Anatomy of an Era: Barron Miles, Part 3
Excerpted from Chapter 29, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 1 by Paul Koch
Barron Miles, Part 3
Q: Do you have a most memorable play or game?
BM: Yes, I actually have two. That would be the national championship game that we won against Miami, but the other one was the Thursday night game against Oklahoma State and I blocked a punt. I was having a great game defensively, too, but blocking that punt was the momentum switcher. It was neck and neck and then me blocking the punt might have tied it. And after that it was downhill for Oklahoma State and we ended up winning the game for Tom Osborne’s 200th victory.
Q: If I recall, the punter was in the endzone, wasn’t he?
BM: He was in the endzone, I caught it in my chest, and that was it. I landed on it and got my touchdown, and the game was history.
Q: Barron, for some reason you were always the fastest guy off the corner and you got to that guy. What would you attribute to the capability of doing that since so many try and fail?
BM: It took some patience to “get off”. They call it “get off” now. But I’d been doing that for a while, and it was just a knack for it, some got it and some people don’t. Just get by the first guy, and if you get up on the guy so fast he doesn’t know how to react and what to do. Then you go against the first fake and you get a good picture, and then it’s just up to you to put your hands on the ball.
Q: I read somewhere that recently you jumped over the long snapper to block an extra point in the CFL?
BM: Yep, I got that last year against Montreal. It should be somewhere, a video clip of it, somebody has it. It was on our local station that promotes our games.
Q: Can you take me back to that Florida State national championship game, what stands out to you about that close loss to end your junior season?
BM: The one that keeps popping up for me was hitting that guy out of bounds and getting the late hit penalty.
Q: Hitting Warrick Dunn out of bounds on their last drive?
BM: Yeah, everybody, my teammates now see that play and they go, “Man, why did you hit that guy out of bounds?” I didn’t hit him, it was just me running, protecting myself, and we ran into each other, so that’s how I saw it. They’re like, “No, no, no. You gave him a little extra hit and everything else.” But that game it was penalties; that was it. We were hungry then and we knew we could play with anybody, but for some reason every break went for FSU. And at the end of it we still had an opportunity to win the game. That was just a good game played by everybody and they won.
Q: Did you ever have the opportunity to talk to any of the FSU players about that game?
BM: Actually, Toledo Wall -who went to my high school- was in that game for Florida State. We talked a little bit and the conversation went something like, ‘I know you guys should have lost.’ And he was like, “Yeah, you played pretty good, but we won. So live with it.” And that was it. (laughs) The biggest thing from that game was that you knew we won -even though the score didn’t show it, that you knew we won- was when you walked to the bus and all the fans from Florida State were like, “Hey man, way to go. That was a great game. Good job.” Deep down inside, they knew, “We got lucky. Good thing the big plays that happened went in our favor.” Many years we’d been going down to Miami and playing Florida State or Miami. It was all, “You country boys go back home and play, you’re too slow,” and all that. You didn’t hear none of that after the game. None of that. All you heard was, “Great game. Way to play. Keep your heads up. Awesome game.” That was it. This was coming from the fans. The fans of Florida State in Miami. Never heard that before. Never. And that’s what it was.
Q: So your old teammates still give you a hard time about that out-of-bounds tap?
BM: Not my old teammates, my current teammates. They see it on ESPNClassic. They call me up and say, “Hey, Barron, you’re playing on TV! What number are you?!” And I‘m like, ‘Oh man….’ And I tell ’em and they go watch the game. And the next day they’ll walk in and go, “Man, you hit the dude out of bounds! Why did you …?” And you know, I say, ‘At least I’m on the Classic.’ (laughs)
Q: I spoke with Kevin Ramaekers and he, too, spoke of getting that chincey call for tapping Charlie Ward on the shoulder…
BM: Exactly! You see. I mean, hey, sometimes it happens, you know?
Q: Seems to me that was a huge turning point?
BM: It was a turning point. But it was the younger guys, my class and up, when we got the opportunity to step into the limelight of playing in the big games we said we weren’t going to be scared or just give the game up. All those years we’d been told that we can’t run with them or can’t play with them, things like that? We said, “We can play with anybody, so we’re just gonna go play.” And that’s what we did. And we showed it and would, could have won, because we knew everything about Florida State. ‘Good job’ goes for the coaches because we knew everything.
We had the game, but it just didn’t work out. So we said, “You know what, we want to play Florida State next year.” We got back to work after we had our week off. If anybody took attendance -I don’t know if they did- but we probably had 100% attendance for summer conditioning.
