Man on a mission: Nation’s No. 2 center Harry Miller has life-changing days ahead
Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings at least five days a week. The blog for Friday offers a chance to share the story about 4-star OL prospect Harry Miller from Buford High School in Georgia.
Harry Miller doesn’t sound like the name of a 17-year-old heaven-bent on making a difference in our world. Other phrases might convey that more explicitly.
Beast. Giant American. Nation’s No. 63 overall prospect in the Class of 2019. Renaissance man. Prospective valedictorian.
A few of those might work, but they still fall short. There are others needed to round out the sketch of a young man who does his best work wearing the same smelly pair of jeans three days in a row.
Ambassador. Bad golfer. Believer. Humble. Kid magnet. Human jungle gym. Each of these descriptors apply, too.
The nation’s No. 2 center, according to the 247Sports composite, has Georgia in his top 5. But that pecking order constantly is changing between Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford.
This is another time where focusing on his recruitment feels like discussing the colors of the umbrellas on the beach. It never seems as interesting as a guy who is sharp enough to pick up how to play the guitar on YouTube.
Miller’s last “B” grade in an academic setting came when he was in the fourth grade. It was an 89.
“I didn’t learn about the Native Americans fast enough,” Miller said while describing a transition from homeschooling. “I was behind. It snuck up on me. … It was cruel.”
His GPA is north of 4.0 on a weighted scale. He took the ACT one time and scored a 34.
He just might be the first elite prospect to finalize his college decision from a prayer house in Central America. When he does, he might have those same stinky jeans on.
“There’s not a box that Harry does not check,” Mission for Nicaragua co-operator Hilary Snook said. “It is almost comical. He is smart. He is, ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir,’ and he’s the total package. Every day.”
What ‘Nica’ means to Harry Miller
Snook, a teacher, helps run that non-profit mission in Nicaragua with her husband. It is non-denominational.
It’s Miller’s other team aside from the Buford Wolves. He is a growing part of the Mission for Nicaragua team that operates The Imagine School in that country.
The organization’s roots trace back to a Tallahassee, Fla., couple and their work approximately 23 years ago. The Buzbee family initially wanted to get clean water to a few small villages near Managua.
That led to outreach with a Christian school near the Nicaraguan capital.
That’s where it rains every day. Rice and beans are the daily bread. The Americans manage the outhouses and super cold showers. The few bathrooms that there are cannot accommodate toilet paper. The plumbing will not handle that flush.
When the rain lets up, Miller is usually found dripping with kids. They can block his 6-foot-4 frame and all 317 of his pounds in pictures.
“They call him ‘King Kong’ because they don’t grow Nicaraguans the size of Harry,” Hilary Snook said. “He is a giant in Nicaragua.”
They often play soccer in the streets, even though it sounds like it would be hard to.
“So much of that mission is just the relationships,” Snook said. “Just shining light and love and hope. That’s what he brings. Harry just loves these kids. … But you can’t experience what Harry experiences in Nicaragua and it not change you to the core of your being.”
Miller likely will miss Nike’s elite The Opening this summer so he can spend that time in Nicaragua. He will not bat an eyelash to do so.
“There’s a place called Los Brasilies,” Miller said. “It is a poor neighborhood where we work with kids. There is a place called La Chureca. It is a federal dump but people live there.”
A Google search identifies La Chureca as the home of the largest open-air landfill in Central America. It spans 7 kilometers, but it is sealed.
Sexually transmitted infections and prostitution are problems. Unemployment and underemployment lead to poverty. The work of the ministry there is to empower the area with education and hope.
The Open Hearts Children’s Ministry stretches out those limited opportunities.
“There are some really nasty places,” Miller said. “These people were in Colombia first but got ran out by the cartel but came back and now they have been in Nicaragua for the past 20 years.”
Miller plans to return in early July with a college choice in mind. Finalizing the decision might be done at a special prayer house.
“I will pray for the coaches to just pour the right things into me that would be the right thing for the ministry and what a Christian would want,” Miller said. “I feel we will be able to get a good idea before we go and talk about the local people about what our idea is and what the future will be like.”
He should succeed anywhere in his top 5. The decision likely will hinge on which school will allow him to continue his mission in Nicaragua.
