Published in The News-Herald
September 14, 2021
Ryan Miller had big plans for his senior year with the Kenston football team.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound tight end accepted a full athletic scholarship to Indiana University this past spring. But before embarking on a college football adventure in the Big Ten, Miller yearned for a decorated senior season with his Bombers teammates.
So as Kenston ran onto the field for a Week 4 game against North, Miller never imagined being where he was.
Sitting in a wheelchair on the sideline.
Miller sustained fractures to his L1, L2 and L3 vertebrae while recovering an onside kick in the Bombers’ Week 3 win over NDCL. That portion of vertebra is the topmost section of the lumbar spinal column.
Doctors have told Miller his injury is not career-ending nor is it debilitating in the longterm.
But it has halted his high-school career — maybe for good.
“This definitely sucks,” Miller said. “It’s the first time I’ve been on the sideline after starting four years on varsity. The doctors say I’ll make a full recovery and if I tore up my knee that’d be a worse injury. But yeah, this is hard on me.”
Through two-plus games, Miller had eight catches for 91 yards. He was part of an electric Kenston offense that through four games is averaging 32 points per game.
But he wasn’t hurt doing what he does best — catching passes.
He was hurt trying to preserve his team’s lead over NDCL.
The Lions attempted a fourth-quarter onside kick in a game Kenston eventually won, 35-23. Miller fell on the ball and curled around it — just like he was taught.
Instinctively, an NDCL player attempted to jump in to recover the ball at the same time Miller was corralling it. The player’s knee hit Miller’s lower back and — well — Miller’s no doctor, but he knew something was wrong.
“When I wrapped around it with my body, a dude came in and hit me in the lower back,” Miller said. “I felt something right then. I knew right away it was not something I was going to get right up from and be fine the next day.”
He was helped from the field and taken from the campus by ambulance.
“Our kids were on a knee, and I wasn’t sure how they’d finish seeing Ryan in an ambulance,” Coach Jeff Grubich said. “He loves to play for his team and with the guys he’s grown up with.”
And therein lies Miller’s conundrum.
If doctors are correct and the injury isn’t career, threatening, could Miller rehab a few weeks and return to Kenston to finish off his decorated senior year?
Would he be better off just sitting out the rest of the season, fulfilling his plans to graduate early and enroll at Indiana in January?
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