Stepping onto the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday is as close to a dream come true as it gets for East Noble senior Brooks Miller. The senior, part of a strong nucleus of defensive backs, is not just playing for a state title. Miller is a hardcore Indianapolis Colts fan and will get to take their home field emblazoned in his East Noble blue and gold.
“I’m a huge Colts fan and being out there playing is just going to be an awesome feeling,” Miller said. “I am probably the biggest Colts fan in this area. That’s an awesome thing to be able to play on my own team’s field.”
Huge is probably an understatement of Miller’s fandom if you ask East Noble coach Luke Amstutz.
“Brooks is a huge, huge Colts fan. You can’t even express how big of a Colts fan he is. Getting to the state finals and playing in Lucas Oil Stadium is something you can see in his eyes that he wanted it bad,” Amstutz noted.
A multiple sport athlete, Miller has seen his fair share of important moments both on and off the gridiron. Last Friday against Hobart, he made a pair of big time pass breakups that helped in giving the offense the ball back, trailing for much of the contest. It wasn’t the first time that Miller’s defense was crucial. In a deadlocked game early in the season against DeKalb, Miller rose up to pick off a pass on the far sideline while falling backward. It changed the momentum in that game and the Knights never looked back again against Northeast 8 Conference competition.
“It was a big interception and it feels like anytime I get a turnover, the guys are going crazy for me so that is always a good thing for team,” Miller said of his first interception of the season.
Amstutz agrees that interception and the energy Miller brings in general are important to the program. He says that when some of the players started to see Miller have some success, starting with that interception at DeKalb, there started to be a little bit more buy in from the team.
“His teammates really respect him and look at him as a leader a little bit. We don’t have a lot of like ‘ra ra’ guys, but he is kind of the guy that when the kids need hyped up, he’s the one that does it,” Amstutz said. “He’s a heavy motivator.”
That hype progressed Miller’s game too. As a junior, he appeared in 10 games and developed a lot over the season, turning in a team best 18 pass deflections. It was a role maybe not initially carved out for Miller, in part because of his size. But he quickly made a believer out of Amstutz and his staff.
“Last year, we were kind of hurting for DBs and Brooks isn’t a big guy my any means but he fought for that spot,” Amstutz said. “He struggled a little bit with some bigger receivers, trying to man up on them but this year I think he really adjusted to that size differential and he started learning how to use his body better.”
So Miller locked down his ownership of the spot even through some early season struggles out of conference against the likes of Plymouth. But when he made that interception at DeKalb, it kind of changed a lot of things both mentally for Miller and what he would go on to mean to the team’s undefeated run to the state title game.
Some teams have even targeted Miller’s defense a little more because of some size disparity in matchups, but it hasn’t slowed the senior down as Miller has used leverage to slow down some of the taller opposing receivers. It came down to learning how to be more physical and use his body according to Amstutz, two things that have been the bread and butter of a highly touted defensive back core.
“When that ball is somewhere he can get it, he’s going to get it,” Amstutz added.
Miller is more comfortable in a zone defensive setting, something that East Noble goes too often. He knows he is pretty good zone corner and thinks that playing something that he likes makes things easier for him when making adjustments. It also helps, according to Miller, to be just part of that often praised defense.
“Just knowing that Hayden [Jones] and Bailey Parker are behind me helps me out in knowing I can press people and have help over the top,” Miller said.
Going into the Class 4A state title game, Miller again leads the Knights in pass deflections, with 12 on the season. But he is also third on the team in interceptions with three after not picking off any passes as a junior. He also registered 69 tackles, the sixth best total from the East Noble defense.
Miller knows the environment on Saturday afternoon will be much different than anything he has played in before. But that isn’t new after last Friday night’s home win over Hobart, where thousands of fans from both teams created the most unique and raucous environment this area has seen all year. Miller knew that environment, like this weeks will be, says a lot about the support from the fans for a group that has become so tight knit.
“We are still out here just trying to win a ball game and enjoy our time with each other because we know it is our last,” Miller said. “It has been awesome and great to share with all my teammates. We’ve worked so hard for this opportunity.”
East Noble will take on Evansville Memorial for the Class 4A state title on Saturday, with a 3:30 p.m. scheduled start time.