Heading home on a bus from Fairfield to Wellman Monday night, Mid-Prairie's Tanner Miller told Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz that he would accept a scholarship offer. When the senior hung up the phone, his basketball teammates exploded in cheers.
Miller is headed to the Hawkeyes on a football ride to play safety. Many of the players on his prep basketball team joined him on the gridiron. Those that didn't were just happy for their school mate. That's how it is in small-town Iowa.
"They went nuts," longtime Mid-Prairie Athletics Director and Basketball Coach Don Showalter said. "That's the neat thing. Everybody embraces it when something like this happens around here. He's a great kid with a great work ethic."
Miller visited Iowa last weekend and was offered a scholarship on the trip after being pursued as a preferred walk-on by the program. He committed Monday night after his basketball game in Fairfield. Showalter said that he became the first Mid-Prairie football player to accept a ride to Iowa since Jason Dumont in 1988.
"They're all die-hard Iowa fans around here," Miller said. "It's crazy to see all the support I've gotten today after just committing last night. Everyone is congratulating me.
"It means a lot to them and I really owe it to them for the support they've given me."
The University of Northern Iowa extended Miller an 80-percent offer, which he had accepted. South Dakota and South Dakota State both offered full rides.
"It was really tough to tell (the people at Northern Iowa)," Miller said. "I really like that program and could see myself being there. I just couldn't turn down this opportunity from Iowa and the chance to play at that level."
"My mom is an Iowa fan, so she's happy," Tanner Miller joked. "No, my dad is happy, too."
Miller twice earned first-team all-state honors. As a senior, he recorded 68 tackles from his free safety position and accumulated 1,846 yards and 23 touchdowns as a running back. He also averaged 38.0 yards per punt and connected on 45 of 52 point after attempts and 3 of 6 field goals (long of 40).
in his career for the Golden Hawks, Miller posted 120 tackles and picked off six passes. He rushed for 4,004 yards and 59 scores. He holds school records for career points (513), season points (266), game (6), career and season rushing (4,004 & 2,034) and longest kickoff return (95 yards).
Showalter said smaller basketball programs inquired about Miller's availability. Missouri offered him for track. He won a state championship in the 400-meter hurdles, posting one of the Top 25 times (53.0 seconds) in the nation.
Miller received an email Tuesday morning from Iowa Assistant Track Coach Joey Woody, who was inquiring about his interest in continuing his running career with the Hawkeyes.
"There's definitely a chance," Miller said. "I think it's still in the mix."
Iowa told Miller he would get his first shot at free safety.
"I think it's a position that fits me well," Miller said. "It takes football smarts. You're the director back there. I think it's something I can grow into."