When you come to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in pursuit of a career in engineering or athletic training — two of UTC's most renown areas of study — there's no reason to keep your dreams to yourself.
When you're Gunner Miller and you come to UTC to get a degree and play football, you might keep your professional wrestling dreams to yourself. But the four-year starter at linebacker never did.
"I've wanted to do it ever since I turned on the TV when I was six, but realistically, I guess since college," said Miller, the former East Ridge High School standout.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Miller has told anyone who will listen of his WWE dreams and about half of his posts or retweets on Twitter are wrestling related.
"It's one of those things, like if you say you want to be an actor, everybody looks at you like, yeah, you can make it; go to Hollywood and try -- but nobody really believes in you," he said. "I think this is actually kind of realistic. I'm actually talking to the head scout and I've been talking to him for a while. They seem pretty interested, but it all comes down to a tryout."
That scout is WWE Hall of Famer Gerald Brisco, and Miller said he has a tryout at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando in June. It was scheduled for December, he said, but his stinger injury forced him to reschedule.
"I've got to get cleared, send them my paperwork and then they'll bring me in around the beginning of June," he said. "I'll go down there for about three to five days and they'll see what I've got, and hopefully sign a contract down there."
Stingers were a persistent problem for Miller during his Mocs career, in which he started 30 games, made 166 tackles and intercepted five passes, returning two for touchdowns. Stingers are nerve injuries common to collision sports like football and Miller missed numerous games, including the final three this season, because of them.
There are plenty of collisions in wrestling, as well, so is Miller worried that stingers will be a recurring issue as he pursues a wrestling career?
"They asked the same question. I think it's a different type of contact because the only time it happened was head-on, helmet-to-helmet or facemask-to-facemask," he said. "They were all pretty hard hits. I don't think it will be an issue. I've actually been in the ring a few times and taken a lot of the bumps and nothing ever bothered me."
While some of his UTC teammates are training for the Mocs' pro day and doing everything they can to chase their NFL dreams, Miller will be working as hard as he ever has to be ready for his WWE tryout.
"For a 10-minute show you've got to be in a hour's worth of shape. I'll be doing a lot of mixed martial arts training and wrestling training and long-distance running and muscular endurance," he said. "I'm just going to try to go down there in the best shape of my life and roll around a little bit."
Contact John Frierson at email@example.com or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...