Senior does it all for Napoleon

Was once just another face in crowd for Wildcats

By BRUCE HEFFLINGER hefflinger@crescent-news.com Published:

NAPOLEON -- From the unknown freshman to Mr. Versatility in three short years.

That's been the high school football path taken by Napoleon's Tyler Miller.

Now a senior, Miller was just a face in the crowd as a ninth grade football player coming out of junior high from St. Paul Lutheran.

"He was so quiet I didn't know him as a freshman," admitted Napoleon head coach Tory Strock, then in his first year in charge of the program. "He just blended right in. He could have been lost in the shuffle."

Luckily for the Napoleon football program that didn't happen.

Instead, Miller has become one of the most feared football players in northwest Ohio. After all, few are counted on to do as much as Miller is each Friday night.

Catching passes and running a sweep are normal tasks asked of the 5-10, 170-pound wideout in the Napoleon offense.

When it comes time to punt, Miller is one of the best around averaging better than 40 yards a boot.

If the opposition is kicking the ball, Miller is back to receive, be it a punt or a kickoff.

On defense, Miller is a starting outside linebacker where - you guessed it - he has the job of helping stop the run as well as defending the pass depending on the defensive call.

Need more?

Miller also handles extra-point and field-goal duties, responsibilities he held a year ago and then added to his resume in mid-season this year upon necessity.

"In my 15 years of coaching Tyler is the most versatile, multi-talented kid I've ever coached," Strock said. "Maybe once every 20 years do you find somebody who does as much as him and not say a word. And it won't go to his head - he has no ego.

"All he cares about is winning. He will do anything he can do to win. He's played through so many injuries ... he's so tough. If you want a finesse athlete, he's not it."

It's quite a change from his freshman campaign when he saw most of his action in the defensive backfield.

"I played a little linebacker then and I've played it every since," Miller related. "As a 3-5 outside backer you don't have to be big, it's more of a mix between corner and linebacker. You help stop the run and you drop back in coverage."

To date Miller has 35 tackles, one sack, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown in last week's win over Sylvania Northview, the second straight victory for Napoleon which helps give the Wildcats an excellent opportunity at reaching the playoffs.

But it's the other side of the ball he prefers most.

"There's not a better feeling than to catch the ball and run in the open field knowing what's ahead of you," Miller said of his preference for playing wide receiver.

Miller currently has more than half of the receptions on the Wildcats, with 33 catches for 404 yards and four touchdowns.

The leading scorer on Napoleon with 50 points, Miller has also hit paydirt via the kick return route, averaging 33.1 on eight returns this season. In addition, Miller has been good for 14.1 yards a punt return.

"It's fun when everyone in the stadium knows the ball is going to him and he still makes plays," Strock said of his all-around threat. "That's a sign of a game-changer."

A standout baseball player as well, it's with his foot that Miller may be the most dangerous on the gridiron.

On kickoffs, Miller has booted 13 of 45 kicks into the end zone. In the punting game, Miller averages an impressive 40.6 on 39 punts with a longest of 63 yards. Exactly one-third of his punts have landed inside the 20-yard line.

"Special teams equals 'hidden yardage,'" noted Strock. "Often times, this hidden yardage does not appear on the stat sheet. When you look at how Tyler Miller's punting and kicking has changed field position, you'll see a big reason why we've been able to get things back on track here at Napoleon. When you have an offensive philosophy like ours, it is imperative that we're not constantly having to drive 80 yards at a time."

In addition to his prowess kicking off and as a punter, Miller has connected on 8-of-11 PAT kicks and 2-of-3 field goals.

It's left his future wide open.

"I'm hoping to go to college for baseball, either Division II or a small D-I school," Miller noted. "But I'm also looking at kicking or punting at a MAC-type school."

No matter the future selection, it's quite a step up from his days as an unknown freshman.

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