By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
First-and-10 from its own 2-yard-line after intercepting a pass that shut down a Pine View drive and kept the game tied at 14-14 midway through the second quarter. It was a Class 3AA state football semifinal at Rice-Eccles Stadium and Dixie had the perfect play call.
“It was a dive and I took it all the way,” said Dixie running back Tre Miller. “Our tackle got really good push on the D-tackle. There was a lane between their end and everyone else. It was really big so I took it through there.”
The result was a 98-yard touchdown run from Miller that showed off the skill set the Flyer running back had developed over a lifetime of learning the game. Power, speed and a nose for the goal line all describe Miller, who is back this year to finish off a stellar high school career at the St. George high school.
Trenton Miller was born in Trenton, New Jersey, where his father had been an outstanding football player, and lived there until his family moved to Utah when he was in fourth grade. He first played football his second-grade year, but the move and some missed sign-up dates kept him away from the game until sixth grade. He hasn’t missed a beat since.
“My dad was really good at football in New Jersey,” Miller said. “He raised me playing football in the backyard in the snow. He really pushed me to play and I love it.”
Miller arrived at Dixie in 2013 as a talented sophomore, but he had to wait his turn in the offensive backfield as that Flyer team featured seniors Joseph Takau and Drew Batchelor as its primary running backs. He filled his time learning the offense and playing at a high level in the team’s defensive secondary.
“Tre started at safety for us as a sophomore,” said first-year head coach Andy Stokes. “He really took that whole sophomore year to focus on learning how to block and becoming a great blocker, and he did. He came back his junior year and he was an incredible blocker.”
Miller just wanted to play football, whatever form that took.
“I played defense (sophomore year) because there was a senior running back,” he said. “He was a big boy, like 230. He was a monster, he was really good. I just wanted to get on the field any way I could, so I played safety that year. I had played linebacker, but that was my first year at safety.”
His coach sees a different persona when his star running back takes the field and that has made him into one of the state’s great runners over the last two seasons.
“Tre’s about one of the quietest kids you’re ever going to meet,” Stokes said. “He works as hard as anyone on the field. He’s never missed an early-morning session. The Tre that’s on the field is different than the Tre you see on an everyday basis. You’re never going to find a better kid off the field. You’re never going to find a better football player on the field as far as just playing with a chip on his shoulder and working hard.”
Lot of Weapons
Miller can beat you a lot of ways. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he is a versatile back with everything it takes to be great.
“He obviously has the speed,” Stokes said. “As a senior, he just put it all together, put on some good solid weight. I think he gained 15 pounds between his junior and senior year and didn’t lose any speed. He has developed up until now into a complete guy. I think he’s the best back in the state, the most complete back in the state.
“He’s a very powerful runner down the middle and he’s got that top-end speed so he can get around the edge. We use him all the time on fly sweeps and we also use him in the power game up the middle. To me, it’s sixes. I just try to get him the ball and he’s going to make something happen.”
Miller has a pretty simple description of himself as a running back.
“I think I’m big enough to run you over, but fast enough to get away,” Miller said. “Running people over feels better.”
The learning process for Miller began during that sophomore season when he had the opportunity to watch other backs run within the Flyer offense.
“I learned that you have to be really patient to the hole and things will open up as you go,” Miller said. “Vision is a big part, especially in the zone. Where the block’s supposed to be is a big part too because we do a lot of cutbacks. Being patient is a really big thing in our offense.”
That patience has allowed Miller to run for 1,515 yards his junior year and he was approaching 1,500 as a senior heading into the team’s state semifinal battle with Tooele. He had 38 total touchdowns in his high school career to that point in his senior campaign.
Other than figuring out how to tackle him, the biggest mystery about Miller involves his selection of the next stop on his football journey. He has a number of college offers but has yet to make a choice. Seems you might expect a little intrigue from a guy who says one of his semi-secret pleasures is a good conspiracy theory.
“It has to have a good medical program because that’s what I want to go into,” Miller said. “Also, the surrounding city is a place that I want to be for the next four years.”
Miller’s long-term goal is to become a physician’s assistant.
“I’ll probably study biology and pre-med,” Miller said. “I decided I wanted to do that my sophomore year. I was taking a medical class and it really interested me. I looked up jobs in that field and I thought PA would be the best. I like to help people a lot. Hopefully I can be a children’s hospital PA.”
For now, Miller’s eyes remain open as he looks patiently for opportunities to excel.