WHEELERSBURG — It’s no secret that the legendary Ed Miller won a lot of football games at first Notre Dame, then later with Wheelersburg.
That exact number is 250, over the course of three full decades.
But maybe more so, Miller molded, and modeled, his players into men —towards becoming successful business people, coaches, husbands, fathers, and simple yet decent individuals in society.
Indeed, his impact and forever lasting legacy goes far beyond the man, and far beyond between the yard-lines and hashmarks inside Ed Miller Stadium.
Miller, who coached for 10 years at Notre Dame and won 77 games followed by 20 seasons at his alma mater of Wheelersburg with 173 more victories and the 1989 state championship, passed away in mid-May — at the age of 86.
He was an educator for 38 years, with 26 of those within Wheelersburg’s school district —and primarily was an instructor for physical education.
He was a devout Catholic as well, with Wheelersburg’s St. Peter’s Church his home parish.
During the week following Miller’s passing, remembrances and reflections poured out on social media and in traditional media —from family members to former players.
The prevailing thoughts were Miller is remembered most for his instilling of discipline, organization of his football practices down to the very minute, making mentally tougher those around him, and that “if you put in the hard work, great things can be accomplished with great effort.”
Miller won 85-percent of his career games as a head coach, winning 250 against 41 losses and four ties.
In addition to the 1989 state title, his teams twice were state semifinalists, three times regional champions, 20 times Southern Ohio Conference champions, and 11 times undefeated.
He was 17 seasons SOC Coach of the Year, and three falls a state Coach of the Year —becoming the first Scioto County coach to be inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Along with Wheelersburg’s Hall of Fame induction, the football stadium is of course named after him —a 1954 WHS graduate who continued his education and playing career at Eastern Kentucky University, and was drafted by the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
It was starting in 1962, and all the way through for 30 years, that Miller shaped teenagers’ lives — to not only winning on the football field, but in the game of life itself.
Scott Schmidt, who played for Miller at Notre Dame and was part of the Titans’ 1970 Class A state title team, said Miller was more than teaching the Xs and Os —and the simple geometry and algebra associated with football.
“He was as tough as tough could be, but he turned boys into men,” said Schmidt. “He taught people skills. He was a fair man, you understood where you stood with him. His approach challenged your manhood, but he taught you how to compete. A lot of coaches just never got into that, but he taught you how to compete. And if you couldn’t compete, then you couldn’t play for him.”
Schmidt, whose father Ed was an assistant for Miller, credits Miller for the blueprint for his business model —as Schmidt’s company is the well-established Schmidt Family Restaurant Group, renown throughout the Tri-State area.
“His practices were so organized and down to every minute. He knew what he was going to do. He had a plan and he executed that plan,” said Schmidt. “He will never be forgotten. A great man who had an impact on me and many others, and I owe a lot to him.”
Jackson High School head football coach Andy Hall, the son of Miller’s longtime defensive coordinator at Wheelersburg Larry Hall, played for Miller and the Pirates in the late 1980s.
Like Schmidt in the business world, Hall has translated what he learned from Miller —and applied to his programs, primarily at Jackson where he has coached and enjoyed great success since 2009.
“He taught us how to sustain a true program. Program building and program sustaining and how to handle kids with discipline is what I learned most from him. He didn’t rely on just three or four guys. He developed football players to the point where you usually had 12 to 18 seniors that played and you could count on every year. He brought discipline and a no non-sense approach, and playing football for Ed Miller wasn’t for everybody. But if you were willing to put in the work and do what he told you, he would do anything to help you,” said Hall. “He had this approach, he had his plan, he executed it, didn’t deviate much from it, and that’s why Wheelersburg excelled year after year.”
In 2014, Jackson shut out the host Pirates 27-0 —one of Hall’s best all-time victories as the Ironmen mentor.
One of the first individuals to congratulate him, his father Larry, and the Ironmen staff following the game was Miller.
“That meant a lot to me, and even though he didn’t like to see Wheelersburg lose, I think it meant a lot to him to see one of his former players and staff members have success,” said Hall.
Rarely did Miller lose — only 12 times in 10 years at Notre Dame, and only 29 times in 20 years with Wheelersburg.
Four times he tied, twice at each school —as six of those dozen losses at Notre Dame came in his initial season.
Chuck Ealey was his quarterback on the Titans’ 1967 state championship squad, while his son Matthew was under center for the Pirates during that magical and memorable 1989 campaign.
Matthew Miller was asked what it was like to play quarterback for his father.
“It was stressful. He expected his quarterbacks to be field generals and lead his offense. He demanded us to run his offense with great precision, consistency and deception. And take care of the football, no turnovers. I was lucky my senior year that he had enough confidence in me to audible his plays based on what I saw on the field. He said he was okay with changing his play call, BUT…it better work,” he said. “I think Dad treated (Miller’s sons) Eddie, Mark and I tougher than the other players, to show no favoritism. I believe our teammates would agree, because none of them wanted to come home with us after practice. I will say this, my mom (Dart) ensured that football stayed at the stadium, and not discussed at home. But it was an honor and a blessing to play and win a state championship with Dad and The Burg. Every team that ever played for Ed Miller played a part in that magical 1989 run.”
The only other state football championship-winning coach at Wheelersburg —Rob Woodward — said Miller maintained his presence in his decade-and-a-half of coaching the Pirates, which began with the 2008 campaign.
Woodward and Wheelersburg won the Division V state title just five years ago (2017).
“His presence was still all around,” said the current Pirate coach. “You would often find him in the bleachers or he would stop by practice at times. He was watching his grandsons play. But he was a fixture, he would stop by the locker-room and congratulate us after a big win. He still had a passion for Wheelersburg football long after he retired, always recognized our accomplishments, and was really someone who looked out after all of us. We’re just trying to uphold that standard of excellence he built here.”
Indeed, he won 250 football games —no doubt a lot.
But businessmen, coaches, fathers, husbands and everyday ordinary football players no doubt drew from Miller molding them into men.
Memorial contributions can be made in Miller’s memory to the “Coach Ed Miller Scholarship Fund” —which benefits both Notre Dame High School and Wheelersburg High School student-athletes.
Those contributions can be mailed to the Coach Ed Miller Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 264, Wheelersburg, OH, 45694.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved