Miller's future is in plain sight
Ricardo Miller will play his final high school season next to where he will play in college
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In time, Ricardo Miller will fully adjust to the change of scenery. Schooled for the past three years in the shadows of Orlando's Universal Studios, Miller will spend his final season of Friday nights within eyeshot of his future -- Michigan Stadium.
The landscape aside, Miller finds himself as the talented new kid on the block who is getting to know a roster full of teammates that he'll only be around for a short time before it's time to leave again.
Ricardo Miller isn't your typical transfer student.
The 6-foot-3 210-pound wide receiver arrived in Ann Arbor only days before summer workouts began. His reputation as a big-play receiver preceded him; he became a household name at Orlando's Dr. Phillips High School, where he had 34 catches for 615 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.
Miller's mother wanted to live closer to her family in Michigan, so Miller and his younger brother spent the summer in Flint looking at a number of high schools in the state before settling at Pioneer High School.
Miller was courted by a bevy of coaches, and his phone rang constantly with tips about one program after another and sales pitches from coaches, jockeying for the ESPNU 150's 30th-rated receiver's consideration.
But knowing he would be at any school for all of one semester before enrolling early at Michigan, Miller was intent on holding out for the perfect mix of academics, athletics and diversity -- all of which had been staples at his former school.
Oh, there were options to consider, recommendations to look into. Inkster (Mich.) High School, where Michigan-bound quarterback Devin Gardner is the state's No. 2-rated high school recruit, made the short list.
So did Pioneer's cross-town rival, Huron High, where future Michigan receiver Jeremy Jackson calls home.
And then there was Pioneer, where coach Jeremy Gold is in the midst of trying to turn the Pioneers into a state championship contender.
"It felt like I was in the NFL just checking different places out," Miller said.
He found the blend he was searching for at Pioneer.
"The transition was a little tough, moving when we did," Miller's mother, Ann Reagor-Miller said. "But he's the kind of kid who has a personality that adjusts to whoever he's around."
Leaving a state known for producing NFL-caliber talent wasn't easy. But after settling in at Pioneer, Miller faced another challenge. He'd have to find a niche in a new system with new teammates, all while not allowing his presence to become a distraction.
On his first day of practice, though, Miller was just another teenager trying to fit into a new school -- not some gridiron savior who had swooped in to save the day.
"I just want to be one of them," said Miller of his relationship with his new teammates. "I'm not here to be some hotshot or superstar. I'm not here to take anybody's job. I'm just one of the guys with goals that are going to help us reach the common goal we all have."
But Miller's play-making potential was unmistakable, making his presence on Pioneer's roster hard to ignore. It wasn't long before chat room prognosticators heralded Pioneer as an immediate championship contender based on its new offensive weapon.
Miller ignores that kind of pressure, wanting instead just to fit in.
Gold, who spent several years working at the college level, has coached special players before. When he learned Miller was joining his team, he didn't worry about finding a place for him.
"He's fitting in great," Gold said. "As far as we were concerned, he was just another kid on the team. He's not getting any special treatment. But he's well-liked among his teammates and he's working his butt off like everybody else to get better."
And on the days when the Michigan heat proves hard to take and when his gas tank is running on low, Miller needs only take a quick glance around at the surrounding landscape.
Pioneer's Hollway Field is situated across the street from Michigan Stadium, where Miller will play his college ball for the Wolverines.
Miller uses the sight of the Wolverines' home as inspiration, knowing he only has a short time to make a good first impression with his new team and on the football-crazed Ann Arbor community he will come to call home for the next few years.
"On the days when I'm not going 100 percent or I'm slacking off, I'll just look at that big block M and that will give me the lift that I need to pick it up," he said.
The hard work is paying off for Miller and the Pioneers, who won their first two games, defeating Inskter 35-32 and Dexter (Mich.) High 45-0. Miller recorded his first score of the season against Dexter off a 55-yard pass from quarterback Miles Sorise.
Jeff Arnold is a sports writer in Michigan.