All-American DT Christen Miller took an unofficial visit to UGA for the South Carolina game on Sept., 18, 2021, in Athens, Ga. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Athlete to Actor: The reinvention of Christen Miller
Screws in his knee. It was a bad hand of cards there. Miller said he was depressed.
He put on about 30 pounds in three months. When the injury occurred, his doctor told him he wasn’t going to be able to play football anymore.
What was he going to do with his life? He had to find a new dream.
Miller began to think his gift to the world was not making tackles, but maybe making people laugh. Or entertaining them on screen.
“I’m the type of person that doesn’t want to talk about what I went through,” Miller said. “I just put my head down and work. I work. I work. I work. Not only on the football field but off the field. I’m just a workaholic.”
“When I was living in Florida, things weren’t going my way sports-wise. I was playing basketball and went up for a dunk and broke my leg. From there, I thought it was a regular break. I thought it was one of those breaks where they put it back in place. I thought I would be like ‘I’m good to go’ and I walk out there that same day.”
“It wasn’t that. They told me in that same room that we can’t put it back in place. We have to put that fracture down with three screws. I’m sitting there man just crying.”
“I’m in ninth grade. It is my first year of football. It was playing basketball where I hurt myself. I was just saying to myself ‘Dang, what is fixing to happen with my life now?’ with all of it.”
Miller is an over-the-top joyful spirit. It would be rare for anyone to meet Miller and not have his light and personality leave a clear instant impression.
He will make you laugh, make you smile and in the process make your day.
“But during that time I was going through depression,” Miller said. “I was fighting it. I was deep down on myself. A lot of tough times. A lot of dark days. Those first two weeks were traumatizing. I couldn’t sleep. I was eating a lot. I went from 220 to 270 pounds in a matter of three months.”
“I was down, man. Then I started making music. I started making YouTube videos. I was doing a lot of stuff researching and writing up scripts. I was finding my true love for acting. I had been doing a little bit of acting and auditions and stuff when I was little. But I really found my true love for being in front of the camera and doing stuff in front of the camera while I was going through what I was going through.”
Football had been taken away. He would be in that valley for several months.
“The day that I went in to see if I was going to be able to play for my three-month checkup I didn’t hear what I was hoping to hear,” Miller said. “My doctor told me ‘Christen I don’t think you are going to be able to play again’ and I was like ‘Dang, so what is next for me with my life now?’ after I heard that.”
It all makes sense now. His love for acting. That over-the-top charisma and charm. It is not because he is a silly kid. Or that he’d rather do that than play ball.
Miller needed to flip the switch on that content creator beast mode when he heard those words. It was for his mental health.
He felt he had to reinvent himself. That meant finding a new passion.
“Sports made me happy and I feel like that was all taken away,” Miller said. “That was where my happiness was. I had to find a new place for happiness now. So I turned to the camera and acting and music and stuff like that. I found my love for it. I needed to. Had to.”
Was he ever going to play again? That was too early to tell, but here was a young teen being told he could not play football. For the foreseeable future.
To a 14-year-old kid, it was certainly a big deal.
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4-star All-American DT Christen Miller has had a very strong start to his senior season for a state title contender at Cedar Grove High School. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Christen Miller: A big test of faith
Miller is dominating in his senior year at Cedar Grove High School. At times, he is pretty much unblockable. He ran through mighty Class 6A Buford like it was Vanderbilt.
“Now that I am back in the game I thank God,” he said.
That wasn’t always the case here with this patch of adversity.
Miller grew up in the church. He cites numerous examples of religious mentors in his family for his faith walk. His grandmother is a minister. His uncle is a bishop.
“I grew up in a real Christian home but my Dad did not rush it on me with this,” Miller said. “He didn’t say ‘Go pray’ at the jump with that. He said he was going to let me go figure this out by myself. He didn’t want to baby me because he knew when I get older in the real world that he is not going to always be there to be a crutch for me.”
