Polk County fullback/linebacker Zach Miller signed scholarship papers Wednesday with Carson-Newman University, where he will play football and continue his journey toward the pulpit with pastoral studies.
Miller said it was not only his field of study that drew him to the Eagles program but the attitude of the coaches as well.
“The coaches are great up there. Head coach (Ken Sparks) said he was more worried about making better Christians on the field and off the field, and the other stuff will come next.”
Miller heads to a program that finished 10-3 in 2013 after falling in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
“I’m going to go up there and work hard. They are a winning program, they are known for winning. I plan to work hard, train hard and try to be the best player I can,” he said.
Miller becomes only the second football Wildcat to sign a scholarship. He follows Mike Hammons who graduated from Tennessee Chattanooga in 2011.
Wildcats head coach Derrick Davis said Miller will be a solid addition to the Eagles’ lineup on and off the field.
“These four years with Zach have flown by. You face this, eventually, that they will move on. The good thing is we haven’t had a whole lot of kids that have been able to move to the next level, and I’m really happy he has that opportunity,” said Davis of the bittersweet moment.
“I know Carson-Newman has a quality young man, not only a football player but an individual. There is no doubt in my mind he is going to go up there and do great things. I know his parents are proud, but our team, the school and the whole community are really excited for him because he is such a great individual.”
Miller admitted he isn’t sure when he will get to see action with the Eagles, but said he will work as long and as hard as necessary to make it between the sidelines.
“I’m very excited. “I don’t know how long it will take me to get some playing time, all I know right now is I’m the biggest linebacker they have — that could help,” Miller said through a smile. “Coach Davis told us at the banquet tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I’m just going to keep going on when times get tough.”
Miller still has some unfinished business before turning his attention fully to getting himself in football shape. The big senior — who wrestles for Walker Valley as a heavyweight — will be looking to earn a berth in the state wrestling tournament this weekend. He plans to use the time spent on the mat as a tool to stay in shape before focusing entirely on football.
“I’m going to keep wrestling and doing extra things like running and working out,” he said. “At first I will be nervous, but when I get the hang of it I think it will be just like it is here.”
Davis said he has no doubt Miller will be as successful as an Eagle as he was as a Wildcat. He also is proud of the fact Carson-Newman will not have to worry about how hard their new recruit will work, or how he will spend his time away from football.
“He’s been part of this team for four years and even played some as a freshman. He’s had a lot of experience in big games and I feel like our kids work hard here and he’s got a great work ethic. I’m sure he’s been through some things here in the program that will benefit him there,” he said of the new Eagle. “Regardless, the type of kid he is, he’s going to work at it. They are not going to have to worry about him failing out of school or doing something stupid and getting kicked off the team. They’ve signed one that, in my opinion is going to be there in the long run.”