Insights and Observations
Thursday, April 14, 2005
By Henry Hinton
After long pursuit, Miller
closing in on dream
Former East Carolina kicking specialist
Kevin Miller, the Pirates' all-time leading career scorer,
is producing points these days in NFL- Europe. (Photo
credit: The Berlin Thunder)
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It must be true that
perseverance pays off. Kevin Miller embodies that old saying. After years
of trying, the former East Carolina kicker is finally getting his shot at the “next
level” and he is making the most of it.
Miller is currently
emerging as potentially the top kicker in NFL-Europe after two games. In
six field goal attempts for his Berlin Thunder team, Miller has missed just
once. This past Sunday he hit a 37-yarder in the waning moments of the game
to lift Berlin over Hamburg 15-13.
It has been three full
football seasons since Kevin Miller donned the purple and gold. His last
game in Greenville was the famous ECU-Cincinnati game the first Friday night
of December 2001 — the very game that nailed the coffin on Steve Logan and
got Mike Hamrick run out of town.
The Pirates lost that
night to cap a 4-7 record in Miller’s senior season but there were happier
days during Miller’s stay in Greenville. Just a few weeks prior, Miller
broke the all-time scoring record at ECU.
Having a chance to play
professionally looked pretty promising for the affable Miller. What
followed, however, were three years of frustration and near-misses that
would have made most people quit and move on to look for a new opportunity
Realizing that getting to
the professional level as a kicker sometimes takes longer and is often a
political game gave Miller enough hope to stick with it.
After several NFL tryouts,
Miller seemed close to a pro contract many times, but for some reason nothing
Desperate to get a chance to show what he could do, Miller
even worked out for the New Orleans Voodoo, an Arena League team. Seems
there was always another kicker in the wings with better connections.
even-tempered Miller continued to wait for the break. Calling on his roots
and college training, Miller hung around Greenville for a few years doing
occasional on-air work for Talk 1070 and playing golf, his other passion.
Miller also made good use
of his time off, hitting the weight room daily to stay in shape and
increasing his leg strength, something pro scouts had suggested to enhance
his ability to get his kick-offs deeper, the one rap on Miller’s game.
He also spent a season
caddying for a high school buddy who had made the PGA tour. Cameron Yancey
called on his old playing partner from Virginia Beach to tote his bag in
Miller also befriended
another budding PGA star, Greenville’s Will McKenzie, who asked Miller to
caddy for him during his attempt to get through qualifying school in
January. McKenzie gave Miller credit for helping him earn his “card” and
the plan was for Kevin to be with him on the PGA tour this spring and
However, Miller’s football break
finally came about that same time after a work-out for the Seattle
Seahawks. The Seahawks seemed willing to sign him to a contract in order to
send him to the Europe developmental league to see what he could do.
Miller was ecstatic about
the chance to go to Europe, particularly since he would be potentially
re-united with his college coach. Logan was headed back for his second year
on the Thunder staff and had told Miller he would do what he could for him
if he should land in the NFL-Europe camp in Tampa in March.
There are six teams in
the NFL-Europe league. All players in the league must be under contract
with an NFL team and allocated to the Tampa camp for tryouts. Having a
contract does not assure a player of making an NFL-Europe team.
Miller was one of eleven
kickers in tryouts. Only six would be chosen to move on and receive and
assignment to a
Just as in the American
version of the NFL, coaches and teams are trying to win and make it to the
World Bowl, Europe’s version of the Super Bowl. Berlin had cruised through
the league last year and won the World Bowl with a 10-1 record. That gave
Logan some credibility and potentially new leverage in the league, which
would prove to help Miller’s efforts.
Just weeks before the
Tampa tryouts, Miller received a call from Seattle telling him the game plan
had changed. The Seahawks had decided not to send him to the Europe
league. Instead they just wanted him to come straight to their camp this
Having not kicked in a
competitive game in three years, Miller felt he needed the Europe experience
to get back in the game. His agent, Ralph Vitola, and Logan both called the
Seahawks and lobbied on his behalf. Logan promised to try to get him
allocated to the Berlin team and made a commitment to help his former player
as much as possible. That was all it took for the Seahawks’ management to
reverse course again and send Miller to Tampa where he, indeed, made the
Thunder roster as the team's place kicker.
All teams headed to their
respective European cities three weeks ago and the season is now two games
“I am enjoying all
aspects and trying to put up good numbers to gain attention of the NFL
scouts” Miller said by email earlier this week. “At the same time, we are
all competitive and we want to win the World Bowl.”
Miller is not the only
former Pirate on the Thunder squad. Sean Rose, who also played during the
Logan years, is a starting offensive lineman on the Berlin team. Another
familiar face to Pirate fans is Berlin Quarterback Dave Ragone, who played
his college ball at Louisville.
“The nice thing is all
these guys were stars at their respective colleges, so everyone here has a
lot of ability” Miller said. “It is a developmental league but a lot of
these guys have played in NFL games and they take these games very
seriously. The NFL people get all these films so nobody wants to look bad.”
Miller’s team is 2-0 but
not playing the type of dominating football that helped Berlin walk through
the league last year. However, the Thunder is considered one of the
favorites to make it back to the World Bowl this season.
Berlin's new kicker is doing
his part to make it happen. Miller’s first attempt was a 46-yarder that
split the uprights in Berlin’s first win against Frankfurt two weeks ago. He was 3-3 that day. His finest moment came at the end of the Thunder’s
game this past Sunday when Miller was called on for the game winner and
nailed the 37-yarder to give the Thunder the victory over Hamburg.
The season is young but
Miller is already attracting the kind of attention he needs to turn some
heads. He is second in scoring in NFL-Europe and seems to be making the
most of his opportunity.
Many prominent players on
NFL teams today went the Europe route. Miller is hoping he is the next
NFL-Europe player to get a chance to play on Sundays in the fall.
He is off to the kind of
start that could help him do just that.
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