Miller said he didn’t immediately lean on his faith when he broke his leg.
“At the time, I kind of just went with it,” Miller said. “I was numb to everything. I lost faith not only in myself but I lost faith in God. I didn’t even have one of those thoughtful moments where I was like I know my God is going to help me get back on the field. I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t.”
He let the doctor tell him how to think. How to feel. And what not to hope for.
“It was like the doctor said I can’t play so I just thought I can’t play,” Miller said. “I lost faith. I lost faith in my God and in myself.”
But he eventually found his way.
“Then two months later, I woke up one day and I was like ‘God I know this [football] is meant for me. You keep giving me signs about it. I know it is’ and then I just got this feeling. I went out and put on my shoes. I went for a jog. Then after that, I was motivated. Motivated. Motivated. Motivated. Motivated. Motivated. Motivated.”
When Christen Miller got motivated motivated motivated
That moment was in June of 2019. It was the summer before his sophomore season. The latest checkup brought the hope that he was going to be able to play again.
He remembers walking into his mother and father’s room. Miller calmly told them he was now ready to play football once again.
“My Dad saw I had been very emotional and told me to pray about it,” Miller said. “He said I don’t think you have been praying about it. He said I needed to ask God about whether or not I was ready to play again.”
His father, who is a pastor, was right. Miller said he really didn’t know what to think.
“My Dad told me to ask God about what I should do,” Miller said. “That’s what I did.”
Eugene Miller, his father, served there to offer advice. He just wanted to be a guidepost.
“I’m truly thankful my Dad did that,” Miller said. “I was young. This was adversity. He helped me by letting me start to figure that out for myself.”
The Millers moved to Georgia prior to his sophomore year to settle in Ellenwood. That’s the Cedar Grove district.
“The rest is history,” Miller said.
Something happened. He had healed up. In more ways than one.
“I didn’t have any physical therapy,” Miller said. “I had three screws in my leg. Think about that. I did everything by myself. I lifted weights. I got my body right by myself. Everything. Everything. Everything. My Dad was hard on me.”
The first three-month checkup came in January. That’s when he was told football and sports were still a no-go. Miller said he was still deep into a depression then. The next checkup was at the six-month mark.
“That’s when the doctor told me I was cleared and I was good to go,” Miller said. “He said we looked at your X-rays and it seems like you can play football again.”
“You have to think about this now. I was another three months into I had to find my own thing and my own way with acting and the cameras and music and everything. I had said to myself I was done with playing sports as I was finding my own way. But then a month later, it all came back to me.”
Miller started his entire sophomore year on a state championship team at Cedar Grove. He was athletic and showed off good size. The offers started to come.
“I was just so raw,” Miller said. “Raw but highly coachable. When my coach tells me to do something I am going to get it done. It just may have not been the right way or with great technique back then. But I did it. But I wasn’t happy with the way I played that year. The day after we won the state championship, I was back in the weight room. Back in the lab working out. I had to get so much better for my junior year.”
4-star DT Christen Miller is quite a disruptive presence on the defensive line at 6 feet, 4. 5 inches and about 305 pounds. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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How Georgia “moved the needle” with Christen Miller
Miller took his girlfriend with him to Georgia for the South Carolina game.
He won’t be at the UGA game this week. That’s because he has to be a 5-star date for her this weekend at Homecoming.
“She met the coaches at Georgia for the first time before the game,” Miller said. “They were talking to her. Coach [Kirby] Smart and all of them were are all overprotective about me. They were giving her the speech and asking questions of her and making sure everything that was going on was right. That’s even though they knew her head was straight. The coaches at Georgia just love me and want me to be with the right girl.”
“I had never introduced her as my girl to the staff before so it was one of those little moments.”
What did that South Carolina visit mean for Miller?
“Aw, man it moved the needle,” Miller said. “It moved it a lot. But I am just trying to not act off emotions a bit. Just to be smart. Take all the good stuff in and take all the bad stuff in and just look at everything. Just trying to open my eyes to reality. See the things that I need to see. The little things.”
