The year was 2001 and 12-year-old football star Jovan Miller watched in awe as he was exposed to his first-ever lacrosse game when Syracuse competed in the NCAA Lacrosse National Championship against Princeton University. With 16 seconds remaining on the clock, lacrosse legend Mikey Powell scored an unassisted goal, bringing the Orange into forced overtime. Even though Syracuse ultimately lost, it was a life changing moment for the New York native, who would eventually go on to play college ball at the ‘Cuse himself.
“I just remember thinking after the game, ‘I could do that,’” he laughs. “It became an interest of mine when I discovered something I hadn’t seen before.” From that point on, he was hooked.
Miller played in all four years at Syracuse University and became a National Champion in 2008 and 2009. He was a two-time 1 st Team All-Big East, a two-time All-American and the first African-American to receive All-American honors since Jim Brown in Syracuse Lacrosse history. Today, Miller is proudly carrying that legacy over to the professional game.
“The fact that kids are looking up to people like me is obviously telling me that more kids are getting involved. I definitely try not to put myself out there in a negative way because it’s a very numbered situation with African-Americans in the sport. I’m honored by any kid that looks at what I’m doing and he finds some kind of connection or loves to watch me play or loves the way I live my life. I can definitely appreciate that and don’t see it as pressure – I feel honored.”
While Miller is beginning to make his mark as an aggressive, run and gun style of player, he’ll tell you that his lifestyle is completely at odds with his on-field reputation. “I’m extremely aggressive, maybe even to a fault,” he says of his style of play. “But I never drink and I’ve never smoked in my whole life so my body is completely clean. I honestly don’t do much of anything.” In his downtime, Miller confesses he loves cartoons. “I think it keeps me grounded.”
While Miller is best known for his athletic abilities and as a potent midfielder, his interests range from dancing to writing. “One thing I did in the fall was ballroom dancing. I know just about every ballroom dance there is,” he laughs. “It’s kind of corny but at the same time it’s a good way to be festive and social.”
When he’s in a more introspective mood, he takes pen to paper and records his thoughts and anything of significance. He’s even thinking of writing a book based loosely on his past experiences. “I’m a very observant person,” he says. “I actually write in my own time anyway. I keep a journal and I’ve kept it since college. There are some pretty interesting things in there and I’ve definitely thought about writing a book, but I’d be worried about who would read it or whether or not they’d like it.”
With a humble attitude and a grounded mindset, Miller has all the markings of a good role model. In fact, outside of being a professional lacrosse player, he’s doing his part to grow the sport at the high school level. “I actually coach at Jesuit High School in the downtown Dallas area,” he says proudly. “Sometimes I’ll suit up with the kids when there’s an uneven situation and they love it.”
This season, Miller will suit up for the new Charlotte Hounds after being traded by the Rochester Rattlers. Though he was initially angered by the news of the trade, he soon realized it was a blessing in disguise. “I grew up in Syracuse, N.Y. which made it a whole lot easier for my parents to come and watch me play. They’ve been with me since the beginning, especially my father who hasn’t missed a game since I started playing, except for one last year in Denver. But once I saw the blessing in it, and saw all the hype the Hounds have been building, I realized it was one of the best things that’s happened to me in a long time.”
Miller has already been involved with grassroots marketing for the Hounds and has put in face time with young fans. “Matt Danowski and I came down at the end of February and we did clinics and talked to some of the kids at a youth program. We probably had over 200 kids there, and it was a great experience.”
The team just completed its first training camp last weekend and Miller is ready for the upcoming season. “I think they tried to set the tone by scaring us a little bit,” he jokes. “We did 40-yard tests, a vertical leap, cone drills and a lot of interesting stuff to take lacrosse to the next level. The next day we practiced 4 on 3, 5 on 4, 6 on 5, all up and down drills using the whole field. Then we did some basic 6 on 6 offensive and defensive scrimmaging and went through some of the things we want to work on as a team. I think the team we have is going to be pretty good,” he admits humbly.
You can watch Jovan Miller and the rest of the Charlotte Hounds compete this season on ESPN2, ESPN3 and CBS Sports Network. Click here to see our full TV schedule.
Listen to the full MLL Podcast with Jovan Miller: MLL Podcast with Jovan Miller
2012 MLL All-Star GameMLL will host its marquee event in Palm Beach County, FL this year on Saturday, June 30! To buy your tickets now click here. To learn more about the 2012 MLL All-Star Game click here.
The 2012 MLL All-Star Game will feature the best lacrosse players in the world, all one one field and will be aired live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.