If Nic Miller were to write a book about his experience at Ohio State it would be titled: 47 Minutes: The Most Famous Player you Never Heard of. As you can infer from the title Nic is a witty and great person to talk with. Below you will find a brief synopsis of his playing days and the eleven questions* he answered for this column.
Mr. Miller attended St. James High School in Chester, PA where he played on the football and baseball teams. He had a good fastball, but football was his passion. Nic was a member of the Ohio State football team from 1977-1981. The Buckeyes were 45-14-1 during his time with the team. However, Nic only started his senior season. When given the opportunity Nic made the most of it. In the 1981 Liberty Bowl he made several key plays and was named the Defensive MVP.
At the end of the season Nic was named Most Valuable Defensive Player, Most Valuable Defensive Lineman and Most Inspirational Player of the 1981 team. Miller is honored by all of the awards, but most especially the Most Inspirational Player because it was bestowed upon him by his teammates.
Where did you spend your childhood?
Upland, Pennsylvania. I had 12 years of Catholic School nuns, brothers and yardsticks. Without them I would have grown up to be an asshole.
What was your recruiting experience like?
I was recruited by Boston College, Maryland and Ohio State. I Wanted to go to Maryland because it was 2-3 hours away, but I had a bad visit. I had a fabulous visit at Boston College and had a good time at Ohio State. I grew up a Penn State fan, but they never offered.
Why did you choose Ohio State?
Woody Hayes and the influence of my friends. Woody came to visit and spoke to my parents for 45 minutes before I never knew he was there. My parents had my bags packed before I met him.
Woody never talked about football to my parents, he talked about school and making me a better man. My friends told me go to Ohio State and play for Woody Hayes.
Is there a story or memory of Coach Hayes you would like to share?
The time I went drinking with Coach Hayes when I was a freshman. I was 17 and the 3rd or 4th team defensive lineman. It was the winter of 1978 (blizzard year) and we went to the Sugar Bowl 17 days early because Woody didn't like punting in the French Field House.
At the end of one of our last practices in New Orleans Woody said “We're giving you coupons for Hurricanes at a place called Pat O'Brien's.” At this time I'm not of age anywhere in the country and I thought that this unbelievable. Think of it, I'm underage and Woody's taking us drinking.
Can you imagine 120 players and coaches walking down the middle of Bourbon Street to go to Pat O'Brien's. When we arrive, they sit us in the patio area with stone walls and flowers on top. It was beautiful.
I still couldn't believe that Woody was taking us drinking because he didn't drink. After 30 minutes Woody stands up and says everybody get out of here. So we head down the street with everybody following him (Woody). He stops and says “You son's of Bitches! Nobody told me those drinks had alcohol! I'll tell you what. You guys go back and use those coupons, but back by 1 o'clock.
Since you mentioned alcohol, what is your favorite drink?
Beer. Miller Lite.
What do you remember about your first start?
The opening game of 1981 against Duke. You run out of the tunnel knowing 90,000 people are going to see you play. I was flying around the field knowing that.
When was the moment you knew you belonged on the field?
The 1980 Fiesta Bowl against Penn State. That season I was the second team nose guard, played on the first team goal line team and special teams. At the end of the second quarter Coach Bruce put in game and I was able to help stop Penn State from running up the middle.
After the Fiesta Bowl I thought my Ohio State career was over. A couple of weeks after the game Head-Trainer Billy Hill asked me if I was going to pick up my red-shirt season. Earle told me that I had to be the No. 1 nose guard going into spring to get my red-shirt accepted. I earned the No.1 position. The Fiesta Bowl game gave me the confidence to do that.
What was your most memorable play / game? Why?
Defeating Michigan 14-9 at Michigan in 1981. Never let them get a touchdown. That win gave us a tie for the Big Ten championship.
My other memorable game was beating John Elway at Stanford the third week of the 1981 season. I was named 610 WTVN player of the week (at the time 610 was the radio flagship of the Buckeyes).
What game would you like to have a second chance?
That's tough. We went to five bowl games and lost four during my career. If I had to choose one game it would be the 1979 Rose Bowl game.
Do you have a locker room story you can share?
When Woody was fired it was a depressing scene. I just remember the entire Athletic Department walking in 20 minutes after the game. Woody was sitting at his locker and you just knew. The locker room was completely quiet. The bad kind of quiet. Woody was told he had to fly home by himself and not with the team.
Who was your closest teammate(s)?
My closest teammates were Tony Megaro, Jimmy Delieone (Tom Delieone's nephew), Tom Morris and Al Balen. I sit with those guys at the games today. It took me 30 years, but I've warmed up to up to some of the offensive players who used to clip me in practice.
Outside of that team up north, what team did you dislike the most?
Michigan State and Wisconsin. Wisconsin would beat the shit out of you. Michigan State would do the same, but played dirtier. The Spartans would post and chop you all the time.
While in school did you have a favorite place to eat or hangout?
Never had any money so I would go to the Serene Lounge on Wednesday night. They had $5 all you can drink. My favorite place for food was the golf course on Friday nights before games. They gave us all the steak we could eat. Sunday brunch at the golf course was good as well.
Besides yourself, who do you think of as the player to wear No. 99 for Ohio State?
That's easy, Bill Willis. I met him at the Buckeye Cafe and I knew who he was. He was sitting on a stool and I said “Sir are you Bill Willis? He said yes “I am.” I then told him “It's an honor to meet you sir. I just wanted to let you know that I wore your number in college and won your award.” I believe he's the pioneer of pioneers. Special humble guy.
How important is Ohio State to you today? How do you stay involved?
I'm a Buckeye Booster and go to a lot of functions. This year is the 35 reunion for the 1979 team. Not Ohio State related, but I like to help kid charities like the Childhood League. We put on a musical show and silent auction that generates several hundred thousand dollars a year.
I have been involved in Big Brother. At one time I coached the freshman football defensive line coach at Watterson and I was a softball coach for girls 8-10 years old. Woody taught us to pay things forward.
Ohio State always feels like home. Ohio State always makes you feel welcome and never gives up on you.
Anything you would like to share about your life/family today?
I am married to my incredibly talented and gorgeous wife, Stephanie. I have three beautiful daughters (20-32 years old) and was recently blessed with my first grandchild. A grandson.
I am one of the luckiest guys to ever walk through the doors at Ohio State. I had a chance to play and be successful. Not everyone gets that chance. Who was the running back behind Archie Griffin? Keith Byers? Eddie George? Who was the linebacker behind Chris Spielman? From that perspective I am one of the luckiest guys in the world.
After football I worked for Bruce and Bob Peterson at Columbus Serum. I now work for Midwest Vet Supply. They hired me to sell veterinary pharmaceuticals.
During my brief time talking with Mr. Miller I would believe he has never met a stranger and never had an enemy. If you are lucky enough to meet Nic Miller I am sure you will never forget the most famous person you have never heard of. Don't forget to buy him a
beer Miller Lite.
*Eleven or more questions. I'm not very good at math