Spencer Miller had a break-through football season at Central Valley, and he was primed for an even bigger senior season.
Miller made himself into a two-way player – as a running back on offense and strong safety on defense. By the end of the season he was an All-Greater Spokane League selection for the Bears.
At 6-feet and 200 pounds, with 4.6 second speed in the 40-yard dash, Miller had the physical makeup many college recruiters are combing high school football to uncover.
“I was so excited for this year and I was so pleased with the progress I made as a junior,” he said. “I was beginning to hear from some colleges – mostly Division III and some Division II schools.”
And then things started to happen.
“It started during the track season,” Miller said. “I broke my pelvis during track.”
That injury wiped out spring and summer football. Instead of getting on the field and honing his technique for his senior year, he was on the sideline.
“I was so glad for summer football to be done,” Miller said. “I just couldn’t stand to watch any more of it.”
With his pelvis fully healed, Miller dove into preparing for the opening of practice for his final high school season.
“I injured my back on Day 3 of practice,” Miller said. “They told me it’s a pars stress fracture of a vertebra in my back. Basically the vertebra was just sitting there, waiting to break.”
Any time doctors use terms like “fracture” in the same sentence with “back,” it gets a player’s attention. Miller said the basic game plan is to rest his back. No running, no weightlifting, no doing anything that places stress on the injured vertebra.
“I’m working out with bands and I’m able to do the bike and an elliptical trainer,” he said. “They’ve told me that I’ll know when my back is healed because I’ll be able to do things like bend over. I could get cleared to play at any time, so I’m trying my best to be ready, just in case.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg on the Spencer Miller story.
Going into the season, Miller was named a team captain. The senior hasn’t let not being on the football field keep him from performing his duties.
“I’m trying to do whatever I can to help my team,” he said. “We’re a very young team this year. We have six seniors and only four of them had varsity experience coming into the year. We have a lot of sophomores on this team.
“I didn’t play for the first time until I was a junior and I had a year of junior varsity under my belt. A lot of these guys are skipping JV and going straight to varsity, so I’ve been trying to help them as much as I can.”
Sometimes that’s meant offering encouragement. Sometimes it’s meant getting after a teammate here or there when they get down or don’t give their best effort.
And sometimes it means doing a little coaching.
“The coaches like to joke and give me a hard time,” Miller smiled. “They call me coach Miller. To be honest, I don’t even notice myself doing it, but I’m in there coaching them and helping them work through stuff.”
Since getting on the field is out of the question for the time being, putting in some extra time breaking down film has been a way to help.
“The offense we’re running this year is a little different than what we ran last year,” Miller said. “Last year we were more of a power running team. For our game with Mead, I was able to talk to our guys about what we did against them last year, how they run a 3-3 defense and how if we block down hard on the end, the play is going to break to the outside.”
Miller said he hasn’t ruled out college football. But he has begun to change his game plan.
“I don’t know if college coaches will be interested in film from my junior year or not,” he said. “Right now, I’m hoping I can get into the tail end of this season and then I’m thinking I’ll walk on somewhere and see if I can work my way into a scholarship.”
And, he’s now thinking about going into coaching.
“I never thought I would like it,” he laughed. “But now that I’ve seen things from this side of things, I can see myself doing this.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.