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Miller goes the distance to improve

There is a senior graduating from Williamsville East who will be part of a Big East football program next year.

If you don't know who it is off the top of your head, that's OK. That's because he played his senior season in Florida.

Trent Miller relocated from Williamsville to Palmetto, Fla., this past season in part to pursue a dream of playing Division I-A college football.

It worked.

Miller accepted an offer of a preferred walk-on spot with South Florida, so he's guaranteed by coach Skip Holtz to be on the roster this fall.

Miller's road to Florida began during middle school when he trained for baseball during spring-break trips to the IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton. One year, knowing that Miller also played football, his baseball coach introduced him to IMG football coach Chris Weinke, the Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State.

"He said he saw something in me," Miller said of Weinke.

That led to Miller choosing to train for football in a three-week period prior to his junior year. Miller quarterbacked Williamsville East to the Class A semifinals and earned second-team Class A North honors.

But the seed had been planted. Following his junior basketball season, Miller relocated with his mother to Palmetto. The Millers were already planning to uproot -- father Neal, the former principal at Will East and superintendent at Medina, had recently taken a job as the superintendent at Briarcliff Manor, about 30 minutes outside New York City.

"Coach Weinke found a high school that didn't have a quarterback," said Miller, "and it ended up that it worked out for me and my mom for me to train down there at IMG and play down there."

Miller said it was tough to leave his friends, including his girlfriend, as well as personal coach Jim Kubiak, the former Navy standout who he worked with for years and who he credits with much of his development. He also said there was some hesitancy from his new teammates, but that "I had to earn their trust in spring ball -- by the summer they were treating me like I had grown up there."

That's right -- spring practice for football -- something that doesn't exist in New York. Another big difference? Speed.

"Technically-wise it was the same as it was up here," he said. "The speed of the game was just faster."

He played in front of 5,000 people at home games and had his image on a poster that was put up in shops all around Palmetto. His performances fit the script. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder had an outstanding season, leading Palmetto to the state semifinals. He had nearly 2,500 yards passing along with 32 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

A combination of a brief illness to his mother, the sale of the family home and his desire to graduate from Will East brought Miller back to Western New York in January. He says he gets kidded by classmates about leaving the Flames: "I can totally see their point of view."

But they have to see where he's coming from, too. He had an opportunity to play in a hotbed of high school football, and in his first spring practice there were about 100 schools coming by to scout Palmetto.

"The facts are that there are more scouts down there, because there are more players that end up going I-A," said Miller. "Every school scouts in Florida."

He ultimately picked South Florida over Wagner.

"If I had to do it over," he said. "I definitely would do the exact same thing."

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com