ORONO — Andre Miller is exactly where he’s supposed to be.

Alfond Stadium at the University of Maine is where Miller worked on developing his football skills on his own time, running routes with Jake Jarvis, his quarterback at Old Town High School. The university is a 7-minute drive from Miller’s childhood home in Old Town.

But Miller’s path to UMaine took much longer – two years after high school, a time in which he could have felt like the university was a world away. He never let that distance grow.

“It just seemed right to come here and play,” said Miller, a junior, after finishing the Black Bears first practice of the season Thursday.

Last season, Miller’s first at Maine, he developed into a receiving threat slowly, until his breakout game in the Black Bears’ Football Championship Subdivision semifinal loss at Eastern Washington. Miller caught a career-high nine passes for 129 yards and a 47-yard touchdown.

Miller finished his first season at Maine with 16 catches for 287 yards and one touchdown. Expectations are high for the Black Bears in 2019, and quarterback Chris Ferguson, whose job it will be to get the ball into Miller’s hands, has set the bar high for Miller.

“All-conference, man,” Ferguson said. “We’re expecting him to emerge as a dominant player in (the Colonial Athletic Association). There’s no reason he shouldn’t be.”

Two of Maine’s top pass catchers from last season graduated. Wideout Micah Wright is in camp with the New Orleans Saints, and tight end Drew Belcher is with the Arizona Cardinals. Combined, Wright and Belcher caught 93 passes for 896 yards and seven touchdowns last season. There are catches to be had. Miller, his coaches and his teammates are confident Miller can become a big part of Maine’s offense.

“He’s a big receiver, but people sleep on his speed,” said senior receiver Jaquan Blair. “He’s a great competitor, and that’s what we need here.”

As a senior at Old Town in the fall of 2015, Miller emerged as one of the top high school football players in the state, catching 49 passes for 1,068 yards and 17 touchdowns. Old Town went undefeated in the regular season and reached the Class C North championship game, the best season in more than a decade for the Coyotes.

At the 2016 Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl, Miller introduced himself to Maine football fans who don’t pay attention to anything north of Cumberland County. Miller was the best player on the field, catching seven passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns to lead the East to a 58-52 win.

UMaine and Miller had a mutual interest, but Miller’s SAT score and grades made him a nonqualifier in the eyes of the NCAA. That meant Miller had to go elsewhere to get his grades up. First, he enrolled at Husson University, where he played football and had 13 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown. In the fall of 2017, Miller enrolled at Eastern Maine Community College, where he focused on academics.

While out of football in 2017, Miller worked out, often alone, at Alfond Stadium. Nick Charlton and the other Maine coaches noticed. When Miller was admitted into Maine in the fall of 2018, there was a walk-on spot waiting for him on the football team.

“When he was at community college, we would see him out here doing stuff on his own. I love Dre. He’s a tremendous worker and he’s a great player,” said Charlton, Maine’s coach.

Miller’s talent and grasp of the offense got in sync in Maine’s eighth game of the 2018 season, a 28-9 win over Albany. Miller had three receptions, his first catches of the season, for 64 yards.

“It was a little bit of a challenge, especially in our offense. There’s a lot of things you need to understand and get acclimated to,” Charlton said. “When we felt like Dre was in the best position to succeed, that’s when he started playing.”

Added Miller: “Week in, week out, every opponent we got, the plays just started to get more clear in my head. At first it was kind of fuzzy. You’re going out and playing and you’re guessing. ‘Do I have this? Do I have that?’ You’re not going to play very well like that.”

At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Miller is the Black Bears’ biggest receiver. He and Ferguson spent a lot of time getting to know each other in the offseason. They went to the movies, ate meals and hung out. Ferguson described Miller as a funny kid who plays with a chip on his shoulder.

“He loves this school. He loves this state. It makes him work harder. He’s one of the hardest working dudes on this team,” Ferguson said. “The physical was there. He just had to figure the plays out and (the game) mentally.”


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