published Saturday, November 10th, 2012

Jay Greeson: For Mocs' Miller, ring still a goal

The impossible is still possible for Adam Miller.

A share of the Southern Conference football championship is there for Miller, a fifth-year senior tackle for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It's available if the Mocs win their final two regular-season games, starting with today's trip to Wofford.

"That's what everyone plays for," Miller said this week, his eyes focused and words direct. "This is why you do all the work."

Ah, the work. The work that comes without knowledge of the future or promise of reward. The early-morning runs and the late-night lifts that seem to be never-ending and always looming. The extra sessions on this technique or that drill that all too often determine the difference between anemic seasons and bad ones or good seasons and historic ones.

And Miller knows all of them. He was well versed in the all-too-familiar refrain that has been the recent and intermediate history of UTC football. In the days before Restoring the Glory there was simply storefronts of gory when Mocs football was mentioned.

In fact, Miller and the last few standing from his recruiting class so many years ago were part of the final 1-10 debacle that ended Rodney Allison's time with the program.

"It was tough, really tough," Miller said, his head shaky at the memories. "What Coach [Russ] Huesman and this staff has broguht has been great. We knew we could get here; it was just a matter of time."

Before Huesman there was little talk of titles or breaking through the ceiling as much as Miller and his predecessors working to get out of the cellar. Forget the cellar: In Miller's first season at UTC, the Mocs were buried 10 feet behind the floor of the cellar. The program was cold and wet and dead, and the circling budgetary vultures reappeared.

But amid the chaos, there were Miller and Shane Heatherly and J.J. Jackson and last holdovers from the days of tumbleweeds in the stands and opponents setting career marks. While the attitude adjustment from the new staff energized the locker room, Miller, a former all-state player at Northwest Whitfield, knew the Mocs could be a contender. He may have been one of the few who believed, but his faith was pure. And it has proven true.

"I had a special feeling on my official visit here," said Miller, who had scholarship offers from most of the SoCon, several Ohio Valley Conference and even FBS schools. "This is where I wanted to be, and I knew we could turn this around."

Miller visited Chattanooga with Heatherly and Jackson and a cast of guys who have come and gone. They all committed, Miller said, that entire list of visitors falling for the charm that is our city and the promise of better times ahead.

That promise can be mentioned today, because there is hardware in the Mocs' crosshairs. Today at Wofford is the biggest hurdle, and Miller knows it.

And let's be frank, for Miller and his fellow fifth-year seniors, any championship would be historic. Sure,the Mocs' football championship drought is easing toward middle age. The dust on the 1984 SoCon trophy is likely old enough to vote.

But this is not as much about legacies or memories or magic to Miller as it is about the here and now. And the fact that he knew he came to UTC to play for a championship.

"Shane and I talk about how far we've come sometimes," Miller said, "and it's kind of crazy if you think about it. But we don't talk about legacies or anything like that.

"We want a ring."

With Miller involved, anything is possible.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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