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Under Center, Leader for All: Miller Connects on Football Field and Campus

(Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost)
(Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost)

By: Cannon Dees '20

BEREA, Ohio- Baldwin Wallace University football captains aren't just handed the title. Prospective captains must first submit an application, which is then followed by a team vote. Leadership and character are important factors in making the decision. It was no surprise, then, when senior quarterback A.J. Miller (Coral Springs Fla./Coral Springs Charter) was announced as a 2019 captain and he has the resume to back it up.

Miller has taken advantage of the many opportunities presented at Baldwin Wallace in his four years here, such as serving as a Center of Innovation and Growth Practice Intern – another position for on-campus leaders and people of good character. He was also a student-coach for the BW women's basketball team that finished 20-8 last season and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"The extracurriculars I'm involved in have allowed me to meet an incredible amount of people on campus that I never could have imagined meeting" said Miller. "It has helped me see that people have different passions in life."

His other positions on campus include President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, BW Student Ambassador and working with the athletics department to help set up and ensure the smooth running of other athletic events, such as track and field or wrestling. Wherever he is, a visitor is sure to see him at some point and leave with a smile on their face. He is so impressionable in fact, over the summer he was selected by the alumni department to travel to Sarasota, Florida and Naples, Florida to speak and interact with alumni that reside there along with two music theatre students and football Head Coach Jim Hilvert.

"Traveling to Florida was a unique experience.  Both nights I spoke in front of about 40 alumni about my journey to BW and the current state of the football program" Miller stated. "All of them were anxious to hear my personal story and some said that they would be at a few games this season, which I thought was cool."

While Miller spends a lot of his time helping serve others, it not only helps him become a more well-rounded person but a well-rounded athlete as well- something in which Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback Coach Steve Ogpenorth believes has a huge impact for Miller as a leader.

"Miller's character and leadership is infectious within the locker room and he is a constant every day for our guys and our program" said Ogpenorth. "He's always the first one in and last one out of the Packard Athletic Center, our meeting room, or the weight room.  He's the rock a championship football program can rely on because of his consistency as a person, student, and athlete."

Through this character and leadership, Miller looks to lead the team to success this season as starting quarterback. After serving as the backup for the last three seasons, he has learned not only how to be a better player on the field, but how to be a better teammate and unlock what he believes to be the key to winning.

"For this team, our key to success will be unity" said Miller. "I understand what our freshman and other guys who aren't getting varsity reps are battling through. Without my experience on the sideline, I would never be able to connect with those guys on a personal level to create that unity. Being a back-up these last three years has allowed me to observe from the sidelines and become a smarter football player simply from watching."

Ogpenorth added, "His character and leadership has allowed him to persevere through four years of college football and earn the right to be our starting QB and captain in 2019. His work ethic day in and day out has been unbelievable, allowing him to build his arm strength and athleticism in the open field.  He cares deeply about his teammates, and it shows in his communication and demeanor in the huddle."

The last time Miller was a starting quarterback was his senior year of high school under the direction of his brother Adam Miller, who was the head coach.

"I had a blast playing quarterback for Adam while he called plays and ran the offense" stated Miller. "On the field, it often felt like we were reading each other's minds. Going undefeated and winning a ring my senior year was a memorable experience and doing it with my brother on the sidelines made it that much more enjoyable."

Adam Miller, a 2011 John Carroll University graduate and football player, has been a huge inspiration for AJ growing up and was part of the reason he ended up at BW.

"Coming out of high school I knew I wanted two things, to play college football and to experience something new" Miller said. "I visited a handful of schools and it was clear that BW was the school I was supposed to go to. Outside of football, I saw opportunities for me to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ, challenge myself, and earn a great degree. Also, my brother Adam played center at John Carroll so I was familiar with the Ohio Athletic Conference and what it meant to play Division III football.  Knowing that he came up here all the way from Florida and had a great experience gave me the confidence that the same could happen for me."

"Miller comes from a great family and a football family" said Ogpenorth. "He has outstanding character, is a man of faith, and is a tremendous person. He's already had one heck of a run here at BW and I'm looking forward to watching him on the field in his senior year."

The Yellow Jackets will start their season on the road this weekend on Saturday, September 7 at Alma (Mich.) at 1:00 p.m. and will play their home opener on Saturday, September 28 when they host Heidelberg University inside George Finnie Stadium at 1:30 p.m.