Area Male Athlete: Flyers' Miller packing on the mileage
Thomas Miller Year: Senior School: Little Falls Sport: Football Position: Running back, returner, safety Highlights: Rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns against Milaca OPTIONAL Little Falls senior Thomas Miller on new Flyers head coach Joe Ba...
School: Little Falls
Position: Running back, returner, safety
Highlights: Rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns against Milaca
Little Falls senior Thomas Miller on new Flyers head coach Joe Bartos: "He's done a great job from the very beginning. He's a younger guy and he's pretty easy to relate to from a player's point of view. He played college football not too long ago. ... Very upbeat. Very energetic. He's done a great job of enforcing that there are 11 guys on the field and if one guy doesn't do their job we won't succeed."
Thomas Miller did not want to leave the field Aug. 28.
Few could blame him.
The senior carried the ball 37 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Little Falls Flyers' 20-13 win over Milaca. He would have had three touchdowns, but an 80-plus-yard kickoff return was called back because of a penalty.
"I have to say that's the most action I've ever gotten, but at the same time I didn't have to take many big hits," Miller said. "Our line did a great job. I'm not necessarily a guy that runs through a lot of people. I like to run around and break arm tackles and do stuff with my feet rather than my shoulder pads."
Both of Miller's touchdowns were from a yard out, but what the returning back did between the end zones helped Little Falls outgain Milaca by 70 yards.
"He is just a great competitor, who is very fun to watch," said Flyers first-year head coach Joe Bartos. "He's an aggressive runner. He's quick. Makes very good cuts and good reads. He finishes his runs very hard. He's almost always falling forward."
Miller stands only 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, but his ability to read blocks and defenders as well as make quick cuts makes life easier on his body. Miller's strength and durability, however, are two traits that have impressed Bartos the most.
"I knew that he was a good athlete and one of the better athletes in the high school, but I did not know how aggressive of a runner he was," Bartos said. "I knew he was fast. I figured he would be more like a west-east type football player for us, but he's got the ability to go north-south.
"It didn't take very long to pick him out of the crowd."
In a season-opening loss to Detroit Lakes Aug. 22, Miller rushed for 107 yards on 26 carries.
Last season, Miller rushed for 352 yards and five touchdowns on 73 carries for a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. He also caught five passes for 77 yards and another score.
Being in shape is nothing new for the three-sport athlete because he doesn't have time not to be. Miller was the top goal scorer for the Flyers' hockey team last winter with 20 goals to go with 20 assists and was one of their top pitchers on the high school and American Legion baseball teams.
"I do put a lot of work in during the offseason," Miller said. "This summer, I really focused on baseball. I had that occupying my whole summer, but at the same time I was doing my own conditioning and lifting and all that stuff. I do that on my own, but I hold it to a high standard because I know it's important coming into the season to be a leader you have to be in good shape. Definitely with football, it's such a brutal sport on your body, it helps being more in shape.
"I obviously try to be on the field as much as I can. If it comes to a point where I get too tired, I will take myself out for the good of the team. I don't want to be out there dragging someone else down or not performing 100 percent."
Along with returning kicks, Miller plays safety for the Flyers' defense, which means he's on the field a lot and that's just the way he wants it.
"Tom is a leader by example," said Bartos. "We ask the kids to bring their perfect sustained effort to every practice every day no matter if you're on the field or on the sideline watching. Tom does that for us. He's a very strong leader by example. He will give absolutely nothing, but his personal best. Thomas is one of those kids who doesn't have an off switch. He just goes. He doesn't know how to take a break.
"We asked him a couple of times during the Milaca game, 'Miller, you need to come off and take a breather.' He just waved us off and said he wanted to play."
Other notable performances:
Football: Hunter Berggren, Staples-Motley, rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown against Frazee.
Matt Miller, Staples-Motley, scored on a 60-yard run and an 80-yard interception return against Frazee.
Zach Struss, Pine River-Backus, scored two rushing touchdowns and was 8-of-15 passing for 139 yards and another touchdown against New York Mills.
Jake Larson, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown against Braham.
Noah Gindorff, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown and threw for 100 yards and two more scores against Braham.
Jerod Novak, Aitkin, rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns against Duluth Denfeld.