Grayslake Central’s Kaiden Miller was a quarterback.
And a linebacker.
He was successful in each role.
Miller spent the last six games of his senior season as a running back, however, and the results put a jolt into the Rams’ offensive production and gave Miller yet another platform to display his considerable talent.
“I was excited, to be honest,” he said. “We always had little packages, but this was permanent. It definitely put more weight on my back because I went from getting only a few touches to having the ball on almost every play.”
That formula perplexed opposing defenses as the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Miller, the 2022 News-Sun Football Player of the Year, became a one-man wrecking crew for the Rams (7-4) and compiled a remarkable statistical ledger.
“I felt like moving to running back unleashed me,” he said. “I felt unstoppable. It let me find holes and run through people.”
Miller did all of that and more.
In his first game as a full-time running back, a 49-34 road win against Grant on Sept. 30, he rushed for 307 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. He scored four touchdowns again in a 40-39 win against Lakes in the regular-season finale three weeks later and finished the season with 2,043 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns on 174 touches.
In the six games that Miller was the primary back, he rushed for 1,191 yards and 15 TDs on 135 carries.
“I faced some obstacles, but my senior season ended up being pretty exciting,” he said.
Miller passed the initial eye test, running past, over and around would-be tacklers. But his dominance was clear when Grayslake Central coaches watched film later.
“In the end, everyone knew they had to stop Kaiden, but it didn’t matter because they couldn’t,” Grayslake Central coach Mike Maloney said. “Sooner or later, you knew he would pop a long one. It wasn’t like he was a receiver pretending to be a running back.”
Miller was a quick study at the position, and Maloney marveled at his field vision. Miller also quickly developed the ability to wait to set up blocks, which even experienced rushers can struggle to do.
There was a profound effect on the Rams’ offensive linemen, as Miller blew through even the smallest of creases and occasionally compensated for miscues.
“I would be screaming at the line for missing a block, and Kaiden would be standing in the end zone,” said Maloney, who also coaches the team’s offensive line.
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Miller’s athleticism is easy to identify. But those who know him describe someone consumed with getting the most out of that ability. Brent Pitt has had plenty of exposure to that trait since first coaching Miller on Grayslake Central’s freshman team in 2019, when Miller played quarterback.
Pitt also coaches Grayslake Central track and field, a sport in which Miller excels too. Last spring he qualified for the Class 3A state meet in the triple jump after winning both that event and the long jump at the Lake County Invitational and the Northern Lake County Conference Meet.
“He may not be the most vocal leader, but the amount of kids who gravitate toward him is unreal,” Pitt said. “He could easily take track off, but he’s already hounding me to get started working.”
That work ethic is familiar to former Grayslake Central quarterback Darryl Overstreet Jr., who rewrote the program’s career passing records and recently finished his freshman season at Division II Upper Iowa. The two remain close enough that Overstreet will get a ride home for the holidays with Miller, who will visit Upper Iowa this weekend.
What impressed Overstreet most about Miller’s dominant senior season was how he handled being under the microscope.
“He’s always had that ‘I’m the guy’ mentality,” Overstreet said. “This year he really learned how to learn, and his leadership improved dramatically. It’s like watching your little brother become all grown up.”
Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.