Scotty Miller's dreams coming true -- Barrington grad a win away from Super Bowl ring
Kids start playing sports and they dream. They dream of making the big play. They dream of playing in the big game.
Scotty Miller no longer has to dream, unless it's about putting a Super Bowl ring on his finger.
The 2015 Barrington High School graduate had dreams come true last week. He not only caught a touchdown pass in the NFC Championship Game, he got to celebrate a moment that helped his team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reach the big game.
Big game as in Super Bowl LV.
With seconds left in the first half against Green Bay at Lambeau Field, Miller, a second-year wide receiver, beat his defender and hauled in a 39-yard TD pass from Tom Brady to put Tampa ahead 21-10. The Bucs would eventually hold off the Packers, 31-26, and they will face Kansas City Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the first time in Super Bowl history a team plays the game in its home stadium.
"I'm super excited," Miller said two days after the big catch from his Tampa home. "I can't really grasp it yet. I just show up to work every day and I get to play in the NFL. Being in the Super Bowl is very special and I feel very fortunate."
While Miller has put up decent numbers this season -- 46 catches for 701 yards and 4 TDs -- he's not Tampa's top receiver. But the TD catch against the Packers didn't do anything to hurt his chances of seeing more targets from Brady in the Super Bowl.
"It was absolutely an unbelievable moment," said Miller, 23, a sixth-round draft pick by the Bucs in 2019. "You cannot even dream that happening as a kid. You can pretend it, but when it actually happened it was a surreal moment. It took me back to see all the time I've spent working on my craft is paying off."
Where it began
Little did anyone know 10 years ago Miller would become the player he has -- except for maybe Miller.
"I've always been super confident in my abilities, even since fifth grade," said Miller, whose career began when he played for the Barrington Youth Football program on a team coached by Jerry Bornhofen and Miller's dad, Scott. One of Miller's teammates was Cole Kmet, now the Bears rookie tight end.
As a freshman at Barrington High, Miller, 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, says, "I came in small and nobody thought I could do anything. I was a fourth-string running back on the freshman team. But then they found me as a sophomore."
As a sophomore, Miller played defensive back only.
"He wanted to play offense," said Barrington head coach Joe Sanchez. "The first time I recall seeing him his sophomore year, and seeing the way he was moving, I knew this kid was going to be special. I also thought with his speed he should be running track."
Which Miller did, to the tune of earning seven medals at state track meets for coach Todd Kuklinski.
Miller cracked Barrington's offense his junior year. He played both ways his senior year, with 1,361 yards and 17 touchdowns on offense, and 42 tackles and 16 pass breakups on defense. He also returned kickoffs and punts. He was the 2014 Daily Herald All-Area Team captain.
"Coach Sanchez is one of the big reasons I am where I am today," Miller said. "He and coach Kuklinski always believed in me."
It took until Barrington's second-round playoff win for Miller to receive an offer from an FBS college. He had three offers from other Division I schools, including Westen Illinois where his dad played.
After the playoff game, which included a game-tying 88-yard kickoff return, Bowling Green assistant coach Sean Lewis, now the head coach at Kent State, and head coach Dino Babers, who is now the head coach at Syracuse, offered Miller a scholarship.
"My dream was to play FBS football," Miller said. "I finally had that big game and got the offer from Bowling Green."
On to college, NFL
At Bowling Green, Miller got better every year. Over the course of his four-year career for the Falcons, he accumulated 2,867 receiving yards, third-best in program history. He majored in media and production studies, and met his future wife, Jenna.
Miller said the first game of his senior year was when he realized he might be destined for the NFL.
"I had a big game against Oregon," he said of a 13-catch, 166-yard, 2-TD effort, "and that's when agents started calling and texting. I had a great experience in college."
Miller ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and was picked by Tampa.
His rookie season, with Jameis Winston as the Bucs' starting quarterback, Miller caught 13 passes for 200 yards and 1 TD.
Tampa parted ways with Winston after the 2019 season and signed Tom Brady, one of the all-time greats.
"It's amazing," Miller said of playing with Brady, who will play in his 10th Super Bowl.
"He's the GOAT (greatest of all time). I grew up watching him every Sunday. He's just a great dude. He's humble, he's a great leader and a great teammate. He makes it so easy to absorb everything. Hopefully he keeps leading us to one more win."
Then Miller will realize his ultimate dream -- wearing a Super Bowl ring.