Anatomy of an Era: Barron Miles, Part 1
Excerpted from Chapter 29, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 1 by Paul Koch
“The more we love our friends, the less we flatter them; it is by excusing nothing that pure love shows itself.”
-Jean Baptiste Moliere, Le Misanthrope
If you’re the least bit familiar with the U.S. Armed Forces’ elite special ops Navy SEALs team, you may have heard about the final training crucible which every prospective member must outlast and endure. It’s called ‘Hell Week,’ and reasonably so. Physically draining and mentally straining, this ungodly inhumane test comes to an end when the trainee either crumbles and quits under the duress or remains resolute until that moment when a final bell is rung, signalling to all survivors that they have withstood the full brunt of the gauntlet. To do so engenders an extraordinary fortitude and undying spirit, a profound sense of destiny and perseverance. This attitude, this mindset, this purposeful striving is summed up by two noteworthy slogans among those able to join the unique SEAL Team cadre: “The only easy day was yesterday” and “It pays to be a winner.” I’ve become acquainted with a few SEAL-team Special Operators myself and can vouch for their veracity. Which brings us to Barron Miles:
A small kid with a bum ankle, bloodied nose and swollen eyes, Barron had the verve, the “It Factor,” that had a recruiting Frank Solich demanding Barron take a look westward to the oddly mis-shapen state half a world away from Roselle, New Jersey. Though undersized, Barron Miles brought some pluck to the team by counting the cost, paying the price, and reaping the reward. If the axiom “It pays to be a winner” holds true, let’s listen to his counting of that cost, as well as his methods to his achieving the reward of that great era…
Notable quote #1:
“If I play like I’m supposed to play you’re not going to take my job, anyway. That’s how I feel. So my objective is to help you. If I can make you better, that’s gonna make our team better, and you’re gonna push me and I’m gonna push you.”
Scholarship recruit, Cornerback, Roselle, New Jersey (Abraham Clark)
Where are they now? Canada, Coach
Question: So you’re with CFL’s B.C. Lions, Barron?
Barron Miles: Yep, this is going on my fifth year with them. And I was in Montreal with the Allouettes for 7 years before that.
Q: Turner Gill used to play for the Allouettes, didn’t he?
BM: Yes, and Tommie. Tommie played a little bit.
Q: Were you there when Tommie was there?
BM: No, I was in Pittsburgh for the Steelers when he was there.
Q: Forgive me, Barron, I kind of lost track of some of you guys at that time. So tell me, where did you all go to play?
BM: I got drafted by Pittsburgh and I was there off and on for three years. From there I went to Montreal. After the time with Montreal it was on to British Columbia.
Q: How are those Canucks treating you up there? Are you picking up any French?
BM: Actually, I’ve lost it since I’ve been in B.C., but when I was in Montreal I was a lot better. Like, if you speak it then I could understand you, but if I don’t think about it I could talk back to you. (laughs) Right now my oldest is bilingual. She’s fluent in French, and my other two are almost, just starting out. They go to a French emergence school now.
Q: So what do you see yourself doing once the playing days are over?
BM: Coaching. I like to coach.
Q: Where are you thinking?
BM: My ultimate goal, my fantasy job, would be a high school coach. Just because I’ve had a lot of experience in college and as a professional, and it starts with high school. And if I can get to them in high school and influence them the right way and get them started right, then that can give them a better shot. If they go to college, they’ll have a better understanding of what to expect in college and the professional ranks, if it goes that far. I see a lot of kids now, that they don’t have a clue. They are so far out there that they aren’t prepared to do anything.
Q: So it’s just a dream for those kids, but it’s not a plan?
BM: Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. “This is what I want to do.” And I say, ‘Okay, how are you getting there? Are you preparing yourself? How do you plan on getting there?’ They’ll be like, “I got time. Don’t worry.” (laughs)
Q: Was somebody there for you like that in junior high and high school?
