Charlotte Catholic football coach Mike Brodowicz called senior Ryan Miller into his office this fall a few days before the Cougars’ first game.
Brodowicz was about to make one of his biggest decisions in his first year as head coach: He had to tell the two-year starting varsity quarterback that he wouldn’t be playing that position.
He had the script worked out in his head: You will still contribute. We’ll let you play anywhere else you want. You’re still a valuable member of the team.
But Miller’s reaction surprised him.
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“Finally,” Miller said.
“I wasn’t having much fun playing quarterback. I wanted to get the ball more and just do more instead of handing the ball off.”
Miller, 18, has flourished in his new role in the Cougars’ wing-T offense, playing a hybrid running back/wide receiver/tight-end.
Heading into Catholic’s (12-1) third-round playoff game against Pfafftown Reagan Friday, Miller leads the team with 28 catches for 601 yards and six touchdowns. Miller also is third on the team with 609 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 58 carries; and he threw a touchdown pass in Catholic’s win Oct.10 against Olympic.
In the Cougars’ playoff win against High Point Central Nov. 21, Miller had 10 carries for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Miller also plays on special teams and has played cornerback and defensive end.
Brodowicz calls the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Miller “probably the best athlete on the team.” He runs a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, bench presses 300 pounds and squats 345 pounds.
Miller said he’s getting recruiting interest from Wyoming and Ball State, among others.
“He blocks well, he’s a big back, he catches the ball, he just tracks the ball so well. … He’s deceptively fast,” Brodowicz said. “We can put him in so many positions that we can get mismatches.… He’s won the matchups every time we’ve done that.”
Miller, who moved to Charlotte from Colorado in fifth grade, played running back and quarterback at Holy Trinity Middle and stayed in the position when he came to Charlotte Catholic.
He was a varsity backup his freshman year and became a starter his sophomore season, helping the Cougars to the 3AA state championship game.
Over the summer, Miller went to several college camps. Coaches told him they could see him as an athlete but not a quarterback. When he came back to Catholic for workouts and 7-on-7s, Miller kept asking Brodowicz to put him in at running back or wide receiver.
Brodowicz kept playing Miller at quarterback because he thought that’s what the returning starter wanted. But junior quarterback John Walton started outplaying Miller in scrimmages.
“You could see in his eyes he didn’t really want it,” Brodowicz said. “We thought his skill set was being wasted at quarterback. In our offense, our quarterbacks – especially the last two years – would just turn around and hand it to (North Carolina freshman running back) Elijah Hood. So we kind of made him go to quarterback, thinking him being a two-year starter he would want that.”
Miller, however, wanted something else. “I just wanted the ball,” he said. “I wanted to run the ball, I wanted to catch the ball. I wanted to do everything.”
Miller had only a few days to learn his position, the blocks and routes, before the first game against Providence Day on Aug.23.
“Most quarterbacks don’t get hit that much,” he said. “I wasn’t used to banging heads every play.”
The Charlotte Country Day game Sept. 5 is when “everything clicked,” he said. Miller made two long catches with a defender right on him and finished the game with three catches for 68 yards. He also ran three times for 62 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s when I felt comfortable,” he said. “I was confident in everything. I was making catches.”
He also had four catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Rock Hill Northwestern on Aug.29. He caught two touchdown passes in a Oct.31 win against Ardrey Kell, including the game-winner with 8 seconds left.
After the Northwestern game, Miller met with Brodowicz.
“He goes, ‘Coach, this is the first time in three years I’ve enjoyed a football game,’ ” Brodowicz said.
This story originally appeared in the South Charlotte News; www.newsofsouthcharlotte.com.