“We’ve talked to schools and learned about where they said they will allow us to bring other teammates to the ministry and talk to the chaplains for each school about the future, and what we can do with mission work,” he said. “It is definitely a huge component about which school we will choose.”
What Harry Miller plans to do in Nicaragua
Miller spends a week with “M4N” every summer. The work being done there by a partnership between Mission for Nicaragua and the Open Hearts Children’s Ministry has become a second home. He will drag friends and teammates along.
When he is no longer a minor, he likely will take a position on that mission’s board of directors.
“It is a very religious place,” he said. “A safe place. A strong place. You are with people. You are talking. Looking at the bible and reading. It is just a place where there is a lot of solitude and a place to think and be safe.”
Miller has traveled there for the last four years. No one forgets him. When he sees the people there living in tin huts, he wants to pour himself into them.
“There’s a light in Harry that only God can put there,” Snook said.
Miller has helped to build a retaining wall among many other projects. He describes it as crazy manual labor.
“Lifting rocks,” he said. “Wheel-barrowing rocks up hills. Trying to avoid roots and trying not to twist an ankle or drop a rock or throw your back out.”
He spent two weeks there last year. He lost 10 pounds.
“Harry’s first experience in Nicaragua was overwhelming,” Snook said. “The poverty was overwhelming. The spirit of God was overwhelming. That’s just it in a nutshell. The whole experience. I don’t think he even processed it until he got home and decided he wanted to go back.”
When Miller allows himself to dream, he thinks about his NFL contract. It is another one of his commonly uncommon moments.
“He always says when we are down here, ‘Think about what we can do with an NFL salary’ and for most kids, that’s a pipe dream,” Snook said. “But for him, that’s reality. There’s a big possibility he will be in that number to have the ability to make big changes for all those lives in that little community.”
Miller would consider it a blessing to figure out where to start.
“You might say I would want these kids to have a nice park to play in,” Miller said. “But what if what they really need is a new school first? I just would want to use that as my opportunity to help.”
It just sounds right that he feels led to do that. That’s because there likely wouldn’t have been any football for Miller if not for Nica, as he calls it.
Harry Miller wants to ‘pour into’ life
Miller often will drop the phrase “pour into” into the midst of several distinctly different conversations.
He thanks teachers and mentors and coaches for “pouring knowledge” into him. He will want to “pour into” his college destination.
The 317-pound lineman hopes the ministry will pray for him this summer. For his future and his health. He can bench press 375 pounds. His power clean is now around 345.
He will still be thankful for those protective prayers. Those prayers for his well-being take place every summer, but most notably during the trip after his freshman year.
“I was just having back problems,” he said. “I was having spasms. We went to the chiropractor, and he said my vertebrae was rotated. We did chiropractic stuff, and it seemed OK. But then it kept occurring.”
His doctor established that his L5 lumbar had slid out. That led to those spasms. It is common. His diagnosis was a grade 1 case of Spondylolisthesis.
“Harry suffered for a year with chronic back pain,” said his mother, Kristina Miller, who is also a scrub nurse. “Ortho. Chiropractors. PT. ER for debilitating pain. Nothing was helping.”
Miller took that shaky back to Nicaragua with him in 2016.
Miller met with whom he described as a “local healer” named Andrew.
“He prayed over me and said he was a healer,” Miller said. “I didn’t believe it. It didn’t seem like that was really a thing. But he said, ‘What is a backbone to the creator of the universe? If you believe he can do it, then he can do it,’ and he just said to imagine concrete being poured down my back and just keeping it solid.”
He asked Harry if he believed that God could heal his back.
“I want to,” Miller replied.
When they returned to Georgia, they visited that same doctor.
“He said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you but it seems like nothing had ever happened to your back,’ ” Miller said. “He said if he didn’t know better, it looked like nothing had been wrong.”
Miller looked at his mother. He said they knew what was happening was the real deal.
“The exact words from his doctor were, ‘Well, I can’t really explain this but your back is healed. I can’t even see where it was broken. It’s come back together. Your vertebrae has slipped back in place.’ Harry and I just smiled at each other,” his mother said.
His condition was said to be irreversible. His mother said he has not had a single day of back pain since.
“We already had a strong faith but that’s when we knew Nicaragua was a special place,” Harry Miller said.
He said he realizes that some might see this part of his story as a bunch of coincidences. But he wasn’t sharing the whole story. Snook was there to confirm it.
