More Than Mr. Koetsier

Dating one of Western Michigan's most popular athletes in Kristin Koetsier is something many college guys would be satisfied with. Not junior linebacker Willie Miller. Miller is recovering from a torn ACL injury stemming from the Virginia Tech game last September. The outlook is bright and he is determined to prove he is more than just Mr. Koetsier.

Those that attend practice know that Willie Miller is full of enthusiasm and always has the "motor running." Despite a serious knee injury, nothing has changed.

"My spirits are high and I'm actually ahead of schedule," said Miller. "The prognosis for an injury like mine is about 4-6 months recovery time but the doctor has told me I am almost two months ahead of schedule."

Being ahead of schedule could allow Miller to participate in spring drills but with the depth chart looking sparse at linebacker don't expect the Bronco coaches to gamble with Miller's injured knee this spring. Junior college transfer Dan Steinau is slated to play the Mike linebacker along with sophomore Josh Behrens so Miller will be counted on at the Will linebacker with redshirt freshman Paul Tithof. Unless Tithof packs on much needed weight a healthy Willie Miller is a must for the Bronco defense.

"The coaches came to me and told me they needed me in the fall so I don't expect to do a lot of contact drills this spring," he said.

Miller spends his rehab time running on a tread mill in a specially made harness that keeps him from having to use his full body weight on the machine. In addition to the running, weight training is a big part of the offseason. Miller has been "busting his butt" and is currently at 6-3 1/2 and 232 pounds. His goal this season is to have his playing weight around 245.

Much of the rehab is taking place in the new Seelye facility which has drawn rave reviews from players, coaches and recruits alike. Miller agrees, "It is a wonderful facility and any guy working out in there will tell you how important it is not having to worry about the weather outside."

Miller is working hard off the field to also retain the respect he earned leading up to his injury. Following the injury it took a month for the swelling in his knee to go down before doctors would operate on it. Miller spent that month going to practice and even dressing in his pads and helmet to participate with teammates and maintain the comradery. He will be looked to this year as a leader with the departure of several key defenders. One, Bryan Lape, was a player that Miller enjoyed trading jabs with throughout each practice.

"It really slapped me in the face over Christmas that Lape was done," said Miller. "We became extremely close and I am very proud of him for what he accomplished here. He was the first one that came to me after my injury and he is a really great friend."

Miller says he learned a lot from Lape and is determined to gain respect from teammates that Lape had while helping anchor the Bronco defense.

"I'm going to do as much as I can so that I have no excuses," he said. "I don't want anyone to notice that I ever had an injury."

Miller has been helped by his girlfriend Koetsier who is the starting forward in the women's basketball team and someone who has battled back from injuries of her own. Her experience has done wonders for Miller emotionally.

"She has been such a help and things are going wonderfully with her," he said. "She has been driving me like a teammate."

With Miller continuing on the path he is this offseason, Bronco fans might be in for an easy transition at the linebacker position this fall. Following a great defensive effort in 2002 where the Broncos finished with the #1 defense in the conference won't be easy but Miller accepts the challenge.

"I'm just focusing on the things I need to do and the guys are behind me," said Miller. "I want to be a leader and I'm not worried about me, just the team. Our defense was #1 last year and I don't want that to change."

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