BENTON, Tenn. — When it's crunch time at Polk County — and the Wildcats have had their share of those this season — players and fans know what it means.
It's Miller Time.
That's Zach Miller, the fullback and linebacker who is 3 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 with three games to go and also leads the Polk tacklers.
"I don't know that he likes the analogy, but there have been some [Miller Time] signs in the stands," Polk coach Derrick Davis said.
The junior, who at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds stands out almost as much as his bright yellow Ford Ranger, has blossomed. After he played strictly defense a year ago, his offensive coming-out party coincided with a time of need.
"I expected him to have a good year, but we have probably leaned on him more than I anticipated," Davis said. "It's not like 2009 or 2010 when we were far ahead. It's been tight games, and when we have to have it, we're going to go to him.
"We've had some injuries at other positions, and he's been the steady player for us -- staying healthy and getting the tough yards."
Miller has missed the 100-yard mark just once this season, in the opener against Bradley Central, and he gained 91 in that one.
He knows how to play football, having started as a 4-year-old in a league of players up to age 8, and he knows how he likes to play.
"I'm probably better on defense," Miller said. "I like running the football, but I love to get out there and hit somebody hard."
He is among the Wildcats' offensive pancake-block leaders, and as a middle linebacker he leads the team with 68 tackles. He also has four lost-yardage hits, a sack, two fumble recoveries and four quarterback hurries.
In other words, he doesn't shy away from contact.
"He's tough, hard-nosed, and you don't see many of those type kids these days," Davis said. "He ain't about wearing Under Armour and that stuff. He just plays."
Asked about his offensive philosophy, Miller immediately said, "I'd like to give the linemen credit for what they do."
He'll do what it takes -- try to step around a defender or just lower a shoulder.
"I'm out there to get every yard that I can," he said.
Although his iPod is loaded with country tunes, his game preparation includes repeated playing of Eminem's "Lose Yourself."
"It's about him starting off at the bottom and working to get better and the sacrifices he's made to get where he is today," Miller said.
There's more than football abilities to where Miller is.
"It's good to be around him," Davis said. "He's such a good kid. He's a good student. He helps the younger players. He's very active in the FCA."
Miller's hobbies revolve around church, possibly because of a miraculous occasion at birth.
"I was born deaf. The doctor came in and told my parents, who prayed about it," he said. "Then she tested me again the next day, and I could hear. So the most important things in my life are church, family, grades and then sports."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...