Brewing up support
Defensive end is registering big tackles, building fan excitement with catchy slogan every Friday
As Andrew Miller hogties a running back or sacks a quarterback on Friday nights, opposing fans could get confused.
"Is this a football game or a beer commercial?" they might wonder.
Chieftain fans often bellow "It's Miller Time" and display signs with the same slogan. Every time the Tonganoxie High senior enters an opponent's backfield and smothers a running back or quarterback, it's usually pandemonium for THS fans.
But the phrase is nothing new to Miller.
"My parents used to say it all the time, just jokingly as a kid," Miller said. "It's come to be a little chant."
The Milwaukee-based brewing company has had rights to the slogan for some time, but the Tonganoxie Miller has cornered a market all his own tackles.
The Chieftain defensive end has had heavy pressure on opponents this season. He's registered 15 tackles for losses in four games, has blocked a punt and took another blocked punt in for a touchdown. Teams are now keying on Miller by double- or triple-teaming him at times. That's all part of the game for Miller.
"If it takes more guys to stop me and let my other teammates go through, that's OK," Miller said. "As long as one of my players makes a tackle, they can do it all night."
But at some point during the night, the senior finds a way to break through.
"They figure out where the constant pressure comes from," Miller said. "They let me have it. They bring it on. "But that's OK. If they can stop me, kudos to them."
THS coach Mark Elston said it's taken a lot of work for Miller to get to where he is.
"He busted his tail in the weight room this year just as he's done every year," Elston said. "He knew he was going be a big factor for us on defense so he stepped himself up to the challenge."
But, Elston said his senior has taken it all in stride. The third-year coach mentioned that Miller always has a grin on his face except when he's playing football.
"He's confident, but he's not cocky," Elston said.
Coming into this season, Miller only played defense. This season, however he's a platoon player, going at offensive tackle as well.
Blocking for his own backfield has been tougher than pursuing opponents, but Miller is slowly learning. In fact, Miller admitted he's never been too excited about playing offense, but line coach Matt Bond wouldn't let him stick to defense this season.
Luckily for Miller, he has some guidance on the field.
"My guard next to me is like a coach on the field," Miller said about junior Luke McCarty. "He knows everything."
Adjusting hasn't been a new concept for Miller. During his sophomore campaign, just three days before the home opener against Perry-Lecompton, Miller broke his tibia. The injury came after he got caught under a pile of teammates during practice. The leg injury near his ankle required a pin and screw, but Miller got through the mishap. He was healthy when wrestling practice began in November.
"I think it was just a setback," Miller said. "It was just my time.
"It was meant to happen and it happened. You can only get better in the offseason."
Miller said he's had no major repercussions from the injury.
"I didn't want it to be an excuse not to do anything," he said. "If it did bother me, I just bit the bullet and worked as hard as I could."
Elston said that's been a big plus for his big defensive end.
"With his injury he knows how important each and every play is," Elston said. "I think he uses that to his advantage."
Miller and the Chieftains have capitalized on an early schedule. At 3-1, Tonganoxie faces undefeated Santa Fe Trail and Mill Valley in the next two weeks. After that, districts begin and then, Miller hopes, the Chieftains will have their first playoff berth since 1995.
In the meantime, the defensive end hopes it frequently will be Miller time on the football field.
And so does his coach, who said his senior is definitely a crowd favorite.
"For us short, not-good-looking guys, we like to hang around him because he's a big, good-looking kid," Elston said.