Andre Miller (center) drives the lane past Jackson Coutts (left) and Jake Koffman during their basketball game at Old Town in this Jan. 5, 2016, file photo. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

ORONO, Maine — Andre Miller has wanted to play football for the University of Maine since sixth grade.

The sophomore wide receiver from Old Town is expected to get that chance Thursday at 7 p.m. when the Black Bears open the season against archrival New Hampshire on Morse Field.

It will be his first football game in two years.

“I’m not really nervous. I’m more anxious. I haven’t played in a year. But I’m ready to get out there,” Miller said.

Miller, who graduated from Old Town High School in 2016, spent one season at Husson University in Bangor but withdrew and attended Eastern Maine Community College for a year.

UMaine recruited him coming out of high school, but Miller didn’t qualify academically. He opted instead for Division III Husson in Bangor, where he caught 13 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown in 2016. His season was marred by an injury that limited him to one catch the last five games.

“It was a great experience. Husson was a great organization. It was a good learning curve for me,” Miller said.

He left Husson to get his academics in order at EMCC so he could get accepted at UMaine. He also took summer courses. And he spent time working in the Old Town YMCA’s child care program.

“It was good. The kids are funny,” said Miller, who also intends to work there in the offseason.

Even though he has only been part of the UMaine program for a couple of months, Miller has made a favorable impact on the coaching staff. He will see some action against New Hampshire.

“He’ll play a little on Thursday,” said offensive coordinator Nick Charlton, who explained Miller is still learning the playbook and getting comfortable with the offense. “He has been doing a great job. He’s very physically talented. When you see him go up and get the ball, it’s very impressive.”

“He’s got speed, and he’s one of our biggest wideouts (at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds),” Charlton added. “[He] has done a real nice job getting acclimated.”

Miller, whose desire to attend UMaine stemmed from going to games when he was a youngster, is pleased with his progress so far.

“There’s a lot to learn in a short period of time, but things are coming along good,” Miller said.

Miller had an outstanding career at Old Town. The All-USA Maine selection caught 49 passes for 1,068 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in 2015, and was an All-Big 10 first-team wide receiver and defensive back.

He caught seven passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns to lead the East to a 58-52 victory over the West in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic all-star game. He was named the East’s Most Valuable Player.

Miller also played basketball and competed in track and field for the Coyotes.

“We wanted him badly out of high school, but he couldn’t qualify,” UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak said. “He’s big, he’s lean and he’s long. He has a lot of talent. He has big hands, and he has been catching just about everything thrown to him.”

Harasymiak said UMaine will use him in specific situations against UNH.

Black Bears quarterback Chris Ferguson has no reservations about throwing to Miller.

“He’s a real good playmaker. He’s going to be good,” Ferguson said. “He has been doing well. He just has to keep learning his plays and recognize the defenses at this level.”

Miller said there is a big difference between college football and the high school game. That includes plays being signalled in from the sideline rather than called in a huddle.

“And college football is faster and more uptempo,” Miller said. “It has been a little difficult.”

But Miller is ready. He knows he will have a lot of support in the stands as his mother, two brothers and stepsister will be in attendance along with friends and former coaches.

“It’s a blessing to be in this situation. It was tough getting here, but I’m happy to be here and I want to make the most of it,” Miller said.

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