The XFL 3.0 is a go and Washburn Rural’s Offensive line and tight ends Coach Michael Miller will have the opportunity to make the roster with the Vegas Vipers.
Miller was drafted Wednesday.
Miller, a Washburn University football alumnus, has had prior professional football experience, playing in the Your Call Football league and with the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks in 2020 before the Pandemic shut down the Sporting world.
Football wasn’t always Michael Miller’s first choice
Miller, a Lansing graduate, graduated from Washburn University in 2016 as a four-time All-MIAA selection earning three second-team honors where he started 45 games on the offensive line.
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But growing up, Miller thought he was going to be a baseball player.
Miller said he was always a little more naturally gifted at baseball, but when he got to high school, he grew quite a bit.
“I got a little better football and about my sophomore, junior of high school, I realized, ‘Man, I think I potentially have an opportunity to play college ball,'” said Miller. “To be honest, the (NFL) really didn’t even come to mind until my junior year at Washburn.
“The Chiefs came in for a junior day and they asked me to come by and get my measurements and stuff. That was kind of when I realized that (playing professionally) could potentially be a possibility.”
Miller graduated with a Mathematics degree, something he uses today as an AP Statistics and Integrated Math 1 teacher at Washburn Rural.
“After college, I had a few NFL looks,” said Miller. “I got a call from the Cowboys and they had talked about bringing me in (as an) undrafted free agent and then nothing ended up happening.”
Miller had always wanted to be a Coach and after those NFL looks didn’t pan out, he still wanted to be around the game.
He contacted his former Coach at Washburn University and became a Graduate Assistant where he worked with the Offensive line from 2017-2019.
His agent at the time gave him an opportunity to continue playing football.
“For three years, I played in a league called Your Call Football,” said Miller. “It was a fan called the play kind of deal. The first year I did it, we got to play under Mike Sherman, the old Packers head coach. There were some other big NFL guys back in the day that were there so that was pretty neat.”
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Michael Miller’s been here before
Eric Galko was the director of player personnel for the Your Call Football league from 2017-2019 and the director of player personnel for the XFL from 2018-2020.
Galko put together showcases for the XFL and contacted Miller about getting to a showcase in St. Louis, which he did.
“I figured, ‘You know what, I might as well still play while I can,'” said Miller.
Miller, at the time still working as a Graduate Assistant for Washburn’s football team, ended up being drafted by the Battlehawks. He found out as he was getting ready to go to position meetings.
“I was stoked. It was awesome,” said Miller. “I got a message from the O-line coach, it just said, ‘Are you ready to be a Battlehawk?’ and I was just super ecstatic because there are so many guys in the draft and so many awesome players.
“To be one of the guys chosen was pretty surreal.”
Miller made the team, but COVID shut down the XFL in 2020.
Miller remembers being in the locker room, getting ready for practice, when the team saw the news on social media that many sports leagues had begun to suspend operations.
After practice and loading up the travel bags for an away game at Tampa, the players went back to their rooms.
“I woke up from a nap to a text saying that the operations (for the XFL) were being suspended,” said Miller. “We had a team meeting at 7 am the next day and kind of just went from there.”
Miller came back home to Kansas and was still being paid by the XFL, so he got a job at a local Dillons store and continued to train in case an opportunity came.
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After the XFL officially folded a few weeks later, he worked for a concrete company owned by a former teammate’s dad over the summer to stay in shape and earn some money.
Miller finished his Master’s degree, contacted some folks at Washburn Rural and ended up student teaching there before spending a semester at McLouth and eventually returning back to Washburn Rural.
In addition to teaching for the past two years at Washburn Rural, he is also in year three with the football team.
“It’s been awesome. The kids are great,” said Miller. “Coach (Steve) Buhler and all the coaches there welcomed me with open arms. Everything about Washburn Rural has been great from all the teachers to the kids.”
Round 2 with the XFL
In July, the XFL announced it would relaunch in 2023 with new ownership that included Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
That same month, Miller reposted a tweet that talked about the potential for the XFL to contact all former players from the 2020 year about draft eligibility for the newly rebooted league.
Miller quote tweeted it with the words, “Comeback SZN??”
But was he serious?
“It was kind of 50-50 at the point,” said Miller. “My first instinct was, ‘Well, I better meet with my boss and see if this was something that I could actually do.’ I met with Ed Raines, the principal at the high school, and got the OK to do it.
“From there, I started training again. I got married this summer and I was probably 280-285 pounds. I had to kind of get after it, I started trying to bulk up a little bit and started hitting the weight room hard again. I’d stayed in the weight room, but it was kind of one of those things like, I had my opportunity. So it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t get drafted.
“But I thought, ‘You know what, I might as well be ready just in case someone decides to give me another opportunity.'”
2023 XFL Draft night
The 2023 XFL draft was three days long and consisted of 1,700 eligible players split into six phases.
Quarterbacks were chosen on Tuesday in Phase 0.
Wednesday consisted of Phase 1 (offensive skill positions), Phase 2 (defensive backs), Phase 3 (defensive front seven players) and Phase 4 (offensive lineman).
Thursday consisted of Phase 5 (special teams) and Phase 6 (open draft, any positions).
Miller spent the draft at home for a little bit on Wednesday before heading to Johnny’s Tavern where he saw his name called.
“To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what was gonna happen with being two years removed (from playing),” said Miller on his expectations. “I didn’t get a chance to go to any showcases they had this summer. I had been in contact with some of my former coaches with St. Louis, some of them are in Arlington, I kind of thought that maybe had a possibility to go there.
“Then it just happened that I was going to Vegas. It just kind of came out of nowhere, I’m really excited for the opportunity. And I’m gonna take advantage of it.”
The season doesn’t begin until 2023 and training camp is in January. Miller said until then he plans to train and prepare teaching wise too as he plans to continue to teach while playing.
After the Pandemic took away his opportunity to play the game he loves, it’s another chance to strap up the pads.
“It’s surreal,” said Miller on the second chance. “When something out of your control kind of cancels, potentially your career, it’s pretty devastating. It doesn’t close the book the proper way. Hopefully I can go in, make the team and finish out the season.
“If not, at least I’m getting my opportunity to close the book and do what I can.”
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