BM: I had a lot of coaches who were around, but I was that odd kid. I was that odd kid: I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a pro football player. I knew from day one that this is what I wanted to do and I did everything possible to do it.
Q: Who were your heroes?
BM: My mom is number one, and Marcus Allen. When I was growing up, it was Marcus Allen.
Q: Marcus Allen? Really? All the way out in Jersey you were a Raider fan?
BM: I‘d read something about Marcus Allen. He played quarterback in high school and he was an all-around athlete and he just did everything, and that inspired me. I watched him play and I was like like, ’Yeah, that’s me.’ And the ironic part is, I played against his brother. It’s kind of funny how it turned out.
Q: That’s something. You know he and his brother, as well as former Nebraska quarterback Steve Taylor, went to school at Lincoln High here in San Diego. Did you ever get a chance to meet him?
BM: No. Nope, never did.
Q: Well, maybe you’re the lucky one. Some folks say that you should never meet your childhood heroes. (laughs)
BM: (laughs) I am too busy. I have three kids. They are into sports and everything, especially the offseason here, it’s their time. I don’t get too much time to spend, too much time with them during the season, so I run around and we both have to go to their a sporting events, and I can’t miss it. If I’m not working I’m gonna go. I love it. We always show each other support.
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Q: And hey, I heard your interview on Jerry Murtaugh’s Legends Radio Show, what’s this I hear that you are now #3 all-time in the Canadian football league in interceptions?
BM: I think so. I’m up there. I’m trying to get second.
Q: Obviously longevity plays a part. What do you attribute to your success?
BM: I think I know the game, number one. I understand the game. It’s just knowing what they’re trying to do. Because in this league once the quarterback knows you can catch, as a defensive back, they don’t throw into your area too often, because they know you’re looking for the ball. I’ve been very fortunate. There are only about two or three good quarterbacks who would throw to a receiver who’s not open, so where everybody else sees them covered, they’ll put it in a spot where the receiver is still running and it’s an open area; whereas other young quarterbacks, they have to wait for the guy to be open, then they throw it. Then it’s too late and I’ve got ‘em then.
Q: So what year was your first fall camp at Nebraska?
Q: So that means your last game as a Husker was against Miami in the national championship game. And you were from Roselle, New Jersey?
BM: Yes, Frank Solich recruited me. At that point my high school was turning around. We had three great years and recruiters started coming in, and my junior year we won state and all these schools started coming out looking at us like, “Okay, what’s going on here?” We had great years, and then my senior year we continued the process, we made it all the way to state and ran across a real big team, and we were kind of nicked-up and hurt. We got beat by about two touchdowns, but I think that game alone was probably what got me into Nebraska, because Coach Frank Solich was at the game alone. I had an injured ankle –I’d hurt it right before the playoffs- and they had two guys on breakaways and I ran both of them down. Came out of nowhere and ran both of them down and saved the touchdowns. They ended up scoring. We were down and we were losing, but yet I didn’t give up and I ran these guys down…
Q: And with a bad wheel, to boot…
BM: With a bad wheel. I got hit in the nose and my eyes were swollen and everything, too. And after the game Frank Solich drove to my home and sat down with me and invited me to come out for visit.
Q: Who else recruited you at the time?
BM: Syracuse, Kansas, the Carolina schools, UMass, they wanted me to come play quarterback. That was a close one, because I wanted to play quarterback. Northwestern, that’s when they turned around and had a great year. There were some good schools at the time. I thought about going to Northwestern and making a name for myself, but Nebraska played out.
Q: What made the difference? Was it visiting the campus?
BM: The main reason I went to Nebraska was because out of the majority of the schools I visited, I spent a whole day in the educational department at Nebraska. When I was on my recruiting trip I had a whole day going over that stuff: “This is where you’ll study at, this is how you apply for your tutors,” everything like that. I was like, ‘Wow, okay.’ It was boring and everything, but I knew if I was ever in trouble in school I had an opportunity to better my grades and have someone there to help me and have support, that was huge. That was a no-brainer. That’s why I did it.
