November 18, 2004

From the West Coast to East Mississippi

Mississippi State added its tenth public commitment last week, from the most unlikely of places. Venice, Calif., is not typically a hotbed for MSU recruiting, but after speaking to the State coaches on numerous occasions, inside linebacker Jimmy Miller opted to cast his lot with the Bulldogs. Jimmy and his dad talk about why he decided to travel such a great distance, sight unseen, and what made him choose the Maroon and White.

"A couple of things I guess," commented Jimmy's dad, Ed Miller. "First his brother (current UCLA QB Eddie Miller) had been there and B.J. (Former four-star receiver B. J. Vickers now at Santa Monica College) and they really liked it. They really, really liked it.

"I don't know what happened when his brother and B.J. went there but they have had nothing but great things to say. That was a big deal." Click here to read Eddie's comments after returning home from MSU two years ago.

While most people knew that all of the hype coach Croom got going into the season would pay dividends for Mississippi State, no one knew exactly how the benefits would manifest themselves. The attention he has received was a big contributor in the Millers' ultimate decision.

"Both my wife and I , as well as Jimmy, were really impressed with coach Croom. We followed his story on ESPN and in the paper and a good friend of mine, Tom Clements, he played against Sylvester back in 1973 at Notre Dame and actually threw the pass that won the game for Notre Dame in the championship and they know each other. Coach Croom just really, really related to Jimmy.

"I mean he has talked to a lot of guys and has been to a lot of places - We have had people even call us this morning. Penn State called us this morning and Florida and some other schools. He is very impressed with coach Croom and he wants to go to a team that has a chance to rebuild. That is important to him to have a chance to contribute early and the other thing is that Mississippi State has a real estate major that he wants to take.

"Believe me he went to a lot of schools and talked to a lot of people. It was hard decision but coach Croom is the guy that put it over the top. They sent scouts out here and coaches would come watch him play but actually talking to coach Croom - and he had some long conversations with him - is what did it.

"We love talking with coach Croom and Brick (Haley). They seem like great guys and he has just heard nothing but great things about them. We have done our homework and obviously academics are a big thing.

Athletics around the country vary from location to location, and while the west coast has its share of good football programs, it also has a lot of other activities - including a lot of professional teams - so the passion for college football is not what it is in the south. That also played a role in Miller's decision.

"The most important thing for him was that he wanted to play in the south," Mr. Miller commented. "He wanted to play in the SEC. He was originally going to trip to Florida then Coach Zook got fired then he was going to trip to Alabama actually this weekend, but after talking to coach (Sylvester) Croom and coach Brick Haley a number of times and just looking at all of his options, from Penn State to all over, he decided that Mississippi State was, well he was looking for a small town atmosphere and a real college town."

Miller has played on both sides of the ball in high school, but his heart has always been on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Croom saw this desire and had the same plans for his future.

"Florida State and USC both wanted him to play fullback, but he has always been a linebacker and coach Croom feels that he has an intensity that is, well he is a guy that is always where the ball is and has that innate ability to get there," Mr. Miller explained. "He is the first four-year starter in Venice high school history and we play our playoff game Thursday night and it will be his fiftieth varsity football game. No one in Los Angeles has ever played 50 varsity football games, and trust me, that is a lot of people. In the city league alone we have 51 high schools and in LA we have 680 and no one has played 50 games in division-I…not at that level.

"He has a toughness about him and he has an attitude. I will guarantee you one thing; he has an attitude. He plays a lot like, he has been compared to Zack Thomas with a Brian Bosworth mentality. He brings it. Coach Croom just says, 'He has something that I can't teach him. He just has an ability and an awareness of where the football is going. He just has something that most guys don't have.'"

Miller stands 6-foot-1, weighs 222 pounds, and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.75-seconds. He earned all-league and all-city honors as a junior and has continued his award-winning pace as a senior.

"Right now at nine games he has 143 tackles, 86 are solos, seven sacks and three fumble recoveries," Mr. Miller continued. "He is averaging 15.9 tackles a game and he doesn't play four quarters either. Very seldom is he in on the fourth quarter. We are 8-2 and in the city playoffs.

"Our goal for him was just like anyone else's. Go somewhere where they want you and go where you think that the coaches are going to be fair with you, and we feel like he will get that at Mississippi State. He had offers from Penn State, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, UAB, UCF, Florida State (only at fullback), Vanderbilt, Washington and he has not been offered by Oregon, but Oregon was going to offer."

While the whole family had nothing but good things to say about Mississippi State, the decision ultimately came down to what Jimmy wanted to do. He reiterated everything his father had said.

"My thoughts of the campus are through my brother's eyes, him and B.J," he began. "My brother visited over twelve schools in the summer and during his senior year, and he and B.J. took an official visit to Mississippi State. Then B.J. came back and went to Oregon and some other really great schools and Mississippi State was their favorite place. They had a blast at Mississippi State and they wish that they could go back, and probably to this day, wish that they would have gone to Mississippi State. Just hearing that, and I always had Mississippi State in my mind. I just tried to watch their games and stuff."

With Mississippi State already ingrained in his mind, it was up to the staff to capitalize on the situation. That is exactly what they did.

"I got a good vibe from coach (Guy) Holliday and coach Brick Haley the linebacker coach," Miller said. "I like those guys a lot and they were real open with me and forward with me, which I liked. A lot of schools I talked to, I didn't even get to talk to my position coach. Schools would call me once a week like Alabama and Central Florida and I talked to a lot of schools and I didn't even talk to my position coach. My first phone call was from my position coach at Mississippi State.

"My second phone call was from coach Croom, so that made a big impact on me and showed me they were really serious about me and they weren't going to pull my chain or lead me on or the usual deal that most college recruiters do. Just the things that coach Croom told me on the phone, and watching the story before the game with Alabama made a huge impact on me. To find out what he has been through in his life and to show that he is a good judge of character and he's got a lot of character and he knows what hard work is all about and pride, he is the coach for me. I look up to him a lot and I respect him a lot and I just want to play for a guy like that.

"I also did a lot of research on the school and they have a great real estate development program. I am excited to be a part of when I get over there."

While he has many more options, Miller is firm in his decision and will be in Starkville this weekend on an unofficial visit...his first trip into the Magnolia State.

"My dad said I should probably take another trip, even though I am still committed, just to take another trip, but I don't want to do that. I don't need to do that. My mind is made up."

So how will Miller fit into the system at MSU?

"I have always loved schools like Pitt and Penn State and stuff but if you want to play linebacker, if you are a linebacker and you want to play serious football, you go to the SEC. That has always been my dream to play in the SEC, to play against those big teams like LSU, Auburn, Florida, Alabama and so that is where I wanted to go. I wanted to play in the SEC and I happen to be going into a program that is rebuilding and I can just go in there and make a difference early.

"They haven't said anything about redshirting. They said I would have a chance to compete for a starting job, and if not, I would definitely be playing on special teams and be in the rotation, but I want to go in and go there and play. That is my goal. This off season I am just going to dedicate myself to that goal. Once I get there, I want to get in and really work and see what happens then."

Miller will have no problems getting into school. He currently maintains a 2.9 core GPA and has already scored a 960 on the SAT. He wants to get over 1,000, "just to seal it off."

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