“I saw Harry turn and promise God that he would give him all the glory for his football career,” she said.
She knows the story is hard to explain. Snook does so anyway.
“The center of all that I believe is that God is still in the miracle business,” she said. “If they don’t feel that way they need to see Harry’s X-rays side by side. They can see that it is unexplainable medicinally. The same doctor looked at both sets of X-rays and couldn’t explain it. The doctor shook his head and sent it to other people and they couldn’t explain it.”
Doubts, even the ones Harry had, will always be there.
“I was standing there,” she said. “Had I not seen Harry standing there and laying flat on his back the day before and go from that to helping raise the roof on a church the next day I would not have believed it.
“There is no medical explanation for it. Except that God has a purpose for everything that Harry has gone through.”
Will UGA fit into Harry Miller’s mission?
Georgia line coach Sam Pittman values Miller. When he visits, the connection seems genuine.
“Coach Pittman is just an awesome guy to hang around with to just talk football with and talk about how recruiting and football is a game and a business,” Miller said. “We talk through that. We just talk and sit in on meetings and talk about game play and football and all of that stuff. It is just really good to talk to him.”
Miller’s combination of intelligence, size and skill would allow him to play center, guard or tackle in Athens. But he is largely an interior line prospect.
Snook said she wants to see him play in Athens, Ga., even though her husband cheers passionately for Ohio State.
“I’ve even tried to tell Harry that God wrote the bible in red and black,” she said. “I told him I didn’t know what else you need to know about the decision. It should already be made.”
The big hook for the Bulldogs would be that Miller sees them as another Buford. Athletics. Academics. A culture of expectations.
“I just love the attitude of winning at Georgia,” Miller said. “That’s something that comes from being at Buford. You always have that expectation of winning. Georgia has now really built their brand where it is like they are going to go out and play for [the championship] every year. Just the guys in their recruiting class, how strong it is, also just stands out to me.”
The schools among his top 5 flip positions every few days. That’s why his decision will be vetted and then prayed over. A potential weakness for UGA is the relatively new engineering program.
“When you want to commit to being there at a school for four years you want to be there with the right guys,” he said. “You want to find the right guys who will pour into you in all facets.”
What will be the ultimate reason he chooses a school? It will be because he relates to the program the best. He will choose the one that allows him to do what he wants to do outside of playing a game.
“When you really start to talk with people and when it is not about football or recruiting anymore, it becomes about families,” Miller said. “Or ideas. Or mission work. Then you can tell they are not involved in a player. They are involved in recruiting a person. That’s very appealing and the thing that I notice the most.”
Miller has made a connection with the chaplain at Ohio State. They have a common ground in mission work. That school will have a strong shot. He plans to visit later this month.
The Stanford visit will be this weekend.
The lifelong mission of the ministry in Managua
Miller turned 17 on Easter. That’s the first time his mother can remember that happening.
He was accurately described as an excellence junkie. He’s the sort who bemoaned his self-worth when he got his first 4 score, out of a 5, on an Advanced Placement exam.
That work ethic likely will be what keeps another student at Buford from taking away that valedictorian honor.
Can they catch him?
It seems that someone who doesn’t have weight training and football visits might have an edge to catch him. Do they spend extra hours each night after football and weights trying to maintain that edge?
It might not matter.
“The thing that makes people mad is not that I make the grades, he said. “It is that I do it without stressing over it. I naturally have a very good memory. So for a lot of classes, I listen and I might take notes during the lectures and stuff but usually, if I go through a textbook and verify what I have heard, then I can usually do well on the test.”
It is a photographic memory. Kinda.
“Until my mom tells me to clean my room,” he said. “Then I forget.”
He plans to study engineering in college. Medical school could follow after that.
“Harry is far from perfect,” Kristina Miller said. “But his heart is pure. He’s being blessed to be a blessing.”
Will the NFL alter that course? It might, but it will not halt his ministry. When he’s 34, he will still be around those villages that poured the concrete into his back and around his faith.
“We think we are changing Nicaragua but really we are coming back as different people,” he said. “That’s such a blessing that we get to take a snippet back from Nicaragua, and I have a platform to tell you and my teammates and the students at school about it. That’s the best part. We have a mission there but we also get to bring the mission back here and grow the church.”
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