Even though he is no longer an Ohio State football player, Harry Miller was back in the spotlight at Ohio Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The former Ohio State offensive lineman was back in the Shoe as the keynote speaker of this year’s Faces of Resilience banquet, a benefit event for Ohio State’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. Throughout an 11-minute speech inside Ohio Stadium’s Huntington Club, Miller went into detail about his battle with depression, the suicidal thoughts he experienced and how he’s overcome those struggles in his journey to improve his mental health.
(Note: The video above and story below describe descriptions of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.)
Miller’s speech brought many in the room to tears, including himself, as he recalled the lowest points he experienced a year ago that ultimately led to his decision to retire from football in March.
“I was a rising junior, I was training hard, improving my body. Agents were meeting with me, telling me with a good season, I could go in the second or third round (of the NFL draft), and within a year I would be $10 million richer. I was getting close with my teammates, trying hard to lead. I came in seventh out of the six captains voted for that season. August came, everything was in order. But it was not,” Miller said.
“I sat in front of my mirror and pressed my pointer and middle finger into the side of my head and wished I had a gun so that I could stop rehearsing my death and finally bring it upon myself. I walked through the Woody Hayes Athletic (Center) and the weight room with green bands hung loosely for players to stretch, but to me, they looked like nooses. I spoke with many of my friends, and when we said goodbye to one another, I understood the full weight of those goodbyes. Eventually, it became too much; something had to give one way or another. And that was when I began my journey to try to heal from what I was experiencing.
“... Several nights, I sat in front of my mirror, pressing a blade into my skin. I stared down at my reflection to see who would blink first. I pressed the blade harder until it ripped me and drew blood. I was in so much pain. I was so confused. This is the route that is laid out ahead of me? And all that is left for me to do it? But it was not. I did not. I fought to make it so. And that is so that I am here.”
After his speech concluded, Miller received a lengthy ovation from the audience, who stood up and applauded him for more than a minute.
“It felt very good,” Miller said after the speech when asked about the support he received on Tuesday night. “Just grateful that there were many times when things didn’t make sense, and now in hindsight, things like this make those things make sense. And so I’m very appreciative, very grateful and it was a really great night.”
While Miller arrived at Ohio State as a five-star recruit with what he described as “prophecies of riches and fame,” he recalled a moment during his freshman year when coaches asked all of the first-year players to write down their goals. That proved to be a profound moment for Miller in understanding what was most important to him.
“There was a section for academic goals, weight room goals, football goals and finally, personal goals,” Miller said. “For some reason, though, this section deeply struck me, terrified me even. I wrote down: Be a good man. I do not know why that was impressed upon my heart so much that I felt the need to put it down, but it was, so I did.”
Although Miller is no longer chasing the goals he once had of earning a tree in Buckeye Grove as an All-American and playing in the NFL, he feels a greater sense of purpose in having the opportunity to be an advocate for mental health.
“As I was meeting with professionals over the past year, I realized that kids have all these posters of these great heroes who are big and muscular and in these beautiful poses that make them look strong and powerful. But I would really like a hero who was sitting on the curb, broken, worn out and beaten,” Miller said after his speech. “Because I feel that way much more than I feel like a poster child, and that's the kind of hero I want. So I think that's why people need to talk.”
Miller said the biggest thing he’s learned over the past year is how many people care about him and to allow himself to be loved, and that’s the message he wants everyone who hears his speech to take away from it.
“I think we feel small in the presence of fear, but we feel even smaller in the presence of love. And I think that intimidates us away from speaking to people we care about or being honest with the people we care about. So even if it frightens you, take a risk and dare to love and to be loved,” Miller said. “And you'd be surprised how many problems that solves.”
Even though Miller is no longer playing football, he’s still a student at Ohio State and maintains a regular presence around the team. As he’s been on the sidelines for games at Ohio Stadium and practices at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this season, Miller says his goal has been to do whatever he can to bring positive energy to the Buckeyes.
“I like to imagine myself as a bard in Dungeons & Dragons,” Miller said. “I just want to be there to increase the morale of the team. Bards like playing music for their heroes, so I just hope that I can be on the sideline, helping my teammates, helping my friends.
“I’m so happy – on the top of my mind right now, I think of Donovan Jackson, who's a sophomore playing left guard like I did, and there's nothing I want more than to see him be successful. And I will always be in the corner of my friends. And I'm just beyond happy to be able to do that.”
Harry Miller, who looks more like a tight end now after slimming down over the past six months, working with the offensive linemen in pregame warmups. pic.twitter.com/O07W0c65Di— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) September 10, 2022
Miller says being around the Buckeyes bolsters his own morale “massively.”
“I would not be who I am without my friends. To not be around them would make me less of myself,” Miller said. “And being around them every day makes me a better version of myself. And some of the best humans on the entire planet that I've been able to spend time with.”
Miller is also grateful for the support he’s continued to receive from Ryan Day.
“He's just been a tremendous leader. And I think if you asked any guy on that team, they would agree the same,” Miller said. “I think it's very easy for that not to be the reality. That is perhaps the reality at a lot of places. But I think Coach Day tries hard to care about his men, and that means a lot to me. And I'm very grateful for that.”
Day, who could not attend Tuesday’s banquet because the Buckeyes were practicing but recorded a video message that was played to introduce Miller before his speech, said Tuesday that he is proud of the resiliency Miller has shown and how Miller is now using his own struggles to help others.
“I was very fortunate enough to be the one that recruited him, and we knew that Harry was special. We knew that he was gonna have an impact on people. Never would you imagine it would be like this and at such a young age, have such a great impact on people,” Day said. “And he's still in a battle. We know that. And I'm proud of what he's done and what he's doing.”