Running back Malik Miller lured to Air Force not by running game, but by engineering program

March 14, 2017 Updated: March 14, 2017 at 3:59 pm
photo - Malik Miller runs through a drill during spring practice Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Malik Miller runs through a drill during spring practice Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Since childhood, Malik Miller envisioned himself at this point.

Not necessarily as a running back battling for playing time at a Division I program, but as an aeronautical engineer major working toward his degree.

"To be a developmental engineer, that's the dream," said Miller, an Air Force sophomore who grew up in Griffin, Ga., near a Lockheed Martin plant and always envisioned himself working there. "I've known I wanted to go into aeronautical engineering since seventh grade. When Air Force came in, I was like, 'That fits perfectly.' It was the main thing that drew me here."

Miller isn't sure if he'll go into jet engine propulsion or aircraft design - where he'd like to "design less skin friction, drag and stuff like that."

If there's another tailback logging first-team reps this spring in the nation who is wrestling with that same decision, it would be a major surprise.

With Tim McVey sitting out spring ball to recover from an undisclosed injury, it has been Miller working with the starting unit and preparing to take the No. 2 tailback position.

In the past four years, the No. 2 tailback in the Falcons' offense has averaged 68 carries, 489 yards and six touchdowns. So even with McVey returning to finally play a featured role, that backup spot comes with a major opportunity.

Miller has been the frontrunner thus far in spring practice, but that could certainly change when Benton Washington returns from an injury and as freshmen like Jaylen Burgess and Joseph Saucier continue to develop.

"Malik's been in it for two years and knows the system a little bit better than the other guys, so he's a step above them," running backs coach Ben Miller said. "But he does some things that get you excited about the future."

Miller didn't log any carries last year, but he utilized that time to study the position.

"It was tough, but I knew my role," Miller said. "I had to sit back and watch how (Jacobi Owens and McVey) play and analyze things they do - things they do well, things I could do better and just try to better my game so when I do get a chance to get in and play I'm ready. That was the big thing."

If things don't work out at tailback, it sounds like Miller will be fine with that, too. He graduated in the top 10 of his high school class with a 3.9 GPA and chose Air Force over Army and Navy, Georgia State, Marshall and more than a dozen FCS program. He obviously has plans beyond football. But even those haven't been exactly ironed out just yet.

"If I was blessed enough to go to grad school, I would," Miller said. "But honestly I want to get my hands dirty and go into real things in engineering instead of theoreticals in a class."

Sounds like with football and engineering, Miller is itching to contribute from somewhere other than the sidelines.

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