Grayslake Central's Miller 'electric' in proving impossible to stop

  • Kaiden Miller, the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2022 Lake County All-Area Football Team, set Grayslake Central's career record for touchdowns, receiving yards, points scores and several other categories.

      Kaiden Miller, the Captain of the Daily Herald's 2022 Lake County All-Area Football Team, set Grayslake Central's career record for touchdowns, receiving yards, points scores and several other categories. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Grayslake Central's Kaiden Miller is the Captain of the 2022 Lake County All-Area Football team.

      Grayslake Central's Kaiden Miller is the Captain of the 2022 Lake County All-Area Football team. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/3/2022 2:01 PM

Grayslake Central junior quarterback Cole Gillette said there was one constant throughout this season for opposing football teams.

"Everybody has to know where No. 7 is at all times," he said.

 

Uniform No. 7 would be Rams senior do-it-all Kaiden Miller.

And even though everybody on the opposing sideline knew darned well who No. 7 was, it still didn't matter.

Miller, who switched from his primary wide receiver position to tailback midway through the regular season, was a dominant force in all three phases for a Rams team that advanced to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs for the second year in a row.

The 2022 Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 6A all-state first-team selection and the unanimous Northern Lake County Conference offensive player of the year did it all, whether on the ground, catching passes, being a versatile contributor on defense when called upon or being a constant scoring threat in the Rams' return game.

For all of that, Miller is the Captain of the 2022 Daily Herald Lake County All-Area Football Team. Lake Zurich's Tyler Erkman, Grayslake North's Jake Donohue and Stevenson's Ethan Aghakhan were also considered for the award.

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"What impresses me the most is his presence," Gillette said. "He had a very big impact on each play and drive on both sides of the field. It's unfair how athletic Kaiden is. There are a lot of things he can do that are different."

Miller, part of Grayslake Central teams that won 15 games over the last two years, piled up 2,681 all-purpose yards this season and scored 27 offensive touchdowns and 148 total points. Miller averaged a first down every time he carried the ball, rushing for 1,532 yards on 153 attempts with 20 rushing TDs and only 1 fumble. He also caught 21 passes for 511 yards (24.3 yards per catch) and 7 scores. He dropped but 1 of his 31 targets.

"Kaiden is an electric player," Rams senior wide receiver Garrett Guenther said. "We could rely on him to make the plays that were needed. When he scored, we always needed it. He was the main guy we could always rely on."

Grayslake Central coach Mike Maloney said the decision to transition Miller from wideout to tailback simply made sense.

"It was necessary to have the ball in his hands," he explained. "We felt we were doing the team a disservice by not getting him more touches. Lining him up on one side of the field meant he was only 1/3 of the geographic threat. It ended up being most advantageous for our offense and most beneficial for him. We wanted to get the ball in his hand many different ways and the best way was to move him to tailback. It wasn't anything defenses were doing. It was more about getting the most production out of the offense that we could and so other moving parts could be most effective. He draws attention. Even when all eyes are on No. 7, he still got 3 or 4 hard yards."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 6-3, 215-pound Miller, whose youth football career started with the Lake Villa Timberwolves and transitioned to the Grayslake Colts, leaves Central as the school's all-time leading points scorer with 296. He also holds the school career marks for longest pass reception (96 yards), most receiving yards in a game (267), most receiving yards in a season (918), most receiving yards in a career (1,608), most touchdowns in a career (52), most career points (320) ... and the list goes on.

One understated part of Miller's game was his return ability on special teams where he racked up 638 yards this season and returned 1 kickoff and 1 punt for a touchdown. Maloney noted four other return touchdowns by Miller were voided due to holding or illegal block in the back infractions.

"He was good," Guenther said. "Every time he got the ball kicked to him, everybody thought he would score. He always had a chance to score. It was not smart to kick to him."

Maloney added: "Certain teams were daring him to return the ball and some teams weren't concerned with his athletic ability, but most kicked the ball away from him. We had to be creative and do some late shifts to try and get him an extra touch. If he got the ball in his hands back there with time and space he had a chance to go every time he touched it. He had that game-breaking-type threat as a punt returner and a kick returner. He was a threat every time he touched the ball. He was relentless, he was a finisher, he was durable, he played through injuries. He was tough and physically he's the total package."

Miller, who runs a 4.46 40-yard dash and is a two-time state track and field qualifier in the triple jump, said his biggest strides this year were made as a teammate.

"I would say my team skills improved," he said. "I felt like when I was growing up I was so much about myself. My teammates and coaches helped me get close with the team. I got better with my communication on and off the field. I felt like my teammates always had my back and I had theirs. That made for so much better connections on and off the field. At the start of the season, we didn't have a lot of vocal leaders. I stepped up and did that. I helped set some goals. I wanted to help make the team better in a lot of ways."

Statistics and accolades aside, Maloney said he's most impressed with what he saw in Miller the young man this fall.

"I am completely in admiration of his personal growth this year in the area of leadership," he explained. "His credibility increased throughout the year with his production and the example he was willing to set. He went from guys following him because of his charisma and playmaking potential and visibility to transforming into a vocal, commanding, disciplined leader who started to display toughness and selfless, servant leadership. I saw the maturation from that kid as a good football player who everybody wants to be like to Kaiden Miller, who is the fabric of the program and someone who has all eyes on him."

Miller would like to continue playing in college and is exploring options on that front currently, thinking about possible business- or psychology-related majors.

"His talent speaks for itself," Guenther said.

Gillette added: "Anybody who gets him will be lucky to have him on the team. He will work harder than anyone else to get the spot he wants."

Looking back, Miller said his time at Grayslake Central has been a game-changer on and off the field.

"I will miss Grayslake Central a lot, especially the people and memories that were made," he said. "The last four years have been the best four years. I have been surrounded by people and opportunities and coaches that have made my experience a thousand times better."

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