller, but that’s all right – and could hardly wait to get to high school.
Once I got to high school, football was pretty important to me. I don’t remember who we were playing, but I remember I was a freshman and I came into the (varsity) game late and they called a 24 ISO. I knew that meant I was going to carry the ball, and I was scared. I got like three or four yards. I didn’t make a mistake or fumble, and I felt a lot better after that carry.
And the next year, I got a lot of carries, and good things started happening to me on the football field. But I noticed a lot of things were changing. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be my friend.
I had my real friends, the kids I’d been hanging with for a while. But everyone wanted to do something, to text me, wanted to hang out after school with me. I got invited to a lot of parties and I had to be careful.
I had to find out who my real friends were – and I had to do that my entire time in high school – because the better we played and the more yards I got, the more people wanted to hang with me. And some of them weren’t good people. I knew that; my mom knew that; my coaches knew that. And they all had my back and watched out for me.
My junior and senior years, I was “Darrian Miller, the running back from Blue Springs.” I just wanted to kick it with my friends, but there were a lot of other people who started hanging around me. I had to make sure that every time I went out – went anywhere – I was with good people and I didn’t want to put myself in a bad situation.
Before long, I got kind of paranoid and felt like I had some demons to battle. I hate being paranoid – but I was. I had so much to lose. I was starting to get the personal letters from the schools I wanted to attend, and I didn’t want to do anything to mess that up. I wanted to go out with my friends, but I thought to myself, “Can I risk it? Can I go out and make sure I don’t get into the wrong place or the wrong situation?”
The first time I got into some trouble was arriving late at one of our first practices my senior year. Coach said it sent the wrong message to the rest of the team. And I totally agree. I overslept. I had to practice with the junior varsity team – I got the message.
I know people think high-profile players are pampered. But at Blue Springs – at least at Blue Springs with Coach (Kelly) Donohoe – you’re not pampered. He’s tougher on me and the guys he expects so much from than anyone else on the team. He wants us to succeed. He wants the team to succeed.
Here I am, a goofy kid who oversleeps, and everyone thinks there’s some problem and a lot of people – not my teammates – start hating on me. What’s up with that? You don’t know the situation, so don’t judge me. My coaches and my teammates know what happened, and I did my punishment and got on with the season.
I made another mistake my senior year by going to a party. Everyone knows about it by now. It was around 5 a.m. on a Sunday – stupid, right? Well, I’m a kid, a goofy kid. And I shouldn’t have been at the party.
The police came, broke it up and I was just getting there. I wasn’t drinking, there weren’t any drugs – nothing. I wasn’t arrested – although I heard I was from a lot of people who didn’t know what they were talking about. It was the wrong place at the wrong time, but now I know that nothing good is going to happen when you’re out at 5 a.m., even it’s 5 a.m. on Sunday.
After that happened, I got a one-game suspension and couldn’t play in the game we lost to Staley. I was bitter.
I have to admit that now; I really was disappointed – but I was disappointed in myself. I stubbed my toe, and I had to pay for it. Do you know how tough it was to watch your team lose while you’re on the sidelines? I know I could have helped, but I couldn’t play.
I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t drinking or doing drugs, and I didn’t get into an accident or anything like that. But after sitting out that game, I came back hungry. I was hungrier than I’d ever been in my life. I guess Coach Donohoe knew what he was doing, because I was one driven (individual). I came back, put it in overdrive, and never left that gear the rest of the season.
After missing that game, a bunch of guys on the team and all my friends started asking me about the (all-time state rushing) record. They asked me if I thought I could break it after missing a game. I told them that I didn’t care if I carried the ball 30 times a game or five times a game – I was going to help our team win. If the record came, fine.
And I’ll be honest with you, I wanted it. I wanted it badly. But I never talked about it unless someone asked me. And if they asked me – and you know all this, because of all the times we talked during the season – I always gave credit to my line and our coaches. I’m just one little guy out on the field. I’d look pretty funny out there all by myself. I got the record because of great linemen and great coaches who put me and the team in a position to do great things.
More than getting the record though, I wanted to win. I hate losing more than I like winning. We made it to the state championship game my junior year, and we lost. I still hate that – you don’t work that hard to make something happen and lose. It still hurts me. I’d trade the rushing record for a state championship any day.
Now, I’ve traded the purple and gold of Blue Springs for the crimson and blue of KU – rock chalk! I never really enjoyed the recruiting process, although I remember when I got my first handwritten letter from the tight ends coach at Florida State University.
Then more letters came in. There were phone calls – a lot of phone calls. And visits, and all that stuff. Wisconsin made an offer. Minnesota made an offer. I know Keeston (Terry, another highly recruited Wildcat who is playing football at Kansas) changed his number, and I was thinking about changing mine. I’d just turn off my phone, so they’d think it was dead.
People were asking, “Did anyone offer you cash or a car or a house?” No, no and no. No way I’d ever talk to someone who offered those kind of things. I’m going to school for an education, and I get to continue playing football.
I didn’t respond to the coaches who talked negatively about other programs. They should have good things to say about their programs and not run down other schools.
I committed to KU, then I backed off. There were some coaching changes, and I wanted to make sure I still wanted to go there. I was impressed they still wanted to talk with me after I told them I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there. Coach (Reggie) Mitchell (running backs coach and recruiting coordinator) kept calling and was real positive and said he understood how I felt. That made me feel good. I know the team was 3-9 last season, but with this coaching staff and all the great recruits they are bringing in, I don’t see any 3-9 seasons in the future.
And, now, here I am in Lawrence, Kan., a kid who wears a hoodie and jeans and always is listening to his iPod. I got to know a kid in my English class and we went to this coffee shop. He just knew me as Darrian, and when we got there he looked me up and down and said, “You’re that 4-star (bleeper) KU recruited for football!” It was kind of funny, but I thought, “Here we go again.”
One final thing, people ask me if I have any regrets looking back at my four years at Blue Springs. I do. I wish I’d have enjoyed it more and not worried about so many things. If I went to a party and had a pop, I’d be worried someone would think I was drinking something that wasn’t healthy. They’d say, “I saw Darrian drinking pop at party, that’s why he didn’t have a good game.” You know, stuff like that.
One day I wore a Missouri baseball cap, and all those Tiger message boards said I was going to Missouri. Those people need to get a life. I wore a Texas shirt, and I’m going to Texas – it was Missouri all over again.
I’m thankful for my mom and that I had good friends who would watch my back. I can’t believe it’s all over. I hope I enjoy the next four years at Kansas as much as I enjoyed the last four at Blue Springs. I think it’s going to be nice to chill and be the little fish in a big pond. Right now, that sounds good to me.