Q: I had lunch with Coach Darlington recently, and he thought the officials were’t prepared for that type of game…
BM: I agree. I agree 100%. Exactly.
Q: I’ve always wanted to ask you about that little love-tap on Warrick Dunn out of bounds…
BM: Yeah, I still get it to this day. Do you know how long ago that was? They give it to me. And to tell the truth, I have not seen it yet. I have not seen it yet. To this day I am living by what I said, until I see. It was like, ‘He shouldn’t have called that.’ But, hey, that’s the way it goes.
Q: I actually taped that entire game on VHS straight from the TV, not the Nebraaka voice-over version. I’ve got everything, if you need it, let me know…
BM: No, I don’t need it. I’ll believe the fantasy in my head. (laughs)
Q: Obviously, a period of intense focus thereafter the next year and then all of a sudden it’s Miami who you’re up against instead. Can you take me back to that game and what stands out?
BM: The speech before the game.
But even before the game: it was a business trip. This was our fourth year going to Miami. We’d seen everything, we’d done everything, it was business. We didn’t need to go to the functions, “we don’t need to do all that other stuff”: stay in the hotel room, go to practice, lift weights, watch film. “Alright, let’s get to the game.” But they wanted us to go to all these places and see Miami and sit in a room with them, and we didn’t want to do that. We said, “Okay, we’ll see you out on the field. You just have your little vacations, but we’re gonna see you out on the field and we’ll have a game.” And no one understood that, the reporters talking about “How are the DB’s gonna stay with their receivers? How are they gonna stay with their speed?” and things like that. It was like, ‘Oh, we see, you don’t think us guys can run with them either, huh?’ We got tired of it and just said, “Alright, let ’em talk. We ain’t got to do nothing. Let’s just play the game.” And that was down the line, everybody, the way we felt.
And the day of the game, T.O. came in and he told us exactly what was going to happen, and everything he said came true. And you’re sitting there after the game and you go, ‘Man! Okay, we had adversity, we had a penalty, we overcame it, we had success, then we had drama again, and then we had more success, and then they got tired.’ That’s exactly what happened, to a T.
Q: If I recall Costa went your way quite a few times, didn’t he?
BM: They did. They came. And in the beginning Coach Darlington was like, “Just play off,” and listened to the hype of their speed. Darlington said, “First couple of plays, back up and give them some room and see what they do, and we’ll go from there.” So I’m playing off and they hit a couple of slants and, ‘Who can’t hit a slant if I’m ten yards off,’ you know? That was so simple. But after a couple catches I was, ‘That’s it. I’m going to play!’ And that’s when we started moving up and playing defense, playing what we were supposed to play, and that was it. Either you’re gonna sink or swim.
Q: What was the rationale for playing off right away?
BM: Just in case. “Hey, they’re at home, they want to make a big play, you’re uptight and you slip or fall or, you know, anything can happen, and they could get a big play right from the jump.” Just in case they’d get the momentum and everything. Instead, you play off and you let ’em catch it, tackle them. You know? You let them live but it ain’t gonna kill you, nothing too serious.
Q: And if I recall, was that your birthday?
BM: Yep, that was my birthday. All three years.
Q: Wow, all three years, and then you win a national championship on your birthday. You must have really celebrated that night…
BM: I didn’t celebrate at all. I just hung out. It was the next step. Once that celebration was over it was, ‘Hey, I won the championship, the next step is to get drafted.’ That’s how it went.
Q: All business?
BM: All business. I say -sooner or later when I stop playing– ‘I’m gonna have to enjoy this.’ Sooner or later, you know? (laughs)
Autograph day (Jill Deets)
Q: What do you think set Nebraska apart from some of the other teams of that time?
BM: I think, by far, that state of Nebraska, period, is what set us apart. The fans’ commitment to Nebraska football set us apart from everybody. Nobody does it like that. It’s unreal, because listening to guys coming from Utah State, from Pacific, you name it, they were like, “Man, this is crazy.” The fans, everything is so wild, so enriched with tradition. That was Nebraska, the history with the OU-Nebraska game after Thanksgiving, you had to live up to the standard the upperclassmen set for you. If there was no standard, what do you live up to?
Q: What reminders of the traditions made an impression on you, or what “duty” per se? How was it impressed on you?
