What are four seconds in a football game to a coach that has seen it all, and done it all? Well, if you are Jim Miller, it was a finished career. Jim had taken his last team as far as he could, achieving a 9-4 record and reaching the state semifinal game.
Jim had taken the Bulldawgs as far as he could. Getting it done with smoke and mirrors and an extraordinary effort from his son, Kameron Miller, who put up exceptional numbers his senior year: 2,199 yards passing and 1,542 rushing while scoring 43 touchdowns.
The Bulldawgs had just scored to take the lead with less than a minute left in the game. A tension-filled Field of Dreams Stadium would hold their breaths as Eldorado’s kicker kicked the ball. Fans stood with their eyes fixated on the football floating and tumbling in the air, the gasp went out of the crowd as the referee raised his arms that the kick was good, giving Eldorado a 44-42 win in 2016.
Jim was seeking to send his son, Kameron, out as a winner in his senior year. Both father and son were trying to win another state title to add to the one they had won in 2013.
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No one expected Jim to retire after 18 years as head coach, but he knew at the beginning of the season he would end his coaching career with his son. The Las Cruces program had Roswell ties all over it when Jim took over for Kirk Potter.
Potter was a former assistant line coach at Roswell. Jim coached Las Cruces from 1998-2016. Many questioned why he would leave future Blue Trophies on the table when he was only 50 years old.
During his 18 years as head coach, he won six state titles (1999, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2012 and in 2013) and had a win-loss record of 167-53. Jim led Las Cruces to eight district championships and went 23-14 in the playoffs, and 11-10 against rival Mayfield.
Football is a game that had given Jim everything he was and had. For 26 years, being the best and winning football games filled his life and gave him the excitement he craved on Friday nights.
Football was what he did for a living, but it wasn’t who he was. Jim’s passion was family and coaching his son.
“Time goes by so fast,” Jim said, “you hear all the time to enjoy your kids when they are young. You take it for granted like, yeah, yeah, that sort of thing. But the next thing you know, I have a 28-year-old, a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old. All of them are independent. It’s nice to see them grow.”
Jim wanted to spend time with his family and to coach his son on a deeper level. Jim wanted to grow to cherish the memories of Kameron playing college football and to be there to support him on a father-son level. Kameron plays at the University of New Mexico. Jim traveled and watched all of his son’s games for the last five years.
“Kameron is my best friend,” Jim said, “our relationship has grown now that he is a grown man. He’s a guy I can talk to all the time, we have a great relationship now and we can golf together and hang out. Our interest is so similar, he’s a mini-me. I look forward to seeing him.”
Jim still loves football but doesn’t miss the 100-degree workouts in the summer. He does miss when the seasons change and it is time for playoff football.
Jim starts at Roswell
Jim played under coach Jim Bradley and was one of the few Roswell football players to start as a freshman, playing free safety. One of the highlights of his playing career was playing with his older brother, Mike Miller. In his sophomore year, Roswell went 8-2.
In his junior year, Jim Miller started as a quarterback and led the Coyotes to a 7-3 record. In his senior year, Roswell was undefeated and tied Clovis to finish 11-0-1. Roswell played Clovis again in the championship game and would lose to them, 50-18.
Jim Miller’s favorite wins in high school was Manzano and Gallup, in the playoffs his senior year. His last game was a loss to Clovis, it stuck with him because Roswell had an easy time in the playoffs beating Manzano and Gallup so easily.
Jim Miller thinks they were overconfident about facing Clovis again.
“They (Clovis) hit us right in the mouth,” Jim Miller said. “They just manhandled us. That loss made me a better person; it also made me think about what I needed to do to get to the next level. My first championship as a coach 1999 at Las Cruces made me feel a lot better because I achieved that ultimate goal. That loss against Clovis in 1983 really helped me as a coach.”
Jim Miller was an all-state quarterback and named to the Bally’s All-American Team. He ended up getting a scholarship to New Mexico State University and is in the New Mexico State Hall of Fame.
Cowboys and coaching
Following college, Jim Miller had a free agent tryout as a safety with the Dallas Cowboys. He had a choice to try out for the Green Bay Packers or the Cowboys. He had watched the Cowboys growing up and wanted to make their roster.
Dallas told him they would only bring in about 30 players; in reality, they brought in 100 players. Jim Miller felt depressed and had an attitude because he felt like he was lied to. Being down on himself, he didn’t give his best effort and his tryout ended in less than 10 days.
“I deserved to get cut,” Jim Miller said. “I know I didn’t put out the effort I should have. I think I had a little attitude because they lied to me. It showed because I got cut in a week. I just regretted that I didn’t put my best foot forward. It was hard to live with for a while. I had my dream as a kid to play in the NFL and to go in there with that type of effort and attitude, that’s hard to live with. I half-butted the effort. I learned a lot out of that situation.”
Sports was Jim Miller’s life growing up. His father, Al, played semi-pro baseball in the Air Force. Jim Miller and his brothers, Gene and Mike played baseball, as well. When he graduated high school, he knew he wanted to coach and teach. After getting cut, his buddy, Matt Wright, called him for a job in Apache Junction, Arizona and started out as a life-science middle school teacher.
Miller vs Bradley
Jim Miller came home over the holidays, and the principal at Las Cruces offered him a job. He came back to teach and was there for 30 years. When he became head coach at Las Cruces, he had to play his old coach, Jim Bradley, who was coaching at Mayfield.
Looking back, he felt that he didn’t learn a lot as a player playing under Bradley, he just did what Bradley said. Now, he feels like Bradley taught him about being detail-orientated and that Bradley was a motivator. He remembers Bradley always having his notes out while talking to the team. He felt Bradley was a hard coach and was about winning.
Four years out of football, Jim Miller still teaches at the middle school. He says never say never about a return to coaching. He said the percentage of him returning to coaching is very low. He would look at being an assistant coach in college.
“As a coach,” Jim Miller said, “I wanted to have good relationships with my players. Whether they were the first man on the team or the 100th, I cared equally for them all. I’m proud of the relationships I built over the years. I did everything I could to make my players better people.
“When it is all said and done, I tried to be a man of integrity,” he said. “I gave everything to my profession, I was loyal and I did my job to the best of my abilities.”
His career did not span the same amount of years of Mayfield legend Jim Bradley, Artesia’s Cooper Henderson or Clovis High’s Eric Roanhaus, but Jim Miller ranks fourth in state titles with six.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.