Even though it is a cliche, it’s usually said that regardless of what place you visit or reside it, there’s nothing like home for a person or a group of people.
For Pikeville standouts Eddie Miller III and Camron Parsley, Wheelersburg is the home that they so dearly appreciate and love — because it is forever a part of their fabric.
The duo got to return to their old stomping ground at Ed Miller Stadium last month, when the University of Pikeville’s football program held an intrasquad scrimmage at the storied facility back on April 7.
To the surprise of few, if any, the great memories that were made on the hallowed ground that serves as the lifeblood of the Wheelersburg football program came rushing back to the mind of the cousins.
“This is the second year in a row that we came back to Wheelersburg to play,” Miller said. “It’s neat looking up at that scoreboard, seeing the Ed Miller Stadium nameplate on it, and seeing those memories coming back to formation. There’s a lot of great guys and a lot of great coaches that went to battle with us every day, and a lot of great games were played on that field as a result.”
“It’s a special moment,” Parsley said. “Just for us, although we didn’t play, just being there and being able to stand on that field with a jersey on has a powerful meaning to it. We put our blood, sweat, and tears into that field during our high school days, and back in those days, football was all that we had growing up in a small town. That’s our way out. That’s the way that we looked at it. It was nothing but business, and it still is today. It’s a sweet moment to go back to Ed Miller Stadium. It really is.”
And based off of their high school stats, it’s clear that the pair took their high school experiences to heart.
Starting in their junior years, the hard work of the pair began to pay major dividends on the football field, as Miller — who caught 20 passes for 339 yards as a high school sophomore while backing up Alex Shears at the quarterback position — took over the signal-calling reigns as a junior by completing 63 percent of his passes, accumulating 2,208 yards to go along with 24 touchdowns through the air, and rushing for a team-high 901 yards and 15 touchdowns for a 6.26 yards-per-carry average, while Parsley finished second on the unit in tackles (57) and tackles for loss (seven) for an 8-3 unit in 2012.
The best for the duo, however, was yet to come.
In 2013, Miller upped his 2012 totals by going from 3,109 all-purpose yards and 39 touchdowns to 4,005 all-purpose yards and 47 touchdowns by throwing for 2,689 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushing for 1,310 yards on 159 carries while accumulating 17 more scores.
While Miller proved to be the engine that made the Wheelersburg offense go, Parsley followed up his cousin’s efforts on the offensive end by leading a physical defensive unit that only gave up 201 points in 13 games. The senior linebacker made a team-high 77 stops and converted five of his 16 receptions on the offensive end into scores as Wheelersburg went 11-2 and advanced to the Division III Regional Finals before falling to Bishop Hartley.
For both players, playing with the Pirates was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“With what’s going on at Wheelersburg, and has been for years, it’s always special,” Miller said. “I still stay in very close contact with (Rob) Woodward and (Tom) Kaskey. It’s nice to know that you just don’t play for the program, graduate from there, leave, and that’s it. It’s much more than that. When you play and graduate from Wheelersburg, you’re part of the Wheelersburg football family forever.”
“(Rob) Woodward and I are very close,” Parsley said. “I’m also very close with (Chad) Johnson. It’s like family. To be able to go back there and talk to them is great. Every time that Eddie and I come back to Wheelersburg, we make it a point to go see those guys, because they’ve made such an impact on our lives, not only as players, but as people. They taught us to be disciplined and they taught us to focus on our goals, keep working at them, and do what you got to do to succeed, because hard work pays off. That’s the truth.”
At Pikeville, however, the family duo have only continued to build upon their successes as high school products.
After suffering through back-to-back losing campaigns in their first two years with Pikeville, the pair — Miller as a junior, Parsley as a redshirt sophomore — were emotional leaders and catalysts in leading the Bears to a 6-5 campaign in 2016 and an MSC East Championship as Pikeville won four out of its last five contests to obtain the division title, including a 10-7 victory over No. 17-ranked Georgetown.
“(Allan) Holland has turned this program around and has sent it into the direction that it was needed,” Miller said. “That’s been evident just in the past year when we won a (Mid-South East) division championship. He’s really done an unbelievable job of changing the atmosphere of this program and taking it to where it needs to go.”
Parsley, in particular, had a front seat for all of the action. The two-year started accumulated 68 tackles to place third on the unit and led the team with eight tackles for loss and three sacks to led Pikeville on its second-half surge.
The redshirt sophomore’s work ethic in leading the Bears’ defense, however, comes from the very community that made his college football dreams a reality.
“It was nice to be able to come in and secure a starting spot,” Parsley said. “Having some of the older guys on the team look up to me and treat me like an older guy in my redshirt freshman year was definitely a good feeling. It was good to earn everybody’s respect. That work ethic that I carried with me, however, was taught at Wheelersburg, and that carried on through Eddie and I all the way to UPike. I believe that it’s really helped us turn our team around.”
As with anything in life, however, their success — both on and off of the field, hasn’t come without adversity.
In April’s intrasquad scrimmage, both players were forced to miss the contest, as a reoccuring hernia issue and a neck injury, respectively, have forced Miller and Parsley to sit on the sidelines for most of the spring.
However, the Wheelersburg faithful know that Miller and Parsley will come back strong. As Parsley says himself, he has unfinished business to attend to.
“I want to leave a mark on the defense by attacking things with a gritty mindset,” Parsley said. “I’m a very emotional football player, and an emotional person in general. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so when someone makes a big tackle or a big hit, I’m right there with them. That’s just how I am. I want to leave behind a tradition of winning and establish a gritty attitude within the defense.”
But regardless of what happens, the pair are simply blessed to have the chance to play football together — as they’ve done all their lives — for one final time.
“That’s been one of the most rewarding things,” Miller said of playing alongside his cousin. “First off, not many people get to extend their football career to the collegiate level, so I’ve been truly blessed with that, but then, to play from pee-wee football all the way to your senior year of college with your best friend, your cousin, and a guy that you’re grown up with your entire life, just makes me feel really fortunate.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7