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It’s one thing to join a sports dynasty, but you don’t really feel a part of it until you’ve helped add to its collection of championships.
North Dakota State won its ninth NCAA FCS national title in the last 11 seasons last Saturday with a dominant 38-10 win over Montana State in Frisco, Texas. The quarterback was sophomore Cam Miller of Solon.
Miller joined a list of Bison champion quarterbacks that include current NFL QBs Carson Wentz, Easton Stick and Trey Lance.
“I had no intentions of playing in my first two to three years,” Miller said Monday, back home in Solon to finish out winter break.
Lance was going to quarterback NDSU in the 2020 season, but the FCS pushed the season back to spring of 2021 because of COVID-19. Lance instead entered the 2021 NFL Draft as a junior. He was taken with the No. 3 pick, by San Francisco.
Miller was down the depth chart entering that spring season, but was the starter for the Bison in the playoffs. They lost 24-20 in the quarterfinals to eventual-champ Sam Houston State last May.
When fall camp opened, the quarterback job was open between Miller, Cole Payton, and Virginia tech transfer Quincy Patterson. The transfer was named the starter in late August.
“I thought I was playing the best football I ever played during that time,” Miller said. “They announced Quincy was the starter, and I was pretty devastated for a little while. I remember conversations with my dad, just being really down on myself.
“But at the same time, I just used that as motivation to get better and prepare like I was the starter each and every week.”
Entering the NCAA’s transfer portal was an option. Yet, it wasn’t.
Kevin Miller, Cam’s father and the former head football coach at Solon, told the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead last week that “We didn't even entertain that thought. That's not who we are as a family. He had to learn the value of working through difficulties.
“You're not entitled to starting. You earn it. And you earn it by working harder than everybody else. You're not going to be a victim. You're going to work hard. You're going to get better. You're going to be a good teammate. And you're going to support Quincy.”
Kevin and his wife, Nichole, were traveling home from Texas Monday. They were part of a group of about 25 family members and friends who went to Frisco to cheer on Cam and the Bison.
Miller’s chance to regain the quarterback job came Oct. 23 against Missouri State. Patterson had completed just 5 of 16 passes and was replaced by Miller in the third quarter with the Bison trailing, 20-13.
Miller threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 29 and 24 yards, and NDSU won, 27-20. He proceeded to start the final eight games, four of them FCS playoff contests the Bison won by a combined score of 123-34.
“I just really took that job and ran with it,” Miller said. “I felt like I had a lot of proving to do, especially to the fans, but to myself as well. Because losing is really not an option at North Dakota State. The fans expect national championships year-in and year-out.”
The Bison were a run-first team this season, but Miller had 14 TD passes to just three interceptions. He also rushed for 280 yards and four TDs.
“I just feel like I played some really good football and I didn’t turn the ball over much,” Miller said. “I did what I had to when my team needed me.”
Now, after NDSU had played 24 games between last Feb. 21 and Saturday, there is finally a real break.
“I feel like my best football is ahead of me,” said Miller. “I haven’t had a true offseason to really develop myself. So I just want to develop myself into a better leader, a better person, and a better football player this offseason.”
For now and always, though, he’s Cam Miller, quarterback of a national champion.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” he said. “Just to get it done means the world to me.”
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