BM: It wasn’t ever the organization, it was pretty much the players. Like Tyrone Legette, he would come around every now and then and mess with me and stuff like that. He had played corner before me so I was, ‘I’m gonna break everything you do. I’m gonna break all your records and everything.’ And he took me to the weight room wall where his picture was, and he pointed out his vertical jump record or agility run record or 40 yard record record or something like that, and he was like, “Okay, you call me when you break these records. And then I’ll come back and see you.” That’s what it was. The older guys there competing with the younger guys. It was, “Hey, when you see these records, you take them off the wall. You break them.” And I only got one of them. The 10 yard dash record or agility, I think. He had the pro agility and something else like the 10 yard dash, but I got the pro agility record. That was it.
Q: Any memorable practice experiences stand out to you from those days?
BM: The best ones, our practice roster guys would dress up into the team colors of the team we were playing that week. Colorado, they’d put the black pants on and they’d come out and they‘d act crazy. They would act so crazy. It would be so intense that you’re thinking it was a game. But it prepared us so much, the coaches let it go. The coaches were, “I don’t care. They’re so excited, I hope they do beat you all.” Because that’s gonna get you prepared for the game. They came out in all black and painted up. It was game day, it was exciting.
You came to practice and it was exciting. They came out Oklahoma’s day and they were all dressed in OU colors. It was fun. It was fun, and that’s what practice is all about, competing. Because on the odd occasion we’d go against the ones, but for the most part we were going against the practice guys, the freshmen, the sophomores. And it was fun, because they would bring it every week.
Q: Any licks laid by you, or somebody else lay a lick on you that you’ll never forget?
BM: I’ll never forget, the only person that I couldn’t tackle was Damon Benning. Damon Benning would run me over every single time. It was so pathetic. It didn’t matter who else would come up, I would hit ’em and make a good tackle. But Damon Benning would come through the hole and I’d hit him, and I’d be on my back and he’d still be running. Darlington would crack a joke, “Hey, did anybody get the license plate number on that truck?” It was like, for some reason, I couldn’t tackle him. Yeah.
Q: Any recollections of L.P.?
BM: Lawrence Phillips? Great guy, special guy. He lived with me for a little bit his first year when he first got there. He came up early and he stayed with me a little bit. A specimen, at 195-200 lbs., I think he’d be comparable to any running back, NFL or wherever, that’s how talented he was. He came up to Canada and I played with him in Montreal. Same guy, an awesome freak of nature. It was ironic.
Q: Wow! So you guys were on the same team again…
BM: Yeah, Lawrence was always a great teammate, he’d give you his shirt, anything. He was a great guy, but unfortunately things happened, chemical imbalance or whatever it may be. But as a teammate he was a great guy.
Q: Any memorable off-field occurrances?
BM: I think the funniest one was watching Tryone Williams and Tommie Frazier trying to become firemen, trying to put a fire out at a neighbor’s house. We were coming home from somewhere, the three of us, and we get out of the car and Tommie was, “Man, you see that smoke?” and I was like, ‘Nah, somebody’s burning or grilling something,’ And he was like, “No, that’s a fire. That’s a fire!” So he jumps over the fence and he goes, “That’s a fire! The house is on fire! I’m gonna put it out!” And then Tyrone hops over the fence, too.
Now, it wasn’t like one of those chainlink fences where you just put your foot in and hop over it. It was a wooden fence. I don’t know how he got over the fence, first of all, but he got over the fence and he turned on the garden hose and he started wetting things down with the hose, and then I go in and called the fire department and I go back out and they’re still standing there with the water hose. And then the fire truck comes and they just break the fence. They just run the fence completely over. I’m like, ‘They just done hopped the fence, and then you guys just run right over it?!’ (laughs) And I think they said that those two saved the house, wetting it down and all. I still, to this day, don’t know what kind of fire it was. I don’t know where the kitchen was, but they just saw smoke and said, “We’re gonna put the fire out!” I was like, ‘Okay. I’m just gonna go in and call the fire department.’ And there was only one hose, so those two could only do so much.
(Neb. Sports Info)
Q: What are you the most proud of?
BM: Getting my degree. Early Childhood Development.
Q: And how in the heck did you pick that major?
BM: That was simple. I first started out in computer programming, and they said I had to take some kind of math. I would have got it if it was calculus, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it had something to do with math and said, ‘There was no way I’m passing that class… (laughs) ‘there’s no way in the world.’ Technical analysis, statistics! That was it!
Q: Competitive Barron Miles backing down from a challenge?! Really?!
BM: Yeah, but you gotta know: put yourself in good situations to accomplish our goals. I was like, ‘Hmmm, I think we need to look somewhere else.’ And the counselor was, “Okay, what do you plan on doing?” And I said, ‘I plan on working with kids and coaching or something like that.’ So they were, “Okay, let’s go this route.”
To be continued….
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