© Greg Powers

A Decision Down to the Wire

Following school on Tuesday, January 31, defensive back Chris Miller and one of his best friends isolated themselves so they could research and discuss the three finalists vying to earn Miller’s prized signature the next day, on National Signing Day.

Chris Miller had committed to Colorado on June 22nd and had then excelled as a senior, both at wide receiver and cornerback, earning both district and all-state (second team) honors for his play.

However, a barrage of offers from Ole Miss, Texas, Baylor and Notre Dame, coupled with the departures of much of the CU defensive staff, left Miller reviewing all his options as the final hours ticked away.

To be fair, the final two months before Signing Day, in general, had been a whirlwind for the Denton High star. In mid-December, CU defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt bolted for more pay at Oregon and was eventually followed to Eugene by cornerbacks coach Charles Clark.

The CU staff scrambled to stay in contact and, according to Miller, maintained a solid relationship, but the uncertainty surrounding who’d be running the defense and coaching his position started to open his mind up to exploring other options.

Once the calendar moved into 2017, Miller had the opportunity to take up to three official visits the final month, but ultimately decided on just two: Ole Miss, being that he’s a Mississippi native with family still living there, and Baylor. Both visits opened his eyes to an array of possibilities – on the football field, in the classroom and more for the next four years of his life – and the decision became more complicated.

He also toyed with the idea of visiting Texas, as well, but concluded he had seen Austin before – plus, the Longhorns were recruiting him to play slot receiver instead of his preferred position of cornerback.

Notre Dame similarly had recruited him to play wide receiver until offensive coordinator Mike Sanford left to be the head coach at Western Kentucky, at which point the Irish began pursuing Miller to play defensive back.

But neither school earned a place at the final table. And, so, three – the Buffaloes, Bears and Rebels – remained, and all were dead even as the dead period began.

Everyone in and around Miller’s life had an opinion on where he should go, to the point that on the day before signing day, there was Miller and his friend scouring websites about each campus, each team and anything that could help him make the final decision.

Looking back now, Miller acknowledges how the decision loomed right up until the final moments. “I really didn’t make my decision until the last moment, until right before I signed the paper,” he said. And he still continues to emphasize the words “really” and “close” when discussing the separation between the three schools.

“Ultimately, at the end, I just went with my heart and chose Colorado,” he added.

Credited for grabbing his heart is a Colorado staff that showed him attention from the outset of the recruiting process and continued to demonstrate how badly they wanted him to join The Rise, even as they worked to replace three coaches on his side of the ball. But Miller admits that he also was swayed by something he had seen during his research session the night before, which popped into his mind as he reached for the letter of intent and pen.

“I watched this one video I saw on my first recruiting trip to Colorado last year. And it was after a losing season they had and just how the players talked about how they loved being there at Colorado even though they’d never had a winning season. They were proud just to be a part of it, and it just made me really want to join it.”

Now, Miller is in the process of finishing his senior year and is hopeful he’ll be able to use his Spring Break to visit Boulder to watch some spring practices in the next week. And then once he arrives on campus in June, he plans to major in engineering while helping Colorado maintain its climb back to the top of the college football world.

“Colorado used to be really great back in the day and then they went through a slump. I just really want to be a part of changing something for the better, to help build [the program] back to where it belongs,” said Miller.

That should be music to the ears of CU fans everywhere.

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