Over the weekend, Mason senior Stone Miller walked into Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., stood at midfield, and gazed in amazement.
At that moment, the defensive lineman realized his nine-month recruiting process had come to an end. He found his new home.
“Saturday night, before we had dinner, they took the recruits to the stadium,” Miller said of his official visit to the United States Air Force Academy. “The lights were on but there were no fans. I looked around and saw what all Air Force had to offer.”
Less than 24 hours after returning home, Miller was visited by Air Force inside linebacker coach Ron Vanderlinden — also the team’s recruiter in the area — and it was then he informed the staff that he would like to be a Falcon.
However, his decision was a tough one. Miller, who has a cumulative 4.0 GPA (unweighted) and scored a 32 on his ACT, had offers from three Ivy League schools: Cornell, Brown and Yale.
“I felt that athletics were a little more important at Air Force,” Miller said. “Since I’m a student-athlete, I wanted an equal focus on athletics. In the Ivy League, athletics are important, but not the main thing.
“I’m glad to have had the opportunity to decide between four great schools.”
Miller said his parents, Kip and Kathleen Miller, allowed him to make the decision on his future. They would support whichever route he chose.
“We didn’t really feel he could make a bad decision,” Kip Miller said. “It was up to him to make the five-year commitment, as an 18-year-old, to Air Force.
“We were excited about having an Ivy Leaguer in the family, but once Air Fore came in the picture last spring, we studied up and decided that Air Force would be a great fit, too.”
Mason coach Jerry VanHavel learned about Stone Miller’s decision Monday. And while the offers from prestigious Ivy League schools were hard to resist, VanHavel believes his star defensive end made the right decision.
“At the end of the day, he wanted to play big-time college football,” VanHavel said. “He now has an opportunity to play in the Mountain West Conference and play in some big games.”
VanHavel hopes Stone Miller’s achievements, on and off the field, resonate with the rest of the football community in Mason.
“It affects our other players that are on the team now,” VanHavel said. “They look up to Stone. I hope it trickles down to the youth. I hope they realize the opportunity and how great it is.
“Anytime you get a kid that plays at that level, it’s a great thing for the program. It gets other kids thinking that way, too.”