By PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001
Tyler Miller had never played organized football, not a single down, when some coaches at Clearwater convinced the pigskin neophyte to go out for the team during the spring of his sophomore year.
They figured Miller, a good athlete, could help on special teams next season.
That fall, Miller was the Tornadoes' starting cornerback.
Miller's instant ascension up Clearwater's depth chart was a testament to his athletic ability -- and his brainpower. He sopped up the coaches' lessons so rapidly, he went right into the lineup.
"I don't blame the coaches for being worried. I mean, I had never played before," Miller said. "I got a crash course in football."
The coaches need not have worried because Miller is an ultra-quick study. He is a 4.0 student adept at myriad sports, and for his combination of academic and athletic achievement, Miller is the Times Pinellas County 2000-01 Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
"When Tyler Miller does something, it's first class," said Mike Davis, the Clearwater defensive backs coach. "He doesn't cut corners, no rounding things off. When he does something, he stays the course. He is what we look for in today's youth."
In addition to the perfect grade point average (4.2174 weighted, third in his class) and 1,380 SAT score, Miller lettered twice in football and basketball despite sustaining a torn medial collateral ligament in each knee during his career. He also ran track as a senior, running the 100, 200, 400 and sprint relays.
"My parents have always brought me up to do my best. From an early age, they instilled that in me," Miller said. "If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do the best that I can."
Miller, who lived in Birmingham, Ala., before moving to Clearwater when he was 3 years old, has defied his parents in at least one area, however: college choice.
While Floyd and Pam Miller certainly are proud of the academic scholarship their son earned, the destination is blasphemous. The Millers are Alabama graduates and loyal Crimson Tide supporters.
Tyler is headed to bitter rival Auburn.
"Surprisingly, they've supported me with it," said Miller, who visited the Auburn campus during two football weekends last fall and has several acquaintances at the school. "I got the most grief from my brother, and he wasn't even born in Alabama."
Miller's 14-year-old brother, Cameron, who will be a freshman at Calvary Christian, and his 12-year-old sister, Sydney, who is entering seventh grade at Skycrest Christian, are the next student-athletes in the Miller family.
Cameron plays basketball and soccer, and Sydney plays basketball and volleyball. Last week, Tyler coached at a Skycrest Christian volleyball camp where Sydney was one of the campers.
Skycrest Christian is where the 5-foot-9, 175-pound Miller's athletic versatility flourished. From fifth through eighth grade he played five sports: baseball, basketball, soccer, track and volleyball.
Miller played basketball year-round his first two years at Clearwater before his desire to do more became insatiable.
"If I could have 11 Tyler Millers on my team, I'd put one at every position and we'd probably win." said Davis, who also coached Mike Krentzman, a runner-up for the scholar-athlete award, in what was likely the smartest defensive backfield in the state. "He's very smart, really game-savvy, and he goes full-tilt, 100 percent."
"As one of our coaches once said, "If we needed someone to drive the bus, Tyler Miller would volunteer to do that, too.' "
Miller's academic versatility matched his athletic ability. He was president of the National Honor Society; senior class secretary; in the German National Honor Society; the overall outstanding foreign language student; a peer counselor and the outstanding senior math student.
Because he's so good at so much, Miller is unsure of his major and career path. Whatever direction he chooses, he's sure to give it his best effort.
"I'll tell you what makes coaching so great," Davis said. "It's guys like Tyler Miller."
COMING TUESDAY: Girls all-Pinellas student-athlete team.