Maryland football co-offensive coordinator Mike Miller is moving up the ranks quickly


Not long ago, Mike Miller’s coaching resume spanned just two seasons as a student assistant on college teams. Miller, then an energetic 25-year-old, wasn’t far from his own football career, so during summer training, Charlotte Christian’s head coach reminded him to wear his T-shirt as offensive coordinator. The responsibility of calling games lured Miller to the position, and he led the unit to the state championship game.

Staying in Charlotte was “a sweet little landing spot for our first year of marriage,” said Miller’s wife Megan, who worked as an assistant in the school’s kindergarten program.

Miller taught offensive plans to teenagers, and he also pressure washed stadium stands, zipped banners to the outside baseball field fence, took out the trash, and mowed the grass. He still speaks of the baseball field that motorists can see from Main Street. Miller wanted it to look pristine, so he used scissors to cut where the infield turf met the grass.

“It was his pride and joy to have it cut right,” said Miller’s father, Mike, who lives a mile from Charlotte Christian and stops by the school on his way to work.

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The landscape memories remind Miller of the size of his jump and how far he’s come—because those days weren’t long ago. After arriving in Maryland as an assistant coach, Miller marveled at the absurdity: two and a half years earlier he had been a high school coordinator who also cut grass.

After that 2016 season with Charlotte Christian, Miller’s rapid rise up the coaching ladder began. Two seasons as an assistant assistant in Alabama led him to the Terrapins’ program, where he is an assistant offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. When Michael Locksley hired Miller, he was a largely unknown assistant with only five years of coaching experience. But during this phase, he worked under some of the game’s most respected coaches, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, and amassed three playoff appearances, two conference championships and a national title — all before he turned 28.

With the Terps, he’s jumped into his expanded role from tight ends coach to passing play coordinator while landing on lists recognizing fast-rising assistants. Miller could have gone for a senior role at a Power Five school after last season — when Maryland’s offense soared and Chigoziem Okonkwo became a fourth-round NFL draft pick — but he stayed with the promotion to offensive coordinator College Park.

Miller, 31, wants to be a head coach one day, but “until then,” he said last spring, “just thrive where I belong, do a great job, and go through with it.”

Connie Miller can picture her son’s clenched teeth and the determined response to a simple question. She asked why he wanted to play quarterback and wondered if he was enjoying the popularity. Her youngest child stated that he wanted to lead.

“That’s why he liked the quarterback position, even though he wasn’t very good,” Miller’s father said. “Connie wouldn’t tell you that. Connie would say he was pure American.”

Miller and his mother share the same unwavering optimism. She believed her son could be the starting quarterback at Ole Miss, both parents’ alma mater. Miller’s father, a former walk-on receiver for the rebels, had a more realistic perspective. As Miller navigated the recruiting process, which Connie likened to dating, many coaches expressed interest, she said, “but nobody really pulled the ring out.”

Miller joined the UAB program as a walk-on and eventually received a scholarship, although he never played a snap in a game. (His father jokes that his career has surpassed his son’s because he has appeared in overall seven plays.) Miller transitioned into student coaching following a shoulder injury and as his long-held aspirations in the profession crystallized in his mind.

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“Mikey has been very focused on what he’s called to do,” his mother said.

Miller’s father is a pastor, and his grandfather, a former Duke football player, was a three-decade Air Force fighter pilot. As a third-generation college football player, Miller was the first to bring a shared desire for leadership to coaching.

When the UAB program closed after Miller’s season as a student assistant, he went to Clemson. He needed a dispensation from the NCAA to complete his studies at UAB while coaching for the Tigers. Miller slept at friends’ houses and sometimes on an air mattress at the soccer facility. On Swinney’s advice, Miller then took the high school job to learn how to call plays. Charlotte Christian’s head coach Jason Estep gave Miller control of an offense that had a future ACC starting quarterback and was in the process of changing his identity.

“It won’t surprise me that he’s going to be the next up-and-coming offensive coordinator in college football,” Estep said, adding, “Eventually somebody’s going to get a really dedicated young head coach.”

After the season at Charlotte Christian, Miller applied for jobs as a high school head coaching and a position as a graduate assistant at Duke. He didn’t land either. He turned his attention to a quality control role in Tennessee. Then Jody Wright, at the time a support agent in Alabama and previously a UAB assistant, asked if Miller was interested in a role on the Crimson Tide.

Wright told Miller to send his resume and he would forward it to Saban. Miller drove to Tuscaloosa instead. Estep calls this a “classic Mike Miller” story.

Miller had accepted that he probably wouldn’t get the job. As he was about to leave Alabama’s facility, he met Saban in a hallway. Wright introduced Miller and explained that he was on his way to an interview in Tennessee. Saban replied, “Wouldn’t you like to just do GA here?” A few hours later, after meeting numerous coaches, Miller had the position.

“It’s just in his blood to find a way,” Miller’s wife said. “If he wants it to work, he will do anything to make it work.”

After arriving in Maryland, Miller explained how he planned to coach his position group. Saban-like tenets about the process clashed with Swinney-like philosophies about how he would love his players. Miller’s father describes Alabama as one program, with Saban the “quintessential manager”. Clemson feels like one community. Both have been successful and Miller has learned from both.

Coaches work long days during the season, so Megan and the three kids visit campus a few times a week — something the Millers brought from Clemson. They even estimate five minutes together. Those moments can be the “glue,” Megan said amid the busy lifestyle.

“It’s not just his thing,” she said. “We’re all part of it.”

Five-year-old Bo, pretending to be quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, tosses his three-year-old brother Grisham a ball and says, “Go on, CJ, catch him!” as if he were tight end CJ Dippre.

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Megan takes her to home games with seven-month-old Mary Caitlin strapped to her chest. They enjoy watching their dad and the players do the terp walk before games. Bo starts to get rowdy as he cheers on his dad’s tight ends – at least when he’s not busy with Legos. They usually make it a quarter or two before the kids are ready to leave.

Miller’s dad was visiting last week, and before 7 a.m. the boys would turn on the lights and say hello to him, “Pops, let’s play!” (After that, he was sore from all the playtime.) That early hour is Miller heads to College Park, and Megan takes on another day of delightful mayhem.

At night, Mike and Megan talk about the players as if they were their own children. You pray for them and feel obligated to be a constant source of support.

That’s what Miller always wanted—to coach college football and lead young men—but it all happened quickly. His father sometimes sends him pictures of Charlotte Christian’s baseball field to evoke memories. And when Miller was visiting last summer, he went over to the school. Miller wanted to think, so he sat on the lawnmower alone with nostalgia, remembering where he started and how far he’d come.