Sunday Conversation: Brit Miller

Sunday Conversation: Brit Miller

What’s the deal with former Illinois linebackers going into coaching? Brit Miller is the latest to get the bug, becoming the defensive coordinator at Mount Zion High School this season. He joins Matt Sinclair, who will run the defense at Monticello. Staff writer Bob Asmussen caught up this week with the friendly Decatur Eisenhower product:

Tell me about your new job at Mount Zion.
We’ve been going hot and heavy since Jan. 1 in the weight room. These kids are getting a lot bigger and a lot better physically. Getting back into some football has been a lot of fun. I’ve been talking to guys like Justin Harrison, Russ Weil and J Leman.

Do you enjoy working with Mount Zion coach Mike Popovich?
Talking to him about football really keeps my mind sharp. What it’s become is a competition now: can my defense shut down his offense? It’s a lot of fun. I worry less about what goes on outside of football because they take care of everything. I just show up and coach, give my two cents, try to turn the kids into men and move on.

Did you always expect to try coaching?
I took a little hiatus from football after the NFL just because you are hurt a little bit when your career is over. It’s never easy to go out and enjoy football once you are forced to walk away. I can really see myself coaching at the collegiate level. I think that’s where I would better be suited because of my intensity. I like to be around those high-level guys. High school’s a different beast for me. I like both sides of it. I would rather be a full-time coach at some point. I look forward to fall no matter what.

Your family is growing.
I’ve got three little kids right now. My daughter, Macy, is 4 years old. My son, Cooper, is 3. I’ve got a 2-month-old boy, Beau. He’s almost as big as my 3-year-old already. My wife is Emily. I met her at a pool party when I was 13 years old. She went to the Catholic school here in town (St. Teresa), so she wasn’t allowed to hang out with those public school kids. July 6 was our wedding anniversary. Everything I’ve accomplished, she helps me with.

You had a camp this summer. How did that go?
It’s called the Brit Miller Skills Camp. It was for linemen and skill players. We hosted it at Mount Zion. It was a no-brainer to have it there. We did the little guys, first through fourth grade. That was like herding cats a bit. But they were the funnest group. They were the guys out there laughing and enjoying football. We had a dance competition at the end for their touchdown dances, which were hilarious. The camp got progressively more competitive as the kids got older. We had 170 kids, and we only charged $25. If you didn’t have $25, we let you on the field anyway, and my charity paid for it. We want to make it an event every year, make it bigger and better.

Other than coaching, how are you keeping yourself busy?
I am working for Barbeck Communications in Decatur. I work for my father-in-law, Matt Beck. He is is the Beck of Barbeck. I live in Mount Zion. We were looking at homes in Champaign and Monticello, then this (coaching) job came open.

Do you miss playing?
The first couple of years it’s hard. This year, I don’t think it’s going to be as hard. A lot of my friends are slowly trickling out of the league. When you find yourself on a team full of strangers, it’s different. The NFL is constantly turning the roster. College, you develop great relationships. In the NFL , you have friends, but it’s nothing like what you have in college. You’re not representing anything. You’re not representing a university. In the NFL, you represent the shield and that city that you’re in. They might get rid of you you the next day.

What was the high point of your career?
Professionally, it was being named a captain with the Rams my final season. My teammates voted on it, and my coaches approved it. That was great. I was one of 96 guys in the world who could put that C on my chest on a Sunday and go out and shake hands with guys like (Brian) Urlacher and Ray Lewis. That’s a big deal.

How about your college high point?
The day after my great-grandfather passed, I got an interception out at Penn State. My mom called me before the game and said, ‘I know you’re going to have a good game.’ We didn’t win that game, but we were dang close. If Justin Harrison, my friend since eighth grade, doesn’t get in my way, I probably score. I’m not mad at him for trying to get a block.

How about the worst moment?
We’re playing against Chad Henne and Michigan. I had the flat in coverage, and the goon throws it right at me. All I had to do was step in front. As I step in front, the lights from Memorial Stadium get in my eyes, and I look like a fifth-grader out there. I don’t touch it, and they score a touchdown when I could have been taking it 96 yards the other way. We had them on the ropes.

Which of your former teammates and coaches do you keep in contact with?
Bryson Whalen, he’s a doctor now in Cincinnati. Eric Block, Russ Weil, Justin Harrison, Jay Ramshaw, Kyle Hudson. Michael Hoomanawanui was in my wedding. He’s doing great things. He’s a Super Bowl champion. A whole lot of guys who were good off the field that translates to on-the-field excellence as well. That’s probably the best thing Ron Zook ever told us is “How you are off the field is how you’re going to be on the field.”

Does your mom still have the salon?
She does. She still cuts hair, so I still get free haircuts, which is nice.

Could you still play?
Oh, yeah. For about a week. I’m done. It’s a different mentality and a different lifestyle. It comes to an end, and that’s OK.

Illinois is going to play at Soldier Field this season. Do you like that idea?
It’s a win for the program. It’s a good time for us to showcase our talents. That’s one we have to win.

Do you see Illinois winning this season like it did in 2007?
I don’t think so right now. But it’s all about those surprises. I don’t see the one dominant guy like a Rashard Mendenhall. We had six guys who went to the NFL on the D-line. Can they go out and win? I think so. I hope they go to another bowl game. I hope they surprise us. It’s not me beating them up. It’s me having a realistic opinion and saying, ‘Hey, if you guys do this, alumni and people who care and know football are going to be very proud of you.’ “