Ryan Day Proud of Harry Miller, Who Remains “Part of Our Family” After Retirement from Ohio State Football

By Dan Hope on March 22, 2022 at 2:02 pm
Harry Miller

Even though Harry Miller decided to retire from football, Ryan Day wants Miller to know that the support of the Ohio State football program remains behind him.

While Miller will no longer be playing on the Buckeyes’ offensive line after announcing his retirement earlier this month, he has told Day that he wants to remain involved with the team. And although they haven’t yet determined exactly how Miller will remain involved, Day said the door is open for Miller to return to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center when the time is right.

“He still wants to be part of the program and find a way to make an impact,” Day said. “And so we said we didn't need to make that decision right now. We're going to give it a little time and try to figure out how that is. But he certainly has a lot to give.

“Certainly gonna be here for him and he's part of our family, so he's going to be moving forward.”

After considering the possibility of stepping away from football since last year, Miller formally announced his retirement earlier this month in a social media post, in which he revealed he told Day before the 2021 season that he intended to kill himself. Miller opened up further about his mental health during an appearance Monday on NBC’s Today, where he said he wanted to speak up to help others who are dealing with the same struggles.

Day, who has spoken publicly about his own mental health battles after his father died by suicide when he was just eight years old, said Tuesday he is proud of Miller and happy to see him doing better.

“When I think about the whole situation, the thing that makes me the most proud is the work that Harry did to get to this point,” Day said. “He certainly wasn't where he is right now a year ago, and he did the work.”

Miller credited Day and Ohio State’s sports psychology staff – specifically athletic counselor Candice Williams and psychiatrist Josh Norman – with giving him the support he needed to save his life. Multiple parents of Ohio State players, including Miller’s mother Kristina and Noah Potter’s father Tim, took to Twitter after Miller’s Today appearance to share their gratitude for the support Day and his staff have provided to their sons not only as football players, but as human beings.

As Ohio State’s head coach, Day recognizes his responsibility goes beyond just winning games and coaching football, but also ensuring that his players and staff are cared for off the field.

“When you have 120 guys on a team, with their families, with 50-some-odd people in the building, that's 170 people on a daily basis,” Day said. “And it's not like you're going to work at IBM. I mean, when you take on the responsibility of recruiting someone and bring them into your building and say it's a family, then you have to take on some of the stuff that comes with that. And that's okay, that's part of the job, it’s part of being a family. And you don't always agree. There's arguments, there's hard feelings, there's different things that come up along the way, but you try to work through them the best you can, and you try to help people the best you can and treat them the same way that when you recruit them, you recruit them a certain way. 

“I think the old school way is once they were in the building, it changed. And that's not the way we do it here. We treat them the same way when they're here as when they were recruited. And there's a lot that comes with that. But that's the job. And if there weren't problems, we wouldn't have jobs. That's part of being a coach is to solve the problems and try to help people, and this was just one example.”

That said, Day said the credit belongs to Miller himself for not only having the courage to speak up about what he was going through, but taking the steps necessary to improve his mental health.

“What we did is put structures in place to help him and to help all of our players,” Day said. “Just like if somebody tears their ACL or sprains their ankle, they need physical therapy. There’s guys who need some work in the mental area. And that's really what happened. He did the work, we just put the structure together and proud that he's in a better place now than he was certainly at this point last year.

“I am proud that he was able to step out and ask for the help and then be willing to do the work. Because that's the hard part. I think you certainly have to have the courage to say something and ask for help, but then you gotta go do the work. Wake up every day. And he's done that. So great to see that. But this is still something that's a work in progress for him.”

Day said it was a hard decision for Miller to ultimately decide to step away from football, but Day commended Miller for making the decision that was best for his health.

“It took a whole year to kind of get to this point for him,” Day said. “And you can tell how emotional he was about it, because football has been a huge part of his life. So to step away was a big deal, and now he's kind of repurposing himself. And that's not easy to do. But proud of what he's done. He's got a lot to offer.”

“When I think about the whole situation, the thing that makes me the most proud is the work that Harry did to get to this point.”– Ryan Day on Harry Miller

Miller is far from the first Ohio State football player to deal with mental health issues during his career with the Buckeyes, and he certainly won’t be the last, so Day says taking care of players’ mental health will continue to be a point of emphasis within the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. And he hopes Miller’s decision to speak out will help other players who might be dealing with their own struggles.

“This issue is not going away,” Day said. “So we have to keep swinging away at it, and hopefully his message is gonna help some more people so that we don't have these situations moving forward.”

During his Today appearance on Monday, Miller specifically referenced some of the hateful comments that he and his teammates have received on social media, some of which have even risen to the point of death threats. Day said those attacks are something Ohio State takes very seriously, and he says he talks to the players regularly about how to handle the social media criticism they might receive.

“That's unfortunately part of this job, but that doesn't make it easy,” Day said. “And it's one thing for somebody in their 40s to be able to compartmentalize things like that, but it's a lot harder for the younger generation who's really found their identity through social media, through their phones to go on there and see some of those things. It's one thing to tell them, ‘Hey, it's only 10 people.’ I say it all the time, when you look at a stadium of 107,000 people, if you have 10 bad comments, there's like a little tiny section in that stadium right there. Everybody else is great. But all you see is those 10 people in those comments, and they just kind of stick with you.

“So it's something we do talk about and try to figure out ways to help these guys with that. We call it The Man in the Arena … the guy who's actually in the arena is the one who counts. Not the critics and the people who criticize and say those things, it's actually the warriors who actually go out in the field. And that's a big thing today. And I think now with social media, and the amount of exposure that these guys get, it's great. There's a lot to gain from it. But sometimes it can hurt. And I think the easy thing to do is to look at it and say, ‘Well, boy, they get a free scholarship, they get all this attention, they get all this.’ And that's great, it is true. But there's also the other part of it, that is easier for some to handle and a little bit more difficult for others. And it's something we need to be aware of. And that's why we've put in place some of these services to help our guys to deal with that.”

Day expressed gratitude to everyone both at Ohio State and outside of Ohio State who have expressed support to Miller since he made his public statement.

“When you go and put yourself out there on the Today Show, when you put yourself out there publicly, there's a concern of what people may say or think,” Day said. “And I think that the support of Buckeye Nation, of the state of Ohio, of Ohio State, of this football team and really nationally has been pretty remarkable. And I think that means a lot to him.”

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