Meet the Football Falcon seniors … Andrew Miller

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andrew millerUntil we sat down Monday evening at Barro’s for a “pizza” interview, I really didn’t know Andrew Miller very well.  I’d first photographed him as a member of the “O” line in the near-delirium that followed last Oct. 21-20 dramatic upset at Saguaro; and, for the second time, with his younger sister, Cassie, and their Mom, Kim Von Dran, to report in Sonoran News Cassie’s 15U national championship in the NFL’s “Punt, Pass & Kick” competition. 

Late Monday afternoon, Aug. 9, I was hanging around the tailend of Falcon football practice, as I’m wont to do before my “writing night” at Sonoran News. With this profile on my agenda, I decided to ask about Andrew from the coaches who knew him best, Defensive Line Coach Chris Frederiksen and Offensive Line Coach Jerry Boat. “You know,” Coach Frederiksen replied admiringly, “Andrew just might be the best kid in our program.  He’s smart, tough and a really hard-worker.” I thought I understood what Chris Frederiksen meant by “best kid,” but I moved on to Coach Boat, whose opinion was succinct, but no less complimentary:  “Great form!  Great fundamentals!  He’s gonna have a phenomenal season!” Their accolades should’ve prepared me for the Andrew Miller I would interview some 24 hours later.

Miller is a probable starter at offensive right guard, coming off an Honorable Mention All-Region 2009 season. Carrying a 3.9 GPA in Cactus Shadows’ International Baccalaureate program.  He’s a member of the Scottsdale Airport-based Civil Air Patrol and is expecting to earn his private pilot’s license within the next two months.  His collegiate focus dead-set on the Air Force Academy, possibly playing Division-I football for a different team of “Falcons,” before questing his ultimate goal: becoming a NASA astronaut. He humorously self-evaluates, “I stay busy. That’s for sure.” Andrew smiles when he tells me, “My Mom says that’s all I’ve ever talked about being (an astronaut) since I was two, maybe three, years-old.”

Andrew’s “first flight” took place June 3, 1993 in Portland, Ore.  With his family, he moved to the Valley at age 3. His football career was in jeopardy almost before it began. As a 7th grader, he shattered his left elbow in a trampoline accident, which likely precipitated breaking his left shoulder one year later. Kim Von Dran, whom Carefree readers know as the helpfully-efficient Front Clerk at their post office, moved Andrew and Cassie to the Desert Foothills when Andrew was 14.

As a sophomore, he had played only two games for the JV Falcons, before his special teams play rated Head Coach Chad DeGrenier’s call-up to Varsity – and at the end of that season, his first letter. In the 2009 opener at Cienega, he started at offensive right tackle, before switching in the second game at Greenway to offensive right guard, his preferred position because he feels the blocking schemes match up better with his speed and quickness strengths. How does he explain his success against bigger defensive linemen (and linebackers)? “I know I have to get there first. And most of the times, I have.”

Participating in sports, Andrew believes, “are important to becoming a more-rounded person. That’s what football has meant to me. When I became a starter last season, I gained a ton of self-confidence – and improvement in my communication skills.”

He knows those skills will be important to how successful he and his “O” line teammates (LT senior Alex Yazdi, LG senior Chris Noel, C senior Joey Hughes and RT junior Saul Monteone) will be in protecting sophomore quarterback Brice Kinsler. “It’s instinctive. That’s how we feel ... completely responsible for protecting him. How well we do that is critical to his development and success. Brice is already leading in a quiet way. You know he’s all business, willing to put in the work that will make him successful. His strengths make us willing to follow him.”

Andrew’s personal goals for his senior season are simple: “Go hard every play! If I get beat, go harder the next time. Be disciplined … be smart … be ready to help out my teammates on every play. With our “O” line and “D” line, we’re gonna be tough to beat in the trenches. And Brice (Kinsler) will be throwing to three quality seniors, John (Leonard), Joree (Schneider) and Max (Gersh).” Andrew’s modesty and his commitment to teamwork – those are two important “best kid” qualities.

This future astronaut wants me to know that he’s “proud of my Mom … and Cassie. What my sister, at 15, has accomplished in soccer is incredible!  And I’m thankful for everybody who’s supported me: my Mom, Cassie and my grandparents, Ulrich and Virginia Von Dran and Bob and Doris Miller. I love ‘em to so much!”  

I won’t even try to match Coach Frederiksen’s and Coach Boat’s superlatives. I’ll just sign off with the cliché that fits: Andrew Miller, for you, “The sky truly is the limit!”