Miller rose to fame in the state's schoolboy ranks by passing for more than 1,500 yards and rushing for another 643 as a senior quarterback, leading the Tigers of Honaker to an 11-2 record in Group A competition, Virginia's smallest public school classification. As a result, he was the first athlete from Honaker, a school with 394 students, to be awarded a Division I-A scholarship.
While he was confident in his athletic ability, he couldn't help but wonder what kind of challenges he would have at the University of Virginia. Already 6-foot-5 and 234 pounds when he arrived in Charlottesville, Miller figured he would grow out of the quarterback position. He weighs in now at 256.
It didn't take Coach Al Groh and his coaching staff long to figure that out last season when Miller filled in as a tight end on the scout team during practices. After a few weeks, the change became permanent.
Redshirted as a true freshman last season, the move worked out for the good. With Miller and sophomore Patrick Estes, tight end has become a position of strength for the Cavaliers rather than a weak link as critics had suggested in the preseason.
In fact, after two years of not having a touchdown scored by a tight end, Miller (two) and Estes (one) have already dramatically upped that production in UVa's first two games of the season. That is an odd fact considering both former tight ends, Chris Luzar and Billy Baber, are now on NFL rosters.
Like Luzar last year, Miller is the Cavaliers' second-leading receiver thus far with five catches (10.6 per reception). Up until a couple of weeks ago against Colorado State, Miller had never caught a pass in a game.
UVa quarterback Matt Schaub believes that Miller's background has helped make him a better tight end.
"His athletic skills show in the way he runs certain routes and his hands kind of tell you that he used to play quarterback," said Schaub.
What has surprised Schaub a little is that Miller has adapted so easily to the physical demands of the job.
"It's not only that he runs the routes and catches the ball but it's the blocking as well," said Schaub. "He doesn an incredible job [blocking]."
But Miller isn't some mamsy-pamsy. He also played free safety at Honaker, so hitting wasn't foreign to him.
When coaches asked him to convert from the glorious job of quarterback, he didn't resist. He read daily in the papers about how closely the quarterback is scrutinized.
"It wasn't hard leaving that behind," he said.
Still the transition wasn't all that easy.
"It was a little tough at first because I had to learn the physical part of the job, the blocking part, but it was still football," said Miller. "I still have some things to work on to become a good tight end."
He welcomed a redshirt year after the position switch because he knew he wasn't ready to play tight end right out of high school. He used the year to add strength, to better learn the position and to work on his game on the scout team.
Because UVa uses a lot of two tight end sets, both Miller and Estes are getting plenty of playing time and are quickly becoming threats. Their presence could help take some heat off of the wide receivers and open up the offense.
"They both know how to get open around the middle of the field," said Schaub. "They both have good hands and they're both big targets, so they're hard to miss."
Estes is 6-7, a couple inches taller than Miller. Other than that, they're almost clones.
"Both have been very reliable as far as catching the ball and it's the same way in practice," said Groh, who though complimentary, wasn't ready to enshrine them in his personal hall of fame. "They've both only played two games, so I'd rather let their longtime accomplishments determine whether or not they're deserving a lot of extolling at this point."
But if the duo continue to produce at this pace, Groh's praises won't be far behind. While many of the plays are the same as a year ago, Estes said that quarterbacks are just looking to the tight end more as part of their options.
That's fine with both. As Estes said, they're good buddies and thus far there has been plenty of playing time to go around.
The only thing that worries Estes and probably Miller is that when the ball is thrown to them, they want to make sure they catch it, because as Estes said, "If we don't, that might be the end of us as an option."
Schaub doesn't think so.
"In the back of my mind, just knowing that they've made plays as they have, you know what kinds of plays they can make," said the quarterback.
Considering the youthfulness of this passing connection, it could become quite a threat to defenses for years to come.