Football

Arkansas grad transfer safety Miller ready for latest experience with Griz

on

Reid Miller is used to traveling around the country, acclimating to new groups of people and carving out meaningful relationships. With his latest decision for his future, the standout safety will play his final year of college football in a previously foreign place.

The Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania native first used football as a vehicle that brought him to IMG Academy for his final season in high school. At the Bradenton, Florida factory — IMG consistently produces among the most highly rated football prospects of any prep schools in the country — Miller saw his recruiting profile accelerate, eventually landing him an offer to Arkansas.

Now Miller will make another stop on his journey, this one as a graduate transfer at the University of Montana. He reports to Missoula to begin summer workouts with the Griz on June 10.

“I love it,” Miller said of his football travels and experiences. “You get to see the country, you get to meet people. Every stop I’ve made, I’ve made lifelong relationships. It’s all about connections once you are done with college and school. I’ve met a bunch of people in Pennsylvania. When I went down to IMG, I still keep in contact with several of those guys. And all my friends in Arkansas. I try to embrace it. If you don’t, it’s tough to be a big part of a team.”

Reid Miller during practice at Arkansas after earning a scholarship as a sophomore/ courtesy of Arkansas athletics

Miller contributed for three years on special teams for the Razorbacks while also excelling in the classroom, earning a spot on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll twice. The 5-foot-9, 202-pound safety initially joined the Razorbacks as a walk-on. Former head coach Bret Bielema awarded Miller a scholarship as a sophomore.

The hard-working, hard-hitting safety played in 25 games over the last two years, mostly on special teams, recording a total of 18 tackles and recovering a fumble. He also earned a degree in supply chain management.

That academic achievement opened the door for another football-related move, eventually leading him to the University of Montana. Bielema was relieved of his duties following last season’s 4-8 finish that included just one SEC win. Midway through football practices in Fayetteville this last spring, Miller started to think about his future.

“Coach Bielema was the main reason I went to Arkansas,” Miller said in an interview with ESPN Missoula in June. He’s a genuine guy and when you see a guy like that go, a guy that really recruited me pretty hard there and he leaves, it’s tough. That played a big role in me exploring leaving.”

Montana safeties coach Shann Schillinger, an All-American safety for the Griz who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 and played four seasons in the NFL, called Miller “three or four weeks into the process”. Miller looked into UM’s highly regarded Master’s of Business Administration program and was quickly reminded of Montana’s recent football prestige as well.

“I remember Montana from high school,” Miller said. “IMG Academy had a few kids recruited out of high school to go there. I remember their program as being very historic. They won a bunch of games.

The first weekend of June, Miller visited the Montana campus in Missoula for the first time. The visual beauty of the Missoula Valley struck him right away.

“Getting off the plane, I was amazed at the scenery, the mountains, the campus, it’s beautiful,” Miller said. “Pennsylvania, we have some mountains but nothing like that. Nothing like snow capped and it’s still 70 degrees on the ground. It’s truly unbelievable.”

Reid Miller

New and veteran Montana head coach Bobby Hauck — hired in December, Hauck previously won seven straight Big Sky Conference championships in seven seasons in his first stint at Montana from 2003 until 2009 — and Bielema are “really good friends”, according to Miller. Bielema helped get Miller in touch with Hauck and told him about the UM football program, further adding to what he already believed.

“Even before the visit, I was sold on Montana,” Miller said. “Coach Hauck, he’s been so successful. He’s 80-17 at the University of Montana. That speaks for itself. They have been so successful underneath him and he’s a great guy, a great person. He was the same guy throughout the entire process, same thing with Coach Schillinger.”

Miller joins a Montana secondary that loses a glut of experience from last season. Safety Justin Strong is battling for a roster spot with the New York Jets while safeties Mick Delaney and Korey Alexander exhausted their eligibility. Cornerback Ryan McKinley earned a shot with the Tennessee Titans before being released while fellow starting Griz corner Markell Sanders quit the team following last season.

This off-season, UM added Arizona transfer Gavin Robertson and Northern Arizona transfer Robby Hauck, Bobby’s son. The team also returns junior Josh Sandry and signed three prep safeties.

“The coaches expect to play me and they expect to play me a lot but nothing is promised,” Miller said. “I’ll play special teams too. That’s a big part of the game too. I just want to help the team anywhere I can. We are there to win football games.”

Griz safety Gavin Robertson/ by Jason Bacaj

Miller’s first football-related move led him to IMG Academy, an experience he says that “100 percent turned me into a Division I player.” At IMG, he played for former Heisman Trophy-winning former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke. Miller said the daily competition in practice helped him turn into a player worth of an SEC roster spot.

Similar competition at Arkansas has Miller confident in his ability to contribute in the Big Sky in his final season of eligibility.

His arrival in Missoula comes as early as he can move his belongings from Fayetteville to the Garden City before he digs in with his teammates. Miller is excited for what next year will bring.

“Life is about relationships and so is football,” Miller said. ‘That’s why I want to come early. I want the guys to be comfortable with me. The earlier the better. You get to talking to the guys and we all have a common goal. I definitely want to portray that to the guys, get in the weight room with them. Showing up right at fall camp doesn’t look good. I want to let them know that I’m there to grind in the summer. I think that’s the best opportunity for me.

“There’s a time and place for me to speak up but being a newcomer on the team, I’m definitely going to learn and watch the veterans on the University of Montana, how they work out, how they play. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Photos contributed by Reid Miller. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 12 year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to founded Skyline Sports.

Recommended for you