It was the senior who didn’t know if he wanted to ever play football again that finally put the North Forsyth home crowd into a frenzy, and Colton Miller wasn’t even sure if he’d made the right decision.
Miller could already feel Forsyth Central defenders pursuing him before he fielded a punt at North’s 40-yard line in the first quarter of the teams’ scrimmage last Friday. Maybe he should call a fair catch, he thought. That was the safe call.
Giving up football last season would have been too. North was changing coaches, and Miller was about to move up from junior varsity to a team that’d won just four games in two seasons. Besides, he wasn’t allured by the chance to play college football. He wanted to watch it instead in the student section at his dream school, the University of Alabama.
And yet there he went Friday, sprinting down the left sideline, 60 yards into the end zone for the highlight of North’s 19-6 victory over Central.
"It was crazy," Miller said. "I thought about calling fair catch, because they were all over me. They started kind of running behind me, so I figured I take a step up and see what I could do with it. Just made some moves and got some good blocks from my team. And all I saw was the end zone."
It’s a refrain North hopes to hear often this season as Miller and the Raiders try to build off last season’s success. North went 7-4 under first-year head coach Jason Galt to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The seven wins were the most since 2009.
Miller almost wasn’t a part of it all, but he went to that first player meeting when Galt was hired just to hear what he had to say.
"We all got excited," Miller said. "He brought something to North Forsyth that hasn’t been here in a long time."
Miller entered the season without any varsity experience and several seniors ahead of him on the depth chart, but he was undeterred.
"I just did what I could every day," Miller said. "I eventually moved my way up and proved myself on the field."
Indeed, Miller became a starter and made an immediate impact for the Raiders. He finished the season with a team-best 26 catches for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He was named second team All-County and honorable mention All-Region 6-AAAAAA.
And he had one of the signature performances of the season in North’s season finale against South Forsyth. The Raiders needed a win to make the playoffs. Miller stepped up with six catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns in a 17-12 victory to seal a spot in the postseason.
"That was a lot of fun," Miller said. "I know a lot of people from South. That was great to get to the playoffs, my whole team playing well. To get the seniors one last playoff game, that was awesome."
After the season, the allure of college football tempted Miller. Kennesaw State invited him to attend a camp over the summer. If he performed well, maybe an offer would follow.
Miller didn’t go. He knew it’d mean missing out on Saturday’s at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Instead, he said, he’s just focused on this senior season, one that almost never happened.
"I definitely want to see my team go to the playoffs this year like last year," Miller said. "I just want to grow with this team. This team’s amazing. These guys are my brothers. I just love growing with these guys. It’s been great so far, so hopefully we finish it up well."