It took Andre Miller two years to work his way onto the University of Maine football team.
And after cracking the lineup this fall during his first season with the program, the wide receiver has had his determination and hard work rewarded again.
The sophomore from Old Town, under the guise of a scavenger hunt within the UMaine athletic department, learned this week he has been granted a full athletic scholarship by Black Bears football coach Joe Harasymiak.
Miller, who has been on partial scholarship during his first season with the team, went around the football offices collecting clue-filled cards, which eventually led him to Harasymiak.
Once there, Miller was presented a gift-wrapped box that he opened to find one final clue, or more specifically, the message any college athlete wants to read: “You’re on Full Scholarship, Ho Ho Ho!”
“This year has been a crazy year with tons of blessings, and they continue to come,” Miller said in a Twitter post.” I just want to thank the coaching staff for believing in me and not giving up on me when I wasn’t able to be here right out of high school. Things always work themselves out.”
Miller’s scholarship adventure also was made into a two-minute video created by UMaine athletics and released on social media.
“We knew we were going to do this, and we like to have fun with our fans and social media, so we figured we’d do a holiday-type scavenger hunt and portray it as everyone was doing one in the athletic department, and Andre was the representative from football because he was a local guy,” Harasymiak said.
“I think [Miller] started to get the idea of what was going on about halfway through, but certainly it was good to do it in a fun way with the holidays coming up. We wanted to make sure we did this for him before he went home for Christmas.”
Miller capped his first collegiate season by making nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown during Saturday’s 50-19 loss at Eastern Washington University in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision national semifinals.
Miller starred at Old Town High School, earning All-USA Maine honors as a senior after leading the Coyotes to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the 2015 Class C North championship game.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout made 49 often spectacular receptions for 1,068 yards and 17 touchdowns for Old Town, then the following summer was named the East’s most valuable player in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl after making seven catches for 207 yards and four touchdowns.
Miller was heavily recruited for football by UMaine while in high school but initially did not qualify academically to play for the Black Bears due to insufficient SAT scores.
Instead he enrolled at Husson University in Bangor, where he played for the Eagles in 2016. He made 13 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown despite an injury that limited him to one reception in the last five games.
Miller attended Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor during 2017-18 to shore up his academics before enrolling at UMaine with three years of eligibility remaining.
“We knew he was probably a full-scholarship athlete coming out of high school but unfortunately he had to take a different path to get here, so when he got here it was as a walk-on,” Harasymiak said. “We gave him a partial scholarship right away coming out of camp, and he certainly has gone on to prove himself even more.”
Miller spent the early stages of the season getting acclimated to the UMaine offense before finally emerging with his first three pass receptions for the Black Bears during their 28-9 homecoming victory over Albany in Week 8 of the regular season.
“He was in a new system, a pro-style system with new terminology and all of the things that go into being part of something new,” Harasymiak said. “You just have to learn it, and once you do then you can play at the speed that we’re now accustomed to seeing him at.”
Miller’s breakthrough game against UAlbany marked the first of six consecutive victories for UMaine, a streak that continued through NCAA tournament wins over Jacksonville State and Weber State until the team reached the FCS Final Four.
“‘Dre progressed in the playbook throughout summer camp and into the fall, and we knew he could make some plays,” Harasymiak said. “He made some big plays against Albany on homecoming and just continued to progress during the month of November. Then that performance [against Eastern Washington] on Saturday was a good one.”
Miller, who had just one catch for 23 yards in UMaine’s first two postseason games, came off the bench to emerge as sophomore quarterback Chris Ferguson’s favorite target on the red turf at Eastern Washington.
Miller’s day was highlighted by a 47-yard catch and run midway through the third quarter that produced the Black Bears’ first touchdown of the game.
Harasymiak sees nothing but continued improvement in Miller’s future.
“‘Dre’s talent has never been in question,” the third-year UMaine coach said. “His ability, his length, and size and speed are already there, and he’s going to get his strength in the weight room this offseason.
“Once he gets that he’s going to be a pretty exceptional player.”