By David Ramsey, Colorado Springs Gazette
The eighth-grade kid sitting alongside his friend at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs was not a football player. He was resting after a long bike ride, as the ENT Sabers practiced a few dozen yards away. A practice punt soared far off course. Terry Miller stood up to catch it. The Sabers coach walked over.
“You play football?” the coach asked.
“No, not really,” Miller said. “Just on the street.”
Next day, Miller was practicing for ENT. He was an instant star, a threat to score every time he touched the ball and league MVP his first season. He did not, however, fall in love with football.
“I’m not a group guy,” Miller says. “I’m a Terry guy. And I wasn’t a fan of practicing in the snow. This was before global warming, and your feet were freezing. It’s not a place that I would have put myself in.” You could make a case Miller delivered the greatest calendar year ever by a Colorado high school athlete. In late winter of 1973, he led Mitchell’s basketball team to a state title as a wise and tough point guard.
In the spring, he won 100 and 200 sprints at the state track meet. And in the fall, he gained 2,785 yards and scored 224 points in 10 games while leading Mitchell to the state final. All this, while earning strong grades.
Mitchell coach Jim Hartman praised Miller. “It was like the movies,” Hartman said in 2011. “You’d see him in the halls with this erect posture, his shoulders back, head up, and big grin on his face. He just glowed and he had such confidence and he was so friendly. It wasn’t like he was an elitist.”
For college football, Miller picked Oklahoma State University instead of the University of Colorado, a choice that still rankles long-time CU fans. He was a special college player.
Tony Kornheiser described Miller in the New York Times as the runner blessed with “gelatin hips.”
In his final two seasons, Miller grew into a college superstar, gaining 3,221 yards. As a junior, Miller’s 72-yard run on the third play of the game propelled the Cowboys to victory
over defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners. He sprinted past Oklahoma freshman Billy Sims, eventual Heisman Trophy winner and transcendent star for the Detroit Lions.
“I still see him running down that sideline,” Sims says, chuckling through the painful memory. “He was something else. Just his speed, his durability, his ability to run over defensive tackles, and he had that fourth gear that meant when he broke open, it was going to be a touchdown.”
Miller’s football joy ride crashed in Buffalo. He gained 1,060 yards as a rookie, ninth best in the NFL. Next season, he suffered a severe left toe injury, which led to a series of leg injuries. Two seasons later, in 1981, his battered body no longer could compete with NFL linebackers. The spectacular decade of football dominance that began in Memorial Park was over.
He was something else. Just his speed, his durability, his ability to run over defensive tackles, and he had that fourth gear that meant when he broke open, it was going to be a touchdown