“But coach Smart and I had a great conversation.”
They talked about life and what was going on in his recruitment.
“I was just telling coach Kirby how much I appreciate him for staying with me through the recruiting process,” Miller said. “Our relationship is built and it just got better through this recent recruiting process.”
Miller shared another story from his past. He told Smart about a conversation he had with one of his former coaches.
“One of my coaches said when I was in 10th grade he asked me what offers I wanted the most at that time,” Miller said. “I told him ‘Ohio State and Georgia’ and he was like ‘Look at you now’ and ‘See how everything comes full circle huh?’ with the way things are going.”
“Coach Kirby was like ‘Dang, that is true? Dang, that is crazy’ and I was like ‘Yeah coach it really is’ with where things are now.”
He had a great official visit to Ohio State, too. Miller said he loved it. Even though Oregon beat the Buckeyes.
“That’s because I got to see things there when they weren’t picture perfect,” Miller said. “I got to see how the players reacted to the loss. Saw how the coaches were. All the emotions from the trip. It was amazing being up there. The next day I was at the facility and everybody was in the weight room, pumped up and ready to go. Just focusing on the next game and the next week then. They used that loss not to keep them down, but to uplift them for their next game.”
What’s next on the trail for Christen Miller
He is no longer in communication with USC. The Trojans are out of it. Look for officials to come to Georgia and Oregon. Miller also hopes to also see Ohio State again, too.
He still plans to make his public college decision known at the All-American Bowl in January.
“Yes sir that’s concrete,” Miller said.
He is no longer set to be an early enrollee. It will be a January commitment, but the plan will be to sign on that first Wednesday in February.
What was the best thing about his first UGA trip as a priority recruit? Well, it was more than just chopping it up with Quavo after the game. But he did do that, too.
“Everybody knew I was there for the red lights,” Miller said. “I got to see all my boys at the game. I got a whole lot of love from all my boys and everybody. I saw some of the fans in the crowd screaming at me. Showing love. I saw everybody showing love when I came in. The love was real for me there at the Georgia game. It was real. I got to see all my bros. It was kind of emotional for me because there are a lot of players out there that I know and that know me. Some of the players in the younger classes were there in the recruiting section who look up to me.”
“I was just thanking God that I am doing everything the right way trying to set the right example for all of the younger players coming up after me.”
He said he “really clicks” with the current members of the incoming 2022 class in Athens.
“We all click,” Miller said. “They all know me. They all love me, too. We all love each other. I feel like we all really click really well together right now.”
Was it his best visit to UGA so far?
“Oh yeah,” Miller said. “Hands down the very best visit. Just the environment. The coaches. The players. Just seeing Georgia doing what it is doing on the field. The defense is electric. I got to be out there on the field with all of the other recruits at the game.”
He’s still very interested in a career in front of and behind the camera. If that visit was a movie, what would have been the best scene to show folks?
“When the red lights came on,” Miller said. “I was just ecstatic. I was ready.”
“It is different living it because when you are there you actually get that feeling. So when I was there I actually got to feel how it feels. When that Kanye West song came on, I was like no freaking way. It was real. Let’s go. It was lit.”
His teammate Carlton “CJ” Madden committing to UGA should be seen as a plus here for the in-state school.
What does Miller now like the best about UGA at this time?
“The family atmosphere which is just that vibe,” Miller said. “The way my relationship is with Coach Kirby, Coach [Tray] Scott and coach [Dan] Lanning. I just love it. it is amazing.”
All-American DT Christen Miller said he is really cool with Georgia reserve defensive linemen Marlin Dean, Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, Jonathan Jefferson, Nazir Stackhouse. There is also super senior Justin Shaffer who came out of the same Cedar Grove High School program. He also said he really clicks with a lot of the members of the 2022 recruiting class for UGA, too. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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