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Miller signs with Tennessee-Martin

Anyone who watched Dontrell Miller pick off pass after pass his junior season or saw him slice his way through tacklers again and again his senior year knew that he would one day play college football. The only question was where.

That question was answered Wednesday, as Miller celebrated national Signing Day by accepting a scholarship to play for the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks.

“It’s something I’ve been dreaming about,” Miller said. “But I didn’t think it would actually happen like this. It’s just surprising.”

It’ s maybe less surprising to Demopolis head coach Doug Goodwin, who says Miller has worked tirelessly both on the practice field and in the classroom since day one to earn the scholarship.

“I’m as proud of his academics as I am his athletics,” Goodwin says. “Some people don’t understand that it doesn’t matter how good a player you are if you don’t qualify academically. We’ve had a lot of players who could have played college football who didn’t qualify academically … He’s done what it takes in the classroom to make it happen. He’s a credit to his parents. His grades have been important to him because they were important to them.”

Miller will join the Skyhawks as a safety, in the same position he earned All-State honors in as a junior. Miller is familiar with the new UT-M safeties coach, Ferrell Trimm, from Trimm’s earlier position as a graduate assistant at Southern Mississippi.

While Miller says that was a plus, there were plenty of reasons of choosing to sign with the Skyhawks. One is that the program is up-and-coming after its best season in several years in 2005, another is the school’s campus, and perhaps the biggest is that Miller will already have a familiar face waiting for him on the Skyhawk defense. Former Demopolis defensive tackle Ray Williams signed with UT-M after the Tigers’ 2004 championship season and received regular playing time as a freshman.

“I liked the atmosphere. I’m going to like playing with Ray, and they gave me the best offer,” Miller says of his decision.

In his four years at Demopolis, Miller won countless awards and honors, perhaps the most significant his All-State honor in 2004 and his nomination as 4A Back of the Year in 2005. For his defensive career, Miller racked up 19 interceptions, 339 tackles, and 11 forced fumbles. Although he played sparingly on offense until his senior year, Miller still finished with 3,522 total yards rushing and passing and 34 touchdowns.

Add it all up, and it equals a very special career Goodwin is more than happy to see continue at the college level.

“Any time we have a player realize his dream of playing college football, it’s a good day for us. It’s a good feeling,” Goodwin says. “He’s just a great player. A lot of it is God-given talent, but I think a lot of people don’t have an appreciation for how hard he worked. He’s always been a good athlete, but he became a good quarterback because he wanted to do it. He succeeded because he was smart enough to listen to his coaches and understand what we wanted him to do.”

Thanks to that kind of attitude, it won’t surprise anyone if his time at DHS was only the beginning of Miller’s success–and if that success continues his first season at UT-M.

“I think I can have an impact as a freshman the way I did in high school,” he says, “if I work hard.”