This fall was not what Gabe Miller expected, but it turned out to be very productive nonetheless.
The 2018 Seneca Valley graduate was hoping to turn in a strong season as a linebacker for California (Pa.) University’s football team.
When the Vulcans’ season was scratched due to COVID-19, he knew he was going to have a lot of free time on his hands.
“All of my classes were going to be online,” Miller said. “Ever since I was a little kid, all I’ve known in the fall was going to school and playing football. Now both of those things were taken away.”
Miller was speaking with SV head coach Ron Butschle last summer when the latter pitched an idea.
“He said if I was going to be at home, he’d love to have me on staff as an assistant coach,” said Miller, a Cranberry Township resident who was a standout linebacker/defensive end during his playing days for the Raiders. “Ron and I have a close relationship and I thought it was an amazing opportunity.”
Beginning in late August, Miller began working with the team’s linebackers. He also joined forces with his younger brother, Josh, a star defensive end playing his final high school season.
“I love football and loved working with the players,” Gabe said, “but what meant the most to me was being right there for Josh’s senior season. With all of the negativity in 2020, I am very thankful for that.”
“I was pretty excited when I found out Gabe was coming back and so were my teammates,” Josh said. “He taught me a lot of technique over the years.”
Josh wore No. 40 the last three seasons after Gabe donned it through the 2017 season.
The latter left quite an impression at Seneca Valley and his physical talent was only part of that legacy.
“Our father, Bill, instilled in me the importance of giving 100 percent on every single play,” said Gabe. “You never know when your last play is going to come.”
At no time was that attitude more evident than when the Raiders met North Allegheny in a 2016 Class 6A semifinal.
The Tigers had scored a touchdown on the last play of regulation to pull within one point (28-27) of the Raiders. A successful point after attempt would have sent the game into overtime.
Miller broke through the line and blocked the kick, sending the Raiders to the district final for the first time since 1989.
As important as physical talent is, Miller knows the mental side of the game is also crucial.
“You have to be in the best possible mind-set. If you’re not, you won’t do your best,” he said. “That’s not just in football, but in your daily life.”
His coaching experience has reaffirmed for Gabe Miller his goals once he graduates from college.
“I want to be a teacher and a head football coach,” he said. “That’s my dream.”
Josh Miller was a sophomore the fall after Gabe graduated.
“I felt a little bit of pressure, following Gabe, but I think I handled it well,” said Josh. “I just like sacking the quarterback and hitting people.”
He did a good job of it this season. Eleven of his 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage were sacks. His play has attracted attention and he has been offered by the University of Dayton and Valparaiso.
“Josh is a guy opposing coaches have to game plan around,” said Butschle. “He was relentless. He’s talented, but his motor never stops. Gabe was the same way.”