Q: Did your Mom come along with you on the visit?
BM: No, I was all alone. The biggest thing was, I have three older brothers and two of them were Husker fans. We would watch the Oklahoma and Nebraska game every Thanksgiving. I had one brother who was a Miami fan and I was the Oklahoma fan. I was Jamelle Holloway and running the option. I waited for them to send me a letter, and it never came.
And when I came to Nebraska for the visit, everybody seemed to know about me, they were going crazy. It was already in the air about me visiting Nebraska. I visited in the offseason, it was in the winter.
Q: Do you recall anything from the trip?
BM: Scott Baldwin was from my same high school. He took me around and took me under his wing. The do’s and the don’ts. He told me the truth about it. That was real good for them and I knew he wasn’t going to steer me in the wrong direction.
Barron Miles (Nebr. Sports Info)
Q: So it’s mid-summer: you finally make the big trek to the Midwest, and instead of freezing your butt off like your first visit it’s probably hotter and more humid than a sauna. Any recollection of your first days on campus as a student-athlete?
BM: It went so fast. So fast. I just remember meeting Troy Dumas, Abdul Muhammed, all these freshman guys. They were very competitive. I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got my work cut out for me.’ I met the defensive backs, Tyrone Legette and all these boys, and I was like, ‘Man, these are some huge dudes! They want me to play corner?’ You know, Reggie Cooper, Tyrone Byrd, Steve Carmer, and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ and they were, ”It’s okay, you’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.” And then these big freshman guys turn to me and they say, “What position do you play? Are you a receiver, slot, what?” I go, ‘I’m a corner.’ And they say, ”What!?” (laughs) They were all about 200 lbs. I’m probably 5’9” 150 lbs., if that. And they were looking at me like, “Oh man, you don’t stand a chance.”
Q: Did they say that or was it just a look?
BM: It was just a look. And at that point I already had the notion when I arrived that, ‘I don’t have any friends. I am here to compete, to be a player. Not just be a body on the team.’ I already had it in my mind that, ‘I’m gonna be somebody. And that’s okay with me.’
And Scott Baldwin was a real help, because he got me positioned in the right direction. He’d tell me, “Hey, when you’re supposed to be somewhere, be there early. If you’re not there early you’re considered late. Just be on time. Do what you’re supposed to do. Leave the girls alone, they’ll come later. If a girl’s trying to take you away from your studies, she’s not the right girl for you.” He just took me on down the line and told me the do’s and the don’ts, and that kept me on track. I was focused. I was like, ‘I’m here for a job.’ And that’s what I did. Most of the guys had seen me play basketball and they were like, “Hey, if he can play football like he plays basketball, he might be all right. He might be okay, I don’t know.”
Q: And how much older was Scott than you?
BM: Three, four years.
Q: Were you around trying to help him with his troubles later on? Was that hard for you, too?
BM: That was very hard. I knew Scott before he left New Jersey. Our families hang out in our hometown. When it happened it was tough, because when he wanted to talk to somebody he would come over and hang out with me because I was pretty much a loner, anyway. And when the problems hit, it was me and him, and I was, ‘Okay, what can I do? I don’t know.’ It was tough. It made me grow up and understand that life is not promised. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You learned it very quick.
I know he moved and keep in touch with him now and then. We always had a bet. When I arrived that freshman year we made a bet between us about who was gonna make it to the NFL first. And he called me one day and was like, “Okay, I’ve gotta pay you. You won.” After that accident thing I kind of forgot about it, so it was kind of funny how he brought it up. He’s doing great. A lot of bad things happened, but with his accident and being in the wheelchair he’s accomplished a lot more than he may ever have done had it not been for the wheelchair. He’s tried scuba diving, things like that. You put someone in a different situation and they look at life differently.
To be continued….
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