SOLON — Solon Coach Kevin Miller’s voice cracked slightly as he reflected on the last decade.
He realized just how special this stretch has been, sharing his passion for football with his son, Cam, by his side at games most of that time.
First, it was as a young water boy and ball boy and later as the Spartans’ starting quarterback, filling a spot that Kevin held for Solon’s state title team in 1988.
“It’s hard not to get a little emotional about those things,” Kevin Miller said. “It’s so meaningful. They are memories I will be forever grateful for.
“I just feel very blessed to have the opportunity to coach my son and have the opportunity to spend two to three hours every day with him. Not very many people in their various professions get an opportunity to be able to work with their kids, whether it’s their son or daughter, for two to three hours a day. I don’t take that for granted.”
They will have a chance to add to those memories, a Class 3A state semifinal game against Sergeant Bluff-Luton on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. The Spartans (11-0) reached the semifinals for the second time in three seasons, while the Warriors (10-1) make their second straight appearance.
“Knowing that a playoff game could be the last time him and I play together is hard to take in,” said Cam, a senior and three-year starter committed to North Dakota State. “These three years have gone by really fast and it will all be gone.
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“Really just preparing for each playoff game because obviously we don’t want it to end. I’ve reflected a lot lately on that, because we both care so much about the game and each other.”
The Millers: Father and son, coach and player
The pair has successfully balanced the father/son and coach/player relationship, posting a 31-2 overall record the last three seasons and extending Solon’s 34-game regular-season win streak.
Kevin admitted there were some growing pains, especially the first year. It was hard to remove the emotional component at first. They continued to be direct with each other and understood not to take criticism personally.
Nicole Miller, Kevin’s wife and Cam’s mother, made sure to set the ground rules at home.
“When I took the reins as the starting quarterback as a sophomore, my mom, actually, had talked to us about when Cam wants to talk football that’s when we’ll talk football,” Cam Miller said. “We just try to stay positive when we come home. We really don’t talk about football that much or the negative things that have happened during practice or a game. We just leave that on the field and we’re just father/son when we’re at home.”
Football is a big part of their relationship but they bond over other activities. Sometimes those are more important. Last weekend, after an impressive 24-0 quarterfinal victory over Pella, Kevin Miller stepped away from film to help Cam track a buck that he had hunted.
They share time watching sports on TV, fishing, hunting and golfing when Kevin isn’t playing the role of No. 1 fan for his son and standout pitcher.
“We don’t talk about anything other than what is going on (in the moment),” Kevin Miller said. “We both enjoy it.
“Those are the moments and memories we have outside of football that we both share. That is as much fun as coaching him, because it’s time alone and we both like doing it together.”
Adding to Solon’s proud history
Kevin has been involved in all five Solon state titles, one as a player and four consecutive (2007-10) as a head coach. Cam is attempting to match his father’s feat as a competitor and add to his haul leading the program.
“He led that team to Solon’s first state title and he was a senior when that happened, too,” Cam Miller said. “It’s really special to me to hopefully get one as a senior as well and carry on his legacy as a coach.”
Cam has produced his best season yet. He has passed for 1,960 yards and 23 touchdowns, completing 67.7 percent of his passes. He has added 711 rushing yards and 10 scores as well. Entering Thursday’s game, Cam has surpassed 6,450 career yards, including 5,418 passing.
“He’s grown as a leader,” Kevin Miller said. “His understanding of what we’re doing offensively is a big part of it as well. We give him a lot of responsibility and freedom to do a lot with our offense. He has done a pretty good job, so far.”
Off the field, they share a stubbornness and bull-headed attitude. On the field, there is a bit of a contrast. Cam shows more poise, while Kevin was fiery.
“He’s a little more composed,” Kevin Miller said. “I was always a guy who wore his emotions on his sleeve. I think he keeps his head for the most part.
“There are moments, like most athletes, but I think he does a pretty good job of staying within himself and doesn’t let the emotion of the game determine how he responds to certain situations.”
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Flash back to Coach Kevin Miller & Spartans. Look close you may see the current Spartan QB as a youngster watching the 4 straight titles up close @solonfootball @solonfball @SolonCSD@StineSeed @gdmdermatology @KarlChevrolet @iowahallofpride pic.twitter.com/0CcZ2vdJhs
— Dome Dynasty (@DomeDynasty) November 13, 2019
Cam was born just two months after Kevin was named Solon’s head coach. He has witnessed all the peaks and valleys and headaches his dad has experienced in his career. Cam described him as a strong role model for him and all Solon players.
“He teaches you how to be a better person other than becoming a great football player,” Cam Miller said. “He teaches you life lessons after football that will impact you greatly. He invests so much time into the game. I feel like his players respect him for that and he’s probably the most prepared person on our team.
“At the end of the day, he is just a great person, too.”
The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Regardless of results, Kevin said he is more proud of how Cam has done things and the way he treats others than his athletic achievements anyway.
“One thing that we constantly talk about with Cam is you’re not defined by who you are on the playing field or the baseball diamond,” Kevin Miller said. “We hope through these experiences that you’ve grown into a quality man who will continue to make an impact wherever you go.
“That’s always been the case and what we demand from him. That is the expectation in our house.”
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