CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – Just about everyone has faced some sort of adversity in their life, but very few have faced as much as South Range senior receiver/defensive back Brendan Miller.
Brendan was born five weeks early with an intestinal blockage, scarred lungs and a club foot as a result of having cerebral palsy. According to his mother Chris and father Deon, they were told he would walk with sticks, and need extensive therapy just to be able to talk. His left side never fully developed.
Brendan explained that he has had multiple surgeries in his young life. “I had one big one on my stomach, two or three on my right foot, including my toe and ankle. I had one on my knee after eighth-grade football to cut most of my growth plate out to keep my leg from growing so my right leg could catch up. It’s been a rough 17 years,” Brendan said with a chuckle.
“I had one big one on my stomach, two or three on my right foot, including my toe and ankle. I had one on my knee after eighth-grade football to cut most of my growth plate out to keep my leg from growing so my right leg could catch up. It’s been a rough 17 years,” Brendan said with a chuckle.
“But if you see him walk or talk today he looks like an 18-year old with an attitude,” Chris said. “He’s a miracle.”
Deon added that they were told that Brendan would never play sports and that they would have to watch him. But Brendan had other ideas about what was going to be in his future as he has played little league baseball, soccer and football.
“He’s been told he can’t, he can’t, he can’t,” Deon stated. “He didn’t know how much he could play football. He likes the team camaraderie. We encouraged him to come out and play, and one of his biggest highlights was in his eighth-grade year when he scored a touchdown.”
“I was thinking maybe this will be the start of something where I could focus on getting stronger, this might be better for my physical health,” Brendan said about what went into the decision. “So I choose to play football, and I think it has been a really good choice for me to play football. I think I’m a lot stronger.”
“Even though baseball could be easier for him, or soccer, but with football, he wanted to be with Aniello (Buzzacco), Peyton (Remish), Brian Robinson. Those are his buddies,” Deon added about Brendan’s Raider teammates. “We didn’t want to tell them no.”
“I knew I had to be stronger just to keep up with the guys. Look at Peyton (Remish), he’s huge. I have to make sure I look as big as him,” Brendan said with a laugh. “I know I won’t be able to, but I want to make sure I’m one step behind him. I know what my body is capable of and as strong as I think I am, then that’s where I’m going to be, and that’s what I’m going to like about myself.”
“Brendan knows his limitations,” Chris remarked. “He didn’t get his license until he was 17, and he hasn’t driven to Boardman yet. He doesn’t put himself in positions that he knows that he’s over his head or something like that. Trust, he knows his body.”
In addition, Brendan wanted to play his freshman year since his older brother Ryan was the Raiders starting quarterback. Although they never got an opportunity to play in a game together, it was Brendan’s pride and joy to be on the same field with his sibling.
“He’s been a role model for me,” Brendan proclaimed. “Not just in football. I look up to him a lot. I think he has been more of a role model than anyone in my life. And I have had a lot of role models, but he has been such a big help in pushing me.”
“Ryan is wonderful with him,” Chris stated. “Ryan has his back. He’ll play hockey with him even if it was a make-shift hockey game, it was Ryan out there. And he’ll go over the film with him and help him with his routes.”
Obviously, it’s one thing for Brendan to receive compassion and support from his family, but as Chris described, the whole school has been supportive of Brendan.
“These kids in this school have never treated him badly. They have never bullied, never disrespected him. If they had questions, or if they didn’t understand something he would just tell them. One time he brought in some pictures and his feeding pump and explained things in third grade.”
Brendan admitted that his passion and desire to succeed has, in turn, helped to push his teammates.
“They have said some things, and it really touched my heart. They say how I inspire them, but they inspire me, they really do. I’m happy to have the teammates that I have. Those guys I started out with in seventh grade, those have been my best, best friends for six or seven years. This group of guys have been really special to me, and I appreciate them.”
“He’s at practice every day. He works his butt off, he really does. He’s an inspiration. He’s out there working, he doesn’t have some of the skills that some of the other kids have, but everything he does is at 100 percent. He tries as hard as he can,” Raiders head coach Dan Yeagley said.
As a result of his hard work and what he means to the team, Yeagley and the Raiders coaching staff have rewarded Brendan in a few games this year after the outcome was foregone. As a wide receiver, he has been safely away from any hard-hitting action.
“The boys from Peyton Remish to Brian Robinson, Aniello Buzzacco and all the senior boys, they look out for him. They help him and he is one of their leaders,” Deon explained. “They incorporate him.”
“He’s a leader and a lifter,” Yeagley added. “He lifts our team up, he really does. He’s very positive, he’s an emotional leader because he’s always positive and always lifting the kids up. He’s always appreciative of everything that everybody else does. He’s always thinking about others and not himself. What a great young man, a super young man.”
“This senior class has just been, since first grade, just incredible,” Chris added. “There is so much empathy, but not pity.”
“I hope people like the underclassmen when I leave they can say this kid didn’t give up. Not even the underclassmen, anyone who has seen me play or anyone who has seen me just walking around the street I hope remembers me,” Brendan said. “I want to be remembered as the kid that didn’t give up because of my disability.”
Everyone could learn a lesson from Brendan, whether it be a disability or just a roadblock in life. With a positive attitude, heart, and passion, every goal and every dream are attainable. Don’t ever give up.