In 2013, Terrence Miller will have an opportunity that not many athletes are afforded: a shot at redemption. A medical hardship waiver from the NCAA for an injury the senior suffered during the 2012 campaign will give Miller a fifth season, a second chance.
Miller’s career appeared to have been cut short when he suffered a severely sprained ankle during a touchdown reception in Arizona’s 54-48 loss at Stanford on Oct. 6, 2012.
Had the injury occurred a game later, Miller would not have qualified for the medical redshirt and would have seen his playing days end there at Stanford Stadium. NCAA rules state that a medical hardship can be granted if a player, among other qualifications, does not play after the halfway point of the regular season. The Stanford game was Arizona’s sixth game of the 12-game regular season slate.
“That was anticipated,” said head coach Rich Rodriguez of the NCAA’s decision to grant Miller a fifth season. “Terrence is such a smart guy; he can play inside, outside and tight end for us.”
The 6-4 Moreno Valley, Calif., native battled nagging injuries and was on the wrong side of depth charts that featured Juron Criner, David Douglas, Gino Crump, Dan Buckner, Terrell Turner and other standout wide receivers during his first three years as a Wildcat.
2012 was supposed to be different. 2012 was supposed to be a breakout season for the big-bodied receiver. Injuries slowed the start to his senior year prior to his season-ending wound in week six. He caught 13 passes for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns in four starts.
In all, Miller has started seven games since arriving at Arizona in 2009 and has 55 receptions for 650 yards, 116 of which came in a 2010 game against USC.
In 2013, with a chip on his shoulder and a determination to take advantage his shot at redemption, Miller vows that this is his year.
“This is most definitely a shot at redemption,” Miller said, who brings a new perspective and a new appreciation to his second senior year. “I’m just trying to get all my assignments down, get my blocking down and my catches down. I’m coming out here every day trying to make myself better and my team better. I’m working on my attention to detail this year.”
Miller’s role on the team is invaluable and it goes well beyond route running and pass catching. His 6-4, 234-pound frame gives the coaches plenty of options on where to line up the Rancho Verde High School graduate. He will likely play a variety of positions in 2013: outside receiver, inside receiver, tight end and half back.
The receiving corps, once thought to be a position of great depth for the 2013 squad, has been devastated by injuries and transfers and Miller, once just a member of the veteran leadership UA enjoyed on the outside, stands alone as the lone wideout with heavy experience amidst a young group. His leadership will be instrumental in the production for the wide receivers.
“Honestly, it’s been great having Terrence around,” said redshirt freshman receiver Trey Griffey. “Terrence helps out with everything. He knows the tight end position, the h-back, the slot and the outside receiver. He’s great.”
Terrence Miller has gone from student to teacher, as any student-athlete does from his or her freshman to senior years. However, Miller has seen the extremes of both sides. Miller played his entire freshman year as a 17 year old, a full year younger than most freshmen, and learned from vets such as Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean. Now, Miller can turn his expertise and pass it along to the younger receivers as a fifth-year senior, completing his transition from the youngest member of the receiving corps to the oldest.
As he has seen his own personal maturation, Miller has experienced the evolution of the program as well. Though the program was in the midst of back-to-back-to-back bowl games when he arrived, the facilities were second tier and the buzz surrounding the program was minimal. The redshirt senior has seen the hiring of one of the greatest offensive minds in the game in Rich Rodriguez, the construction of one of the largest video boards in the country, the completion of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, the assembly of a state-of-the art practice facility, as well as countless other additions to help take the program to the next level.
“It’s been a blessing,” said Miller. “The program has evolved a whole lot from a family aspect first of all. I think we became closer as a team and have become tighter with the community. We feel that we are an elite program and we should have elite things and Coach Rod stresses that and tries to put us in an elite environment.”
Miller, who earned his bachelor ’s degree in social behavior and human understanding in May and will play his final collegiate football game in 2013, likes the direction the program is heading and feels that he will be leaving the program in the right hands.
“With the way that Coach Rod recruits and the kind of guys that he recruits, that understand and love football, the program has nowhere to go but up,” said Miller.
While he envisions a bright future for the program, Miller is focused on 2013 and making the most out of his shot at redemption.
“I think we need to continue to do the great things that we’re doing on defense this year and have some players step into big shoes on offense,” said Miller. “My goal is just to be the reliable guy that makes big plays for the team whether it’s blocking or catching the ball.”
In his fifth year with the program, a healthy and focused Miller is taking his chance at redemption seriously. As a leader and a playmaker, Miller figures to be extremely influential to the success of the 2013 Wildcats.