No player in Big Ten history has won as many individual awards as Ohio State senior quarterback Braxton Miller, but Miller will have a chance to keep adding to his trophy case after spurning the NFL Draft for one more season in Columbus.
After finishing fifth in Heisman Trophy voting as a sophomore, he appeared poised for a three-year stay at OSU. However, an early injury and late hiccup derailed those plans. Instead, he said at no point during the 2013 campaign did he seriously consider leaving Ohio State early.
"It wasn't a deep thought about that," he said Wednesday. "I always knew I was going to eventually make that decision and I was going to come back."
Miller was speaking to the media following the presentation of his second consecutive Chicago Tribune Silver Football, an award that predates the Heisman Trophy and is awarded to the Big Ten's most valuable player as voted on by the 12 coaches.
His selection marks just the fourth time in history that a player has managed to win the award on back-to-back occasions. Miller joins Minnesota quarterback Paul Giel (1952-53), Buckeyes running back Archie Griffin (73-74) and Indiana running back Anthony Thompson (1988-89) in that category.
He was announced as the winner on Dec. 12 but presented the award Wednesday at the men's basketball contest against Northwestern, allowing the Tribune's Teddy Greenstein to present him with the award at center court during the first media timeout of the game.
The award boosted his lead atop the all-time list of major conference awards with seven, besting former Buckeye and college football hall of famer Orlando Pace, who received five such honors over the course of his storied career in Columbus. Miller collected the Silver Football, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Big Ten Quarterback of the Year in both 2012 and 2013, while also claiming Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2011.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players, but Miller appeared on 10 of the 11 ballots in which he was eligible. A total of nine of those were first-place votes. Wisconsin linebacker and Dayton native Chris Borland finished second, while OSU senior running back Carlos Hyde placed third. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's vote went to Borland, the only player other than Miller to collect a first-place tally.
Miller said that he didn't take his decision lightly. After seeing a 24-game win streak turn into a two-game losing streak, Miller gave himself some time to avoid the flood of emotions that came following the defeats to Michigan State and Clemson.
"I just sat down with the coaches, observed everything, made sure I was making the right decision and went over everything, and it wasn't too hard of a decision," he said. "At first, I was thinking heavy about everything that was going on at the time – Orange Bowl, Big Ten Championship Game, National Championship Game, but after everything settled down I made the right decision with Coach (Urban Meyer) and my dad and my parents."
His choice had the blessing of OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman, a man who many also thought may bolt Columbus in the offseason for a head coaching opportunity.
"In my opinion, this was the best thing for him because he didn't have anything to lose and (had) everything to gain by coming back," Herman said. "It was very wise."
Miller said that he received a positive grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board – "It was one of the best feedbacks you can get" – but declined to say exactly where the group projected him to be drafted.
Still, the player who passed for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns knows he has room to improve next season.
"You want to accomplish things that you didn't accomplish in your first three years," he said. "I feel like I left little things out on the field, and I can achieve all my goals. It's some things I think about, and that's why I wanted to come back."