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fordfixer
02-26-2009, 02:07 AM
Heath Miller: From Honaker to Super Bowl Champion
February 25, 2009

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Honaker, Va., is a long ways from Pittsburgh, but a native of that small town played a very big role in this year’s Super Bowl victory by Pittsburgh on February 1.

In that game, Honaker native Heath Miller was lauded for his blocking by TV color analyst John Madden and he made clutch catches throughout the game. He had five catches for 57 yards, including a pair of 11-yard grabs during a second-quarter drive that gave Pittsburgh a 10-0 lead. All of his catches resulted in either first downs or in significant gains.

Incredibly, in only four years in the NFL, Heath Miller has played on two Super Bowl winning teams, a rare accomplishment for any player. But his greatness as a player didn’t start in the NFL.

In high school, Miller played quarterback at Honaker. He earned his nickname “Big Money” by scoring first downs and touchdowns in clutch situations. At Honaker High School, Miller was an All-Group A performer, both as a quarterback and on the defensive side of the ball. And although he was also an outstanding basketball and baseball player, having only one error in his four years on the team, Miller chose football as his sport.

Miller was initially recruited by the University of Virginia as a quarterback. But when he was redshirted as a freshman, he decided that he wanted to play at a position of need for the team, even if it was not quarterback. The Cavaliers happened to need a tight end and Heath was willing to oblige.

Heath Miller in action. Photo courtesy myspace.com
Once Miller got on the field, he made an immediate impact at Virginia. He caught 144 passes and collected 30 touchdowns, and he earned the Mackey Award as a junior, signifying him as the top tight end in college football. In 2004, Miller was named as the top Tight End in the Nation for that season. He shattered record after record at UVA, including most touchdowns in a single season (9) for an ACC tight end. He is often considered to be the best tight end from the Atlantic Coast ever and in the top five of current NFL tight ends.

After a great career at UVA, the former Honaker star decided to go pro. He considered himself to be very lucky to be drafted by his favorite NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his rookie year, Heath was a major candidate for Rookie of the Year, falling just short. While he doesn’t catch as many passes as many other tight ends, he’s known as one of the top blocking tight ends in the league. And with Heath, when he does make a catch, it is usually a clutch first down or touchdown catch.

There is nothing flashy about Miller. But he plays a fundamental role in both the running game and the passing game of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are at their best when both are in balance. Head Coach Mike Tomlin admits that Miller is one of the keys to the Steeler Offense. “Without Heath, we would be a different team on offense, with much fewer options,” said Tomlin. "Heath is one of those guys when you look at all the stuff he's done on film, he is, in my opinion, one of the better tight ends in the AFC."

The 6-foot-5, 256-pound Miller has caught 168 passes and scored 21 touchdowns in his four-year career for the Steelers. He does more than just catch footballs or block. He leads, in his own understated way.

Miller is the son of proud parents Earl and Denise Miller, who still live in tiny Swords Creek, Va. According to Miller’s High School Head Coach Doug Hubbard: “I’m probably as proud of his character as his excellent play”. Coach Hubbard attributes much of Heath’s success to his training by his parents at an early age and how he conducted himself on the field at Honaker High School.

“He is a quiet leader; he leads by action,” Hubbard said. “He led by action in high school with his work habits and the way he approached the game and the way everybody followed him and I bet money that in the Steeler locker room, if you ask the players, they’ll say he is one of the quiet leaders.”

And the Steeler fans love him too. If you don’t believe it, just look at all of the number 83 jerseys in the stands at Pittsburgh.

“You take a look at Heath, he is a perfect example of one of the things that you would want your kids to have,” Hubbard said. “He’s got every quality that you would want your child to have …and the best …is his work ethic.”

Honaker athletic director Trevor Coleman said: “It’s just great for a small town, the kids here can see that somebody from a small town can make it so it’s good for everybody.”

Heath Miller still has a lot more years to buckle up his chin strap and play at a high level in the NFL, but one wonders after two Super Bowl rings in his four NFL seasons, how much more could Heath Miller achieve. The answer is yet to come, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see yet another Super Bowl ring on his finger before he calls it quits.