It is certainly not unusual for Polk County running back Zach Miller to hear his named called in the huddle when quarterback Josh Silas calls a play.
The senior fullback has already rushed for 387 yards in two games for the Wildcats so far this season and is on his way to another 1,000-yard effort.
“Anybody who has watched one of our games will know what kind of a player he is. If you haven’t seen him, he is one of those guys you just love to have. No. 1 — he is a good player. No. 2 — his dependability, going hard, his effort and all those things built around that make him even better,” said Wildcats coach Derrick Davis.
“We’ve had a long line of pretty good fullbacks come through here. But, he’s right up there at the top of the players I have coached. I’m just talking strictly football, but going outside of the football player is what makes him. It’s just a pleasure to have him on our team.”
But lately, Miller has been hearing a different kind of calling — to pursue a divine calling to preach the gospel.
While attending service at the All Nations Church of God in Cleveland, Miller said he strongly felt the call and sought spiritual intervention to confirm his feelings. Confirmation came in the form of a man from Florida he had never met who had preached an earlier sermon at the church.
“I really feel like I do (have the call to preach),” he said. “There was a service just before and the preacher was from Florida; he didn’t know me and I didn’t know him. I told God, ‘If you really want to use me, let him tell me.’ I went up to get prayed for and the preacher said, ‘“God told me to tell you, you have a calling and He wants to use you.”’
Miller, who leads Fellowship of Christian Athletes services at Polk County High School, has no doubt he will follow up on the calling and go where God leads, even if it takes him away from the game he loves.
“I plan on following up on it and studying. God can bless me more than anything else can bless me,” he said.
Before he steps onto the field and even while playing, the biggest wheel on the Big Red Train does not hesitate to ask God to protect him, his teammates and the opposition.
“He protects me and keeps me safe so I don’t get hurt. I pray every game that he protects me,” he said.
Off the field, Miller’s quiet and unassuming nature makes him a natural magnet that draws others toward his friendly and personable outlook on life in general.
“Sometimes you get an individual off the field and — no disrespect — but he may not be a great kid. He may help us but that’s about it. You could have a guy that is a good player, but again no disrespect, you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time with him after practice. What’s good about Zach is he is both a good player and a good kid,” Davis said of Miller’s off the field attitude.
“The four years he has been here have flown by,” Davis said. “I appreciate him and respect what he has done. You get caught up in the moment and the season and you appreciate what they are doing, but I know when he leaves here he will always be a part of Polk County High School. He has made his place in history here as far as what he’s done. I’m going to miss him and as I say in every interview, we love the yardage and tackles he gets for us, but I’m going to miss him as a person just as much.”
It is no secret, however, that the 6-foot-1, 235 pound running back/linebacker runs more like an angry bull and hits opposing runners more like a runaway freight train than a typical man of the cloth. He said he will use his God-given talent in a positive way keeping in mind football is only a game.
“The Bible says you can be angry and sin not. You can show aggression but you don’t have to go too far,” he said.
When all is said and done and the last second has ticked off the clock and his off the field persona takes over, Miller will return to being the amiable friend who knows football is only a game and the higher calling he is yielding to will lead him in everyday life.
“He lives his life by example. His beliefs are not just something for show or phony. He lives what he believes. You can see he lives his life the way he believes. It’s great to see a 17-year-old get up and preach, do the things he does and be a leader,” said Davis. “There is tremendous peer pressure out there, and for him to stand firm and stand up for what he believes is really nice to see.”