Jack Miller III had hardly gotten out of the car at a 7-on-7 event and a TV reporter was asking him questions. Then, the other day, he got the ultimate sign of respect when he was recognized, sort of, at a neighborhood Starbucks.
“Hey, you’re that football guy,” he was told.
In two months, he’ll be a sophomore quarterback at Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.), yet he’s already gotten offers from Ohio State, Florida State, Arizona, Ole Miss and Arizona State, among others. That’s a lot of attention, media and otherwise, for a 14-year-old, but fortunately, he’s has a solid mentor in former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who knows a bit about dealing with attention.
Tebow has stayed with the Miller family on several occasions, including last fall when he was playing baseball in the Arizona Fall League. He’s taken Miller to SEC games and the two stay in regular contact by phone. Tebow connected with Miller’s father, Jack Jr., who is the general manager of the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, through a pastor they both knew in Florida.
“He just helps me stay humble and not to think too much of myself yet,” Miller said of Tebow. “He just says keep a level head and work on your craft.”
Miller was already on recruiters radar before last season, when he played well at a Next College Student Athlete camp. Last season, he threw 53 touchdown passes and for 3,653 yards, both 2A state records, while completing 198 of 337 passes last season as a freshman at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He also ran for 861 yards and eight touchdowns. While those numbers are impressive, the first thing that college coaches have noticed is the 6-4, 190-pound player’s arm and ability to make plays.
“I think a lot of people are impressed by his size and that his demeanor on the field is controlled, as you would want out of a quarterback,” Jack Jr. said. “There are guys who can throw hard, but once the play starts, can they improvise and make things happen? … I think Jack is a playmaker and he uses his resources.”
He will make a big jump this fall, whenever he is allowed to play for Chaparral, which plays in 5A, the state’s second-largest classification.
Chaparral coach Thomas Lewis, who played receiver and kick returner for the New York Giants for four seasons, said he hadn’t seen Miller play until he transferred to Chaparral last January.
“Our AD told me we had a transfer and then he told me it was a quarterback and I was thinking great, because we were graduating a three-year starter in Grayson Barry,” Lewis said. “Jack was outside, throwing the ball and it was effortless. I’m like, ‘Wow. This kid is a freshman?’ He threw the skinny post, the deep comeback, the long ball, throwing the quick hitch as well. His hips were good, his footwork was good and he got the ball out quickly. He threw one of the best deep balls I’ve seen in my life.”
Though Miller transferred in January, Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Association (AIA) transfer rules normally require athletes to sit five games after transferring. Miller has applied for hardship relief from the rule because he has said he’s haunted by an incident from last season. A family friend who was an employee at the Princess Resort died after getting hit by a car while crossing the street to see Miller play at SCA during the team’s seventh game.
The AIA is expected to rule on the hardship request in August.
“I don’t have any say in it,” Miller said. “I’m just practicing and getting ready to play. I’m still taking all the reps. Something like that makes you realize that you have to live everything in the moment.”
Thomas said the difficult thing about the AIA’s decision is preparing for the season not knowing when Miller will be able to play.
“They make the decision so late, but that’s kind out of my hands,” Lewis said. “We’ll just have to wait and see. When you take a nationally recognized talent with the hardship being valid. I don’t see that the AIA would penalize him. I think the AIA will be fair in their recommendation.”
Lewis said Miller’s ability to make any throw that a college quarterback can will allow him to open up his offense. The question will be how he handles the attention.
“He’s still a kid and sometimes you look past that,” Lewis said. “With that being said, seeing the media everywhere he goes, it takes a special person to deal with that and not shy away from the cameras. To address the question at a very young age makes you mature. That’s the type of leadership that coaches are going to like.”
Jack Jr., said it is important at this stage that his son continue to enjoy football, despite the recruiting and media interest.
“Jack is doing what he wants to do,” he said. “My wife and I don’t push Jack in any direction. I tell him, first and foremost, I want you to grow up to be a good person. We understand that God has his hand on Jack’s life. You can always be a person of great character. … We focus on other things than football. It’s becoming a lot harder. He’s getting a lot of attention.”