KJ Miller looking for 5th championship ring after starting with 2 at West Orange-Stark
Published 12:36 am Wednesday, July 20, 2022
The chase is on for former West Orange-Stark standout wide receiver and return man K.J. Miller.
The young man is searching for “One For The Thumb” as he looks to be a part of another Mary-Hardin Baylor Crusaders National Championship squad after getting two national title rings with the NCAA Division III school located in Belton.
Miller is on a quest for a fifth ring after he picked up Class 4A Division II State Championship rings at WO-S in 2015 and 2016.
“Wow, I didn’t never really think about that one, I kinda like the ‘One For The Thumb’ idea,” said Miller. “I really think we have a great chance to get another one, as long as we keep that hunger. We only lost two starters on offense, so we are good there. We’ve got five back on defense and some younger guys ready to step in there, too. The thing is, everyone wants a piece of us, so we’re going to have to bring our ‘A game’ every single week.”
The Crusaders won national titles in 2021 and 2018, going a perfect 15-0 in both seasons.
Without a doubt, Miller played key roles in both national titles.
Last season Miller had 76 catches for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns. He hauled in nine receptions for 149 yards and a score in the Crusaders’ 57-24 demolition of North Central College in the national title tilt at Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
“We won it all in 2018, but there wasn’t a better feeling than last year,” said Miller. “We had that COVID year in 2020 that kinda shut things down, and to bounce back and win another one was awesome. To play at that stadium, with the NFL Hall of Fame right there by it, it gives you goose bumps. I felt I had a really good game, we all did. Our goal all year was to get to Canton, and we got there and dominated. You gotta love that.”
Miller earned Second Team All-American honors as a return specialist last season. He had 626 yards total on his punt returns, averaging 25.04 a return. He was named the American Southwest Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year. He was also named First Team Offense on the D3football.com Region III Team.
“The honors are always good, but it is all about helping the team any way I can,” said Miller. “I learned that playing as a Mustang. No one person is ever bigger than the team. That’s what we live by here at Mary-Hardin Baylor. We all buy in and we love to win.”
During the 2018 championship season, Miller hauled in 51 catches for 622 yards and five TDs to make the All-ASC Second Team Offense. He brought back three punt returns for scores and averaged 23.8 yards a return.
Miller bounced back from sitting out the entire 2019 season. He was ready to bounce back in 2020 but due to COVID-19, the Crusaders’ season was cut short, but they did finish 5-0 as Miller started all five games and brought 10 punts back for 177 yards and led the team with 20 receptions.
“That whole thing was a tough deal but it helped me grow up a lot and I was able to take care of business in the classroom,” said Miller. “The whole COVID thing was tough, but that definitely made us hungry for last season and we went out and got the job done.”
As a true freshman in 2017 he showed the Crusaders’ coaching staff what to look for down the road when he caught 17 passes for 219 yards and two TDs and averaged 29.5 yards on his punt return attempts.
Coming out of high school, Miller wasn’t recruited heavily. A lot of people were skeptical about his size, but in a lot of cases, they forget to measure the heart, which is something Miller has always had.
Miller still stands at 5-7, but has grown to 170 pounds.
“All my life, people have doubted me as far as what I could do or not do because of my size,” said Miller. “For me, that has always been extra motivation and I love to prove those critics wrong. I’ve always loved to turn the impossible into the possible. That’s always been my mindset.”
Of course, Miller was on one of the best Mustangs teams ever assembled in 2016 when they rolled to the state title with a perfect 16-0 record and defeated Sweetwater 24-6 in the title game.
And Miller contributed to that squad in every way possible. He led the Mustangs with 37 receptions for 767 yards and 13 touchdowns. He carried the ball 19 times for 207 yards and a score. He shredded opposing special teams in the return game to electrify the Mustangs faithful. He had 22 punt returns for 576 yards and five TDs and had two kickoff returns for 118 yards and a score.
He was the holder on all of the WO-S extra-point and field goal attempts. He punted 27 times for a 34.3-yard average. He was also inserted a lot on defense, especially in the playoffs and made some key stops. And how about some icing, he completed 2-of-2 passes for 79 yards and yes, a TD.
“We had some awesome years and some great memories for sure,” said Miller. “At WO-S you learned to be tough and disciplined just as much as you learn about the game. Mary-Hardin Baylor runs its programs almost exactly the same. If you do something wrong, you are held accountable for it. That’s the way I was brought up, and I like it.”
Miller, the 2017 Orange Leader Male Athlete of the Year, was also the Offensive MVP on the All-District Basketball Team as a point guard and made All-State in baseball.
He has ventured back to his high school alma mater on several occasions.
“I’ve been by there a few times and the facilities they have now are unbelievable,” said Miller. “I’ve helped at some of their workouts from time to time and I love helping the younger kids, especially. I will always be a Mustang.”