ROCKINGHAM – When his name splashed up on the video scoreboard of Bridgeforth Stadium with the word “committed” above it, Richmond Senior High School senior running back Dante Miller knew his dreams were becoming a reality.
Earlier this month, Miller, who has been recruited by several Division I football programs this fall, verbally committed to a full scholarship to play football at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
“It feels pretty good,” Miller said of his commitment. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve worked hard my whole life (in school and football) to get to this moment, and I’m thankful that I’ll be playing at James Madison. It’s a great feeling to see all of my hard work pay off.”
JMU, which is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, has won the CAA conference title each of the last three years. More impressively, Miller will be joining a JMU program that won the 2016 FCS National Championship, and the Dukes are currently 11-0 and are the No. 1 seed in this year’s bracket as they look to defend the FCS title.
Miller grabbed the attention of college scouts with his aggressive running style, and more specifically, his speed and strength. Miller explained that JMU head coach Mike Houston reached out to Richmond head coach Bryan Till in May expressing interest in Miller joining the Dukes’ program.
Miller also entertained scholarship offers from the United States Naval Academy, Wofford College and Gardner-Webb University, and was officially offered a scholarship from JMU, “sometime in the middle of (Richmond’s) season.”
“When I went to visit James Madison and I met coach Houston, I just knew it was the best fit for me,” Miller explained. “They’re a great program that wins. And I believe that JMU will help make me a better athlete and help get me to my goal of playing professionally.
“I spoke with my mom a lot about this decision,” Miller continued. “She’s been very supportive this whole process and we decided that James Madison was the perfect fit for athletics, as well as academics.”
While Miller is excited to suit up for the Dukes as a freshman next season, he understands that nothing is guaranteed and that he has to maintain his hard work ethic on and off the field to be successful.
“I just need to continue to work hard,” Miller noted. “My primary goal is to earn a spot on the team and contribute.
“Playing college football is a great way to rebuild yourself and get better,” Miller explained. “And I plan on getting better each day and am looking forward to seeing how I progress in the future.”
Miller had an outstanding senior season at Richmond, as he was the No. 1 tailback and rushed for 1,327 yards on 158 carries (8.4 yards per carry). He also found the end zone 19 times on the ground, and added eight receptions for 94 yards.
Of Richmond’s 11 regular season games, Miller eclipsed the 100-yard mark in seven of them, finishing the season averaging 120.6 yards per game. He also was second on the Raiders in all-purpose yards with 1,421 yards, trailing only freshman quarterback Caleb Hood.
In his three years at the varsity level, with his senior season being his most productive, Miller will leave Richmond having rushed 217 times for 1,703 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Miller totaled 20 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
“I am very proud of Dante for all he has meant to this program this year,” Till said of Miller. “His choice to commit to James Madison allows him to attend a great academic institution, as well as play football at a high level. I am also proud of what this means for his future since it is a full scholarship opportunity. It’s hard to beat a free education.”
Miller has been recruited as a running back, but he fully expects to compete to play special teams, too. Miller has set his personal expectations high, but knows he’ll need to play at a high-caliber level in order to be a playmaker with the Dukes.
“My biggest expectation of myself for my freshman year is to win playing time,” Miller said. “Obviously I want to make a big impact and help the team win.
“It would be awesome to win a national championship while I’m there,” Miller added with a chuckle.
Miller expressed that he hopes to offer all of his talents to JMU, but most notably said he wants to showcase his speed, strength and mental ability to play the game. He noted that being smart and knowing what to do on the field is just as important as the physical aspects of the game.
As is for many high school athletes, Miller cherished his time as a Raider football player. Earlier this season when he was named the RO’s Official Richmond County Athlete of the Week, Miller explained how special it was to don the green and gold of Richmond the last few seasons. He acknowledged that he couldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for Till, his mother, the Raiders coaching staff and God.
In parting with the Richmond tradition, Miller says that he has too many good memories to recall, but will always remember offensive coordinator Brad Denson’s pre-game speeches.
“Coach Denson always touched on reality in his speeches,” Miller said. “He’d get us hyped up and teach us a lesson, too. He would tell us to work hard and work up to the moment. I’ll never forget what he taught us, or my teammates and coaches.”
Miller will report to JMU’s campus for an official visit from Jan. 12-14, 2018. He will be enrolled in the computer and software engineering program.