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At first, the U. sophomore found Miller perky and mobile, but his health deteriorated throughout the week. A doctor warned them time was running out, and he required end-of-life hospice care. Finally, Oliver persuaded her ex-husband to return to Utah.
She wishes he had come sooner.
"[Before,] I was like, ‘Dude, I can do this,’ " Miller says. "It’s been a struggle to say I need help."
Miller has visible tumors — one on the center of his spine the size of a baseball, another sticking out of his back and multiple growths on his rib cage — but ultimately the killer is a soft-tissue tumor inside his sinus cavity that pushes against the frontal lobe of his brain. His organs are expected to fail in a matter of days.
The man who once could run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds tried Monday morning to walk from his air bed to the kitchen, stumbling and breaking his crutches. "I’m so drained," he says. "I’m so tired."
Miller was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 1995 NFL draft, getting cut and signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in his only NFL season. He later suited up for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe and the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, with whom he won a Grey Cup Championship in 1998.
But Miller says football players are "easily replaced" and has strived not to be easily labeled.
"He would just like to talk about anything," McBride says. "He would come in my office sometimes and just sit down and start talking about things not pertaining to football — his academic life or his dating life or whatever. He’d say, ‘Coach, what do you think about this?’ and he’d just go on and on and on."
On his way to Los Angeles to play for the Arena Football League’s Avengers in 2001, he stopped by McBride’s office for another chat, telling his old coach, " ‘I’m on my way to Hollywood to be a movie star!’ " McBride says. "I said, ‘You’re what?’ "
Miller’s IMDb page lists credits for nine roles, including "Bringing Down the House" and "Mr. 3000." And he’s a triple threat: More even than acting and football, he adores country music.
"He’s like a cowboy-boots-wearing cowboy," jokes 1994 teammate Edwin Garrette. Miller was downright gleeful Monday when he shared news that Canadian singer-songwriter Scotty Hills will include some songs Miller wrote on his new album.
"It wasn’t ever just about what he could do on a football field," said former teammate Jamal Anderson, who became a Pro Bowl running back with the Atlanta Falcons. "It was almost borderline where it was like, ‘Man, hopefully he focuses enough on football so he can be as good as he can possibly be.’ He loved to play football, but you also knew that he could do something else."
With short notice, former teammates and fellow athletics department notables are scrambling to do what they can for a fallen Ute.
Miller teammate and onetime NFL tight end Henry Lusk helped pick up Miller from the airport.
On Monday, Ute basketball legends Jimmy Soto and Manny Hendrix (who also played for the Dallas Cowboys) came to show support. Later, former Utah defensive tackle Greg Reynolds stopped by, and college friends Rick Sealey and Jerome Marshall wedged themselves between Oliver’s bed and Miller’s for a long, boisterous exchange that left Miller struggling to stop laughing for minutes afterward. Miller’s father, sister and brother got in Monday night, and Coach McBride visited for a second time Tuesday.
Anderson, who said he planned to call Monday night, was shaken by the news. "It’s unfortunate and unsettling," he said. "We are relatively young guys. To see somebody who possessed those gifts in that situation, it’s tough for all of us. It’s a reality check."
A cornerback on the 1994 team, Garrette is now a San Diego police officer and must choose between flying in to see Miller this weekend or for his funeral.
"I’ve never ever been in this situation," he said. "I’ve got a 15-year-old daughter. I always think about that stuff, but this kind of drove it home. [What’s important are] the moments that you have with the people that you care about."
Miller’s buddies tell him not to worry about his kids (He has nine: Alesha (21), Bronzell Jr. (20), Breezell (19), Elijah (16), Breonne (13), Isaiah (11), Aaliyah (9), Arielle (7) and Isaac (5); he is also stepfather to Oliver’s son Stetson, 24). They’ll be taken care of, they say.Next Page >
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