March 13th, 2013 10:05pm

Miller forging own path despite following father’s footsteps

by

Corey Miller knew his son Christian was cut out for football at an early age.

When he was just five years old, he began playing Pop Warner with kids who were two years older than him. One day during a tackling drill, his toughness was tested.

“He got whacked pretty hard,” his father recalled. “This 7-year-old ran right through him. He started crying and I said, ‘OK, that’s it.’ ”

But to his surprise, Christian collected himself and returned to the line.

“He wanted to go back in there,” Miller said. “So I knew then he had something special about him.”

Christian Miller is now 16 and ranked the nation’s No. 4 outside linebacker by Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. The Rivals100 member from Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley committed to Florida over Alabama following his visit to UF’s Junior Day on Feb. 16.

Miller is proud of his son’s success to this point, especially because he has reached this level largely on his own.

“As I he got older, I could see the athleticism and I realized he had it in him,” Miller said. “But as I did with both of my kids, I wanted them to love the game and not feel like I forced the game on them.”

The elder Miller was a linebacker/defensive end at South Carolina from 1988-1990. He was drafted by the Super Bowl champion New York Giants in 1991 and spent eight years with the team. He was a full-time starter by his third season in the league and had the opportunity to play alongside the legendary Lawrence Taylor.

“He’s the best linebacker to ever play the game, in my opinion,” said Miller, who retired in 1999 after one year with the Minnesota Vikings.

But as Miller intended, his NFL career never had much of an influence on his son’s interest in football.

“I have the natural genes for it, I guess,” the younger Miller said. “But my dad didn’t play too big of a part for me. It’s just kind of something that I enjoy doing myself.

“I’m honestly an independent person and my parents are just always there to support me. That’s what I like about my family. They go with I want to do. They don’t try to force anything on me.”

Miller with his father at Florida's Junior Day on Feb. 16. (Photo by Corey Miller)

Although Miller has shown signs of football potential since his childhood, the enjoyment he feels with the sport didn’t develop until recently.

He almost quite playing after middle school. The summer going into his ninth grade year, Miller didn’t want to go through offseason conditioning and stopped going to workouts. After reconsidering, he decided to join the team late.

But the day before he started high school, Miller broke his elbow.

“I missed that whole freshman year and then I came back in 10th grade ready to go,” Miller said. “I moved up to varsity right away, so I never played in a JV game.”

But it wasn’t until this time last year that things became serious for Miller. After going through spring football and being named one of top underclassmen at the Charlotte Nike Football Training Camp, his recruitment took off.

“I was going against older guys and I did really well,” Miller said. “That’s when I realized that I could really do something with this because coaches starting coming after me, and they know best.”

One of the first was Brad Lawing, who coached Miller’s father at South Carolina and was still with the Gamecocks at the time. He offered Miller as a defensive end, which caught the lifelong linebacker off guard.

“Christian was under 200 pounds at the time,” his father said. “But I feel like one of the most important things a coach has to do is be able to project and see that kid 50 pounds heavier. And that’s what he saw in Christian.”

Miller was initially turned off by the idea, but that changed this past year.

He played defensive end for the first time during his junior season (highlights HERE). Miller was only 190 pounds and had zero training at the position, but he finished with a school-record 14 sacks, 121 tackles (21 TFL), four forced fumbles and three recoveries.

“I grew up wanting to be a linebacker because that’s what I always played, but I’ve grown into a pass rusher,” Miller said. “I’ve always naturally had it, but I’ve come to realize that’s what I am. So I actually like that better now and I have the athleticism to be a hybrid linebacker.”

After accepting the change in his skill-set, Miller started searching for a college coach who could develop his pass-rushing skills better than anyone else.

He found him in Gainesville.

“South Carolina was never a player for Christian once coach Lawing left,” Miller’s father said. “When he went to Florida, we knew we’d hear from him again pretty soon. And it didn’t take long.

“Coach (Will) Muschamp loved his tape and he really wanted him. Christian watched a ton of film on Florida and Alabama and researched both schools, but at the end of the day it was Brad Lawing and Will Muschamp. Will is a great defensive coach and Brad was the X-factor. It was just a slam-dunk fit for Christian.”

Miller is looking forward to working with someone who not only coached his father, but several talented players in his 24-year career.

“We have a great relationship and my dad feels very comfortable with him,” Miller said. “He has the experience and he definitely knows what he’s doing with pass rushing. I have trust in him that he can get me to my highest level and have me playing at my full ability.

“Pass rushing is natural for me, but I’ve never done one drill for it at my school and I don’t really get a chance to work on it. This past season was just raw ability. So I can only imagine what’s it’s going to be like once I get to college and actually have someone like coach Lawing teaching me.”

Miller’s father first met Lawing when he was 19 years old, and he hasn’t come across a better college coach since.

“I think he’s the best defensive line coach in the country, no doubt about it,” Miller said. “When you look at his pedigree and the guys he has coached, he’s a great developer of talent. He’s very old school. He’s not a new age coach. He’s going to yell. He’s going to scream. He’s going to push you. But at the same time, you know he cares for you and he wants to see you perform at your best.”

Christian Miller is up for the challenge. He’s currently 215 pounds and hopes to be over 220 for his senior season. His primary position at UF will be strongside linebacker, but he’s going to line up at defensive end in dime or nickel packages and could grow into the Buck position.

