Football Commentary: Miller grows into role as kicker

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September 16, 2010

10:01 PM

Senior kicker David Miller will be the loneliest man on Foreman Field Saturday, and he’s OK with that.
It’s the life he chose — the lonesome kicker.

“Someone asked me, ‘Would you like me to walk up to you and say reassuring things?’” Miller said. “I don’t. I just like to keep by myself.”

Loneliness, isolation — it comes with the job of being the kicker. Miller knows that better than anyone. After all, he wasn’t always the kicker.

Miller admittedly spent his true freshman year hoping not to be put into a game. He was the backup to kicker and punter Blair Prtichard, and he said he didn’t feel like he was experienced enough as a punter to burn his redshirt season.

“Coming into college, I wasn’t really confident at all punting,” Miller said. “I was looking to get the kicking job, but we had [Brian Pate], who was a pretty good kicker.”

Despite his reservations, Miller spent the next three years as the Tribe’s punter, steadily improving each season. The senior went from averaging 35.1 yards a punt as a redshirt freshman to 40.5 yards a boot last season.

So far this season, Miller is averaging 45.9 yards per punt, with a long kick of 70 yards against Massachusetts.

“I had a really good coach in high school, Fred Pinciaro, who helped me,” Miller said. “He’s worked with [NFL players] Josh Brown, Neil Rackers and Shayne Graham. Those guys are all kickers, but he knows his stuff really well.”

Miller did not return to kicking until the spring, when he asked the coaching staff if he could assume both punting and kicking duties. So far this fall, Miller is two-for-two on field goal attempts, his longest coming from 30 yards out against VMI.

Perhaps more impressive has been the way Miller has responded to the pressures of the position. Last season, you could almost see Pate pysch himself out on the sideline at times before big kicks.
Pate was 23-for-35 last season, and missed crucial kicks against Virginia, New Hampshire and in the loss to Richmond last year.

On the sideline, going through his routine of kicking the air on the opposite side of the field of the offense, Miller looks more relaxed than Pate did at times last year. But that doesn’t mean the butterflies aren’t still there.

“It’s a little nerve wracking,” Miller said. ‘But a couple of years ago, Pate got hurt for one game against Norfolk State, and I was [really scared] … Since then, it hasn’t been that bad.”

In fact, coming in for field goals are the only times Miller, a two-sport athlete in high school, gets to show off an athleticism he has to remind his teammates he still has.

“People don’t understand how kickers ever get sore or tired or injured,” Miller said smiling. “What I’d like to say to that is we are using one part of our body and putting everything we have into that. Take a quarterback — he won’t put everything into every throw.”

Miller smiles at his last statement, perhaps knowing in his head how his joke about quarterbacks will sound in print. But he doesn’t care. All he needs to do is to make his kicks come Saturday.
Such is the life of the kicker.

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