Andre Miller’s long football journey has been one of perseverance, determination and transformation.
The Old Town native’s collegiate football career began with him initially being deprived of realizing one of his childhood dreams: playing football at the University of Maine.
But after stints at Husson University and Eastern Maine Community College, Miller finally found his way to UMaine, and became a two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association wide receiver.
Now, the two-time UMaine captain has capped his career by being named one of the two recipients along with field hockey standout Hana Davis of UMaine’s prestigious “M Club” Dean Smith Award, which is presented to the top male and female student-athletes at the school based on academic and athletic achievement, character and contributions to their communities as well as their community leadership.
Miller, an Old Town High three-sport standout, couldn’t initially get into UMaine because he didn’t qualify academically.
Following Monday’s Pro Day session, in which Miller and eight of his former teammates performed a variety of drills in front of New England Patriots scout Brian Smith to try to land a pro contract, Miller admitted that not being accepted into UMaine at first was a shock.
“I was a 17-, 18-year-old kid whose first plan didn’t work out. So now what do I do?” he said.
So he landed at NCAA Division III Husson University in Bangor where he caught 13 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown in an injury-laden 2016 season.
After one season, he moved on to EMCC to continue to improve his academic status. But EMCC doesn’t have a football team.
He also took summer courses, was accepted into UMaine and made his debut in 2018, the season UMaine won the CAA title and reached the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals for the first time in school history.
UMaine offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Andrew Dresner said Miller’s dramatic transformation from non-qualifier to All-CAA wide receiver and Dean Smith Award winner is remarkable.
“For a local kid to go from where he was to doing what he did is great,” Dresner said. “It took a lot of extra work. And to win a huge award like [the Dean Smith Award], an award which hasn’t gone to a football player in a long time, is awesome.”
Quarterback Marcus Waselewski was the last football player to win it in 2014.
Miller was selected to the All-CAA first team last spring during the COVID-19-abbreviated season and was a second team selection this past fall.
He caught 104 passes including 14 for touchdowns and he finished his UMaine career ranked 14th in program history in receiving yards (1,848).
But none of it would have been attainable if he hadn’t put in the work off the field to become eligible. He flourished in the classroom to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology/Physical Education with an Exercise Science concentration and a Business Administration minor a year ago.
He was a Dean’s List student and earned UMaine’s Scholar-Athlete medallion in 2020.
In the community, he has worked at several football camps and reads to local youth at the Old Town Elementary School.
“He definitely [developed] a lot in his time here. It was cool to watch,” said former UMaine running back Joe Fitzpatrick. “He was a helluva’ player and a hard worker. He was a great addition.”
Miller understood what he needed to do when he first stepped foot on the UMaine campus.
“I knew what I wanted to accomplish and I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without time management,” Miller said. “I needed to take care of everything off the field because when I was on the field, I couldn’t be worrying about something else. I couldn’t have any distractions. I had to be completely locked in on my task on the field.”
The 23-year-old former Most Valuable Player in the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl said he has been fortunate to have “tons of people help me through my journey” from Old Town to Husson to EMCC to UMaine.
And he noted that he evolved from a self-conscious youngster who wouldn’t ask questions in class to “the type of person who asks a lot of questions.”
And he said that has proven to be a valuable trait.
“I had to have a totally different mindset. I had to really buckle down and be professional on and off the field,” Miller said. “The way I viewed everything is that people were always watching me, even if I was by myself.
“I needed to set an example for kids who watch me. That set the tone for making sure I was doing the right thing for generations behind me,” he added.
He takes pride in the fact he is a local kid and embraces being a role model.
“I don’t take that for granted. It’s a huge thing. When I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of guys from Maine, especially from this area, to reach out to and ask questions. I’m always open for that,” he said.
The Dean Smith Award is special to him. His former UMaine teammate, Hunter Smith, is a good friend of his and he knows Hunter’s father, former UMaine basketball standout Dean Smith, after whom the award is named.
“I know the history behind the award. To win it is unbelievable. I can’t put it into words,” said the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Miller, who is hoping to have a pro football career.
Former UMaine wide receiver Jaquan Blair said Miller is special.
“I knew he had the work ethic [to succeed]. He is a great guy with a great personality. Good things happen to great people. He deserves everything that comes his way,” Blair said.