Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley gets that grandfatherly look of pride in his Irish blue eyes, and then the tips of the gray mustache curl north whenever the name of his quarterback is mentioned.
Tough kid, Donley says. If there was anybody I’d have to jump in a foxhole with, it would be Josh Miller.
On the surface, it appears to be a wise, old coach saying all the right things to pump up confidence in his junior quarterback who has thrown exactly 26 passes in his collegiate career.
Penciled in to be the starter last year, Miller separated a shoulder in a preseason scrimmage, and that was that, even though he would return later as No. 3 on the depth chart and complete 14 of 22 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 47 yards.
So there’s the statistical book on Miller: 14 games, one interception, two touchdown passes, one rushing score. Few would argue there’s not much to go on.
But there is the intangible that doesn’t show up in the Sunday morning stat line; the special thing that Donley sees as Miller takes the practice field in preparation for the Aug. 25 season opener against Texas College in Tyler, Texas.
He’s a heck of a leader, Donley says.
The character-building began early.
My first leadership role didn’t come with playing any sport, Miller said. It came after my parents divorced.
When Alan and Deb Miller parted, Josh was a 9-year-old who took on the man-of-the-house role.
I have a younger sister (Christy), and my mom was doing her finest to support us, Miller said. I would come home after school, and would get (Christy) off the bus, sit her down and do her homework. I would do my own. When this started, she was probably in kindergarten, and I was in fourth grade.
It was tough. I saw the struggle and pain that was going through my sister, and in my mother’s eyes, especially. So I just took it upon myself to make sure I would do what was best for my family.
Along the way, he still found time to be a kid; to go to school; to shoot hoops in the neighborhood; to ride his bike. All the while, though, he harbored that sense of responsibility that has carried him into his college career that is about to blossom.
I’ll never forget the day I took him to college, Deb Miller says. I never figured he’d have a hard time, but he really did. That first year was really hard for him because I think he felt he needed to be home with his sister and I. He had a hard time.
He hated it there (Saint Francis). He hated football. Josh never hates any type of sport, and he just wanted to come home. He stuck it out, and he’s so glad he did.
During the summer, on the days before he would return to Saint Francis to lift weights and work out, Miller’s job was a youth camp counselor at the Jorgenson YMCA, where he herded second- and third-graders.
Later, he says, he wants to move on to a high school to be a guidance counselor. He changed his major from business to psychology. He hopes to make an impact in the lives of others, and not his own.
I’ve always put others first before me, and that’s where some of my close friends and teammates knock me, because I don’t do enough for myself, Miller said. I don’t find happiness in taking care of myself. I find happiness in taking care of others. That’s where I find the most joy in life.