Palmetto QB Miller mastering new favorite sport

Palmetto’s QB tossed catcher’s mitt after hearing call to play football

jlembo@bradenton.comSeptember 22, 2011 

PALMETTO -- Wearing a white mesh jersey with his number on it, Trent Miller made his way back to Palmetto’s fieldhouse Monday following practice.

He had a football in his hand and a smile on his face.

Everything looked so natural.

And it’s a scene Miller, Palmetto’s senior quarterback, never would have imagined a few years ago, back when he hoped to be crouching behind the plate rather than lining up under center.

“Originally, I was going to try and play college baseball,” he said.

Miller and his big arm moved to Florida from Buffalo, N.Y., prior to this season, and the Tigers are happy to have him and the 453 yards and five touchdowns he has thrown to help stake Palmetto to a 3-0 record heading into Friday’s Class 5A-District 10 opener at Arcadia DeSoto.

But switching ZIP codes hasn’t been the only key change Miller made in his life.

He decided to be a one-sport athlete.

That one sport was football.

Oh, he loved baseball. The problem was, he loved it a little too much.

“Honestly, I put so much time into baseball, I kind of got burned out,” said Miller, who caught. “I went 10, 11 months out of the year of straight baseball every weekend.”

Miller has football in his blood. His father played fullback at Harvard, and his brother was on his way to a collegiate career before suffering an injury in high school. But it wasn’t until a trip to the IMG Madden Football Academy prior to his junior season at Williamsville East High that Miller caught a glimpse of his future, and camp director and former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke caught a glimpse of him.

“Coach Weinke kind of said, ‘You got talent, and I think you could play Division I,’” Miller said. “That kind of inspired me.”

Miller had been coming down to IMG since the seventh grade. But he spent those trips working at the baseball academy.

Last summer, it was all football.

“Baseball was my first love,” Miller said. “I could see (Weinke) was giving me extra time, and I was asking a lot of questions. ... If Chris Weinke thinks you’re good, maybe I should change my favorite sport.”

The tutelage paid off. Miller went back to New York, won the starting job and helped Williamsville East to its first postseason appearance in 13 years.

After the school year was over, he decided to move down to Florida with his mother, giving him a chance to work with Weinke.

“Palmetto is such a great school,” Miller said. “It’s all worked out.”

It has also given him a different perspective on high school football. In upstate New York, prep football games are Saturday afternoon affairs and don’t quite get the attention they do in Florida.

Miller gets a kick out of walking around Palmetto and seeing posters of himself and his teammates inside area businesses and enjoys playing on Friday nights surrounded by crowded bleachers.

“The fans and the whole community gets into it. They care about football just as much (in New York),” Miller said. “But it just seems the community cares a bit more (here), and Friday nights are a lot of fun. ... It just seems like everyone’s big Palmetto fans in Palmetto, so it’s kind of cool.”

The feeling is mutual, especially because Miller gives Palmetto its first bona fide quarterback since Ethan Gilbert graduated after the 2008 season.

“It was always, ‘We’re going to convert this guy.’ ... We haven’t had a true quarterback,” said coach Dave Marino. “And even (Gilbert), he didn’t get a chance to start until his senior year.

“(Miller’s) very accurate.”

Things haven’t worked out the way Miller figured they would, though that isn’t a bad thing. He’ll play a sport in college, only it appears it will be football -- Miller has already garnered interest from Boston College and Arkansas, as well as some Ivy League and Division I-AA schools.

In the meantime, he’s having fun and happy with the choices he has made.

“Everyone else is so good,” Miller said of the Tigers. “My job is easy.”

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