Miller was the most highly recruited player in Colorado this year. After narrowing his choice of schools to Colorado and Notre Dame, the mammoth offensive lineman chose the Buffs in October.
BSN spoke with Columbine head coach Andy Lowry recently.
BSN: Tell me about that play where Ryan ran down Phillip Morelli in the state title game. (Miller pursued 70 yards on a play and stopped Morelli from scoring. It was a key play in the game as Columbine took possession soon after on a Mullen fumble.)
Lowry: It was just one of those things where he never stopped running. From the snap on he kept on pursuing. Morelli had to dodge some people and break a tackle here or there, but Ryan took a great angle and used all 6-foot-7 of himself and caught him from behind.
BSN: Did that play surprise you or not?
Lowry: You know, at the time it's one of those things you don't even realize what happened. But then you take a look at it and watch a 290 pounder just get moving and never give up on it – that's one of those plays that everybody's been talking about for the past two weeks. It's pretty impressive at any level for a 6-7, 290-pound guy to do. It was about his heart and determination. He was a man on a mission for this playoff run, trying to win a championship. And his determination sure did play a huge role in our success, that's for sure.
BSN: Talking about heart and determination. It's impressive to me when guys play both ways in high school and make an impact as much as it seems like he did on both sides of the line. Especially a kid that big. Is that as big a deal as it seems?
Lowry: Yeah, Ryan's an enormous kid, but I think Ryan's a better athlete than he is big. He's a tremendous athlete. His feet are great, he runs well, he's got a great motor on him.
He didn't envision playing as much defense as he did, and he became a dominant defensive player the last six weeks of the season. He got a little bit tired and probably was out more offensively than defensively. Defensively, he was a man-child. Then (on offense) against Fort Collins in the semi-finals we ran the same exact play seven times in a row behind him. We ran it in for a touchdown to kind of put the game away. It was late in the fourth quarter and we just ran the same play right behind him.
BSN: Have you ever coached a guy with as much national interest as he got?
Lowry: No. I've coached some great kids. We had the Hoffschneider kid here a while back. He was probably the most dominant player that I've ever coached, but he was only 5-foot-8, 240 pounds, and Division I coaches didn't think he could play.
But Ryan has had the most national exposure by far. We've never had a kid anywhere near that.
BSN: What was that like for you as a coach? What was the stuff you had to deal with?
Lowry: Every school's recruiting person, school papers or alumni or coaches were in here. We were just inundated with coaches from all over the country, and then in the spring time it was just non-stop.
For me it was overwhelming, but we were at track meets (in the spring) and Ryan's cell phone was going off all the time with text messages or voice messages. How he handled it as a 16-year-old kid last spring – I don't know how he did that. But he did incredible with it. He did better than I think anybody could ever imagine a young person could do.
I know when he finally made a decision, the weight of the world was off his shoulder, that's for sure.
BSN: What about with his teammates. He's getting all this big-time publicity and interest, and yet he's got to be a member of a team. How did he handle all that?
Lowry: Ryan's an all-American football player, but he's an all-world person. He's a real strong Christian. He comes from a very good family. He's a humble kid. He tries to spread the wealth among everybody else. He did the same thing with his teammates, in terms of knowing how important they were to him and vice versa.
We had just a special group of kids. I don't know if this was the best team that we've ever had. Actually, if someone had said you're going to win last year or this year, I would've thought last year. But these kids (in 2006), just the chemistry; they just loved each other. They root for each other and were behind each other.
And Ryan worked at it. It's not one of those things where, ‘Hey, I'm getting all this attention, I'm going to sit on my butt and not do anything.' He was the first to do everything. He worked his tail end off. When you got a dude like that making plays like he did down the stretch, people see it and understand that's why he's getting all the recognition. Because he's playing with his heart.
His buddies, they really root for him. In situations like this I think it would be easy for some kids to get jealous and root against him. But just the kind of person he is. He's a Links Leader (a program that pairs upperclassmen with freshmen for orientation purposes). He's a peer counselor. He's a kid who down the hallway looks intimidating, but any kid could go up and talk to him at any time.
BSN: What about physically. What's his upside at the next level?
Lowry: Maybe you can answer it: What does a 6-10, 325-pound offensive tackle make in the NFL? (laughs) If he stays free from injury, I know the coaches at CU will develop him. (Former Fairview High/USC/Jacksonville offensive tackle) Tony Boselli was an all-American and top draft choice. There's no reason why Ryan could not and should not follow in that. It takes a lot of luck. Some things are out of coaches' control or a kid's control. But if he stays healthy, the sky's the limit.
He's projected to continue to grow and could get to 6-10. Put him in a two-point stance (at offensive tackle) and fire him off every play – he's got incredible feet. The sky's the limit for him.