With his recruiting process over and his academics in order (3.9 GPA), Miller is focused on taking his football potential through the roof.

“You’re not going to find somebody 6-foot-4 who has a 6-foot-10 wingspan and can move like a wide receiver,” he said. “I’m not trying to sound cocky, but that’s what everyone tells me. Nick Saban and Will Muschamp both said I’m one of the best pass rushers in the nation with my height, my length and my speed. But I feel like you can always improve and I don’t believe I have a ceiling. The sky is the limit.”

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Comments

15 Comments

  1. March 14th, 2013 12:37 am

    Yes! Good stuff man.

    by J


  2. March 14th, 2013 12:41 am

    Very exciting, sounds like he’s going to be a beast. We haven’t had a dominant speed rusher in a while. Great article Zach, love the depth of your profiles, more in depth than anywhere else.

    by impgator


  3. March 14th, 2013 1:16 am

    You’re the best writer on the staff, Zach. Thanks. Keep up the good work.

    by Doug


  4. March 14th, 2013 7:09 am

    Twenty-first Century reminiscence of “Big” Jack Youngblood!

    by Gatormac


  5. March 14th, 2013 8:47 am

    Muschamp is building a dynasty here! where all the haters at who wanted his head after the first season? that’s what I thought! GO GATORS!

    by Ryan


  6. March 14th, 2013 9:00 am

    Great job as usual, Zach (we missed you BTW). On another note-are there any plans for UF to get new grass? Just from the background picture that grass looks horrendous. I know it’s the offseason but dang! Even during the season the field is hideous compared to other programs. I love the grass fields but they need a serious upgrade in that department. I think South Carolina has the best grass of all of the SEC teams. It looks almost fake & you would think that being in Florida where the weather is pretty much great year round that they could invest in some quality turf. Just an observation. Keep up the good work!! Go Gators!!

    by (BRGF) Baton Rouge Gator Fan


  7. March 14th, 2013 10:36 am

    Is it just me or is Coach Muschamp bringing in a higher percentage of good students with solid families than we’ve had in the past? It seems like the past 2 years there are only a few academically risky players in each class. I love it!

    by Gville Gator


  8. March 14th, 2013 11:03 am

    6’10 wingspan? Sounds like has basketball athleticism

    by Kyle


  9. March 14th, 2013 10:54 pm

    AWSUME JOB ZACH!!!

    by mike


  10. March 15th, 2013 12:21 am

    @Ryan……I don’t recall anyone ever stating Muschamp should be canned after 2011, but fans had every right to be critical. That season was a complete dumpster fire. Last season was encouraging, but I need to see some improvements offensively to gain more confidence. And he needs to calm down on the sideline. His tantrums are embarrassing.

    by Scooterp


  11. March 15th, 2013 9:10 am

    @ Scooterp – Most Gator fans love Muschamp’s fiery personality and hopefully, he won’t listen to the few, like you, that want him to play patti-cake. Football is a very emotional game and it’s his job to lead his team. He has had many legitimate reason to go off on the Officials. Some of the calls and no-calls that went against us, over the past few years were ridiculous. So, give em hell, Champ.

    There were a few fans calling for Champ to be replaced, during the first year and at the beginning of the second. Some called him a second coming of Zook. I made numerous challenges to those fans to make sure they come back and take their licks, when they were proven to be wrong.

    So of those same fans have done the same thing with Driskel. I hope they come around mid season, so that they can be proven to be lacking in football knowledge, again.

    by GIGator


  12. March 15th, 2013 12:37 pm

    Great job, Zach. Love how you always try to find the personal spin to connect more with the players/recruits!

    by Sarah


  13. March 15th, 2013 12:39 pm

    GIGator…. To each his own, I guess. I don’t mind the emotion of firing his team up, but when your a coach of top tier football program you’re also a statesman and the face of the university. He’s not a DC anymore, he’s the HC of arguably the best coaching gig in all of college football and should conduct himself like one. The F-bomb, cursing and bombastic behavior are embarrassing.

    by Scooterp


  14. March 22nd, 2013 12:44 am

    @GI Gator I agree completely! I’m tired of having to take this crap from the refs! I don’t know why, but Florida NEVER has good, fair refereeing. People can call it a conspiracy, but go look at the tape. I’m glad we have a coach that won’t stand for that nonsense.
    @scooterp The fans had a reason to be unhappy at 2011, but not because of Muschamp. There’s only so much you can do in your first season. That first season is a reflection of the previous coach. And the more that comes out, them more clear it becomes that Meyer shafted us in his final years. I’m so glad we’re rid of him. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate 2 National championships, but we better be glad we were able to get a cvoach as great as Muschamp to right the ship as quickly as he did, otherwise it may not have been worth it.

    by TJ


  15. September 12th, 2013 2:30 pm

    [...] The biggest decommitment has already happened, in my opinion. Losing linebacker Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) in May was a huge blow for the Gators because they don’t have many options at the position. He has committed to Alabama and will be hard to sway back despite his close relationship with UF assistant Brad Lawing. [...]

    by Zach's Mail Stack 9/12 | Gator Prospectus Gator Prospectus - Gator Sports - Gainesville, FL - Archive


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