Robert Miller, Lowell

Linebacker Robert Miller, right, is second in tackles for Lowell. Coach Keith Kilmer calls the senior the glue of the defense.

Kale Wilk, File, The Times

For every Jordan Jusevitch or Jaeger Gill at Lowell, there's a whole bunch of Robert Millers.

"He's your typical hard-working Lowell kid," Red Devils coach Keith Kilmer said. "It would be nice to say we have 11 D-Is, but we're a 4A public high school. The majority of our kids are the blue-collar, lunch-pail type that kind of binds everybody together. People may not even know his name, but Robert has quietly been the glue that has stuck our defense together."

In a group with studs like Jusevitch, Gill and Mitch Wildman, that 's saying a lot about a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior linebacker whose only varsity experience prior to this year was in a backup capacity.

"It takes everybody to make a team," Miller said. "Not playing much last year, I wanted to work harder so if there was a spot on the defense I could fill, I could take it. This is my last year. I really took it to the next level, having the drive to make it work for me, and it did."

Since joining his classmates in Pop Warner as an elementary student, Miller's always been a guy who's had to do a little extra. Outside of regular team workouts in the summer, he would run at home and lift weights in his basement. The effort actually first translated into success on the wrestling mat, where he's started varsity since he was a freshman. It also where he developed the toughness that's essential for an undersized linebacker.

"(Wrestling) brought me to who I am, made me the man I am," Miller said. "It started last year, the year before that (in football), looking up to the older guys who started for us, and it took off from there and now I'm in love with the sport. Coach wants that to reflect on everybody else."

It shows in the coaches' selection of Miller as a captain on a weekly basis.

"Like halfway through two-a-days, I looked at him and said, you're dialed in," Kilmer said. "He hasn't wavered one bit. He gets everybody lined up, he calls the plays, and he does it with a smile. He's as focused a kid as I've ever coached. He's the type of kid you win ball games with."

Miller take great pride in those words and backs them up with his actions. He is second on the team in tackles with 68.

"I'm the guy who works hard in practice, on the practice field, and it goes to the game," he said. "Obviously, if they make me a leader on defense, I have to show that I have no fear out there. It's definitely working on my mental strength, understanding the game, being smarter than other players, not taking on big hits. It's learning everything, instilling everything, knowing everything in the game plan."

A 3.7 student, Miller hopes to attend Purdue and study chemical engineering. Any game could be his last and Friday's with New Prairie will be Lowell's toughest to date.

"It'll be our biggest challenge this season," he said. "The offense will have to show up and we'll have show our true colors as a defense, show that we are the best, to stop them or they're going to take it from us."

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Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.