Bart Miller still hasn’t fully experienced the game-day atmosphere at Air Force.
Oh, he’s played at Falcon Stadium. He was a lineman at New Mexico when the Lobos fell 28-23 in 2004 and 24-7 in 2006, but he didn’t get to soak in the atmosphere.
“Coach (Rocky) Long would keep us in the tunnel during pregame so we wouldn’t see the flyovers and the cadets marching in and all that,” Miller said, “so we wouldn’t get intimidated by it.”
Miller will see what he missed Sept. 2, when the Falcons open against Virginia Military Institute.
He knows what to expect, but seeing it first-hand is always a little different. He said that’s how it’s been with many things at the academy since accepting the position this past winter after Minnesota’s staff was fired after a tumultuous lead-up to a bowl game that included a planned boycott from the players.
Miller said he anticipated Air Force football players would be intelligent, tough and hard-working, and Long used to tell his teams the Falcons would not make mistakes because of their discipline.
“Those are things where you know about it, but you don’t really appreciate it until you’re here,” he said. “When I walk into that room every day I’m excited to coach those guys. That’s pretty special to me."
Miller, who joins the staff with first-year assistants Taylor Stubblefield (receivers) and Nick Toth (outside linebackers), is the eighth consecutive hire for Troy Calhoun who brings experience in a Power Five conference. He most recently was the offensive line coach at Minnesota, but has also led the lines at Florida Atlantic and New Mexico State.
In one of the more surprising coaching moves in the past decade, Wisconsin fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson after two games in 2012 and promoted Miller – then a 27-year-old second-year graduate assistant – to coach the line. Behind a Miller-coached front, future Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball rushed for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns and won the Doak Walker Award. Wisconsin’s student paper called Miller’s promotion the most important move of the season for the Badgers.
At Air Force, Miller will venture away from the offensive line for the first time in coaching the tight ends.
“It’s a chance for me to grow and develop as a coach,” he said. “I’m an o-line guy by trade whose been in the Big Ten, and more traditional power offenses and pro offenses. To learn under this system and this staff has been a tremendous advantage and opportunity to continue to develop myself, and it’s been a real blessing.”
Miller has benefited from the presence of veteran Ryan Reffitt, who enters his senior year with 18 career starts.
“I like him a lot. He’s a real personable guy,” Reffitt said of Miller. “He’s had some good drills that we’ve started. He fits in well with the Air Force way and the other coaches.”
Miller said one thing he’s already experienced after a full offseason at the academy is the tone of recruiting. And the change is one he likes.
“It’s a little different in terms of what you’re selling,” he said. “At the same time, you put that shirt on and walk into a school, you’re pretty proud of where you work.
“That’s a powerful tool in recruiting. As challenging as it is, it’s also pretty powerful. You’re welcomed right away, and that’s not always the case. When I was at Minnesota, you walk into Wisconsin and you’re not going to get much love. Here there’s a respect and an honor and I think that’s been an enjoyable part of recruiting.”
Bart Miller coaching résumé
2017: Air Force (tight ends)
2016: Minnesota (offensive line)
2014-15: Florida Atlantic (offensive line)
2013: New Mexico State – Offensive Line
2012: Wisconsin - Offensive Line
2011: Wisconsin (GA) – Offensive Line
2010: New Mexico State (GA) – Offensive Line