DENVER (CBS4) – The game off lacrosse means a lot of things to a lot of people. To University of Denver’s Zach Miller, it’s more than just a game.
“I started to playing lacrosse as soon as I could hold a stick and walk,” Miller said.
He’s like most young men who grew up on the reservation — the Allegheny in upstate New York.
“When you play, you play with a clear mind,” Miller said. “You don’t go out and play for any certain reason. It’s more to entertain the creator, which is the inventor of the game.”
And he can play. Miller happens to be the first child from his reservation to play NCAA lacrosse.
“There’s been a bunch of talent, kids who could have gone on and played at the next level, but they just get caught up in the reservation life – alcohol, drugs, girls — and they just never make it out,” he said.
Somehow Miller made it all the way to Denver as a young recruit DU head coach Bill Tierney knew he had to have.
“I didn’t get to know him and realize how important he would be to our program and how we would come so close together until I met him; until his mom brought him out here a couple of years ago,” Tierney said. “We got to realize why a young man, who is probably ticketed to go to Syracuse, would take this journey.”
The journey also took him to Canada where Miller played a year of high school with DU midfielder Jeremy Noble. They played together at the Hill Academy near Toronto. Noble can appreciate what a unique talent like Miller can do for a team.
“It’s huge for this team, I think. It just shows his pure joy that he plays for the creator, for him, and all of those guys,” Noble said. “That’s huge for this team and just watching him play you can see that. It’s almost like we want to bring something out within ourselves when we see Zach doing that. It sort of rubs off on everyone else. It’s pretty contagious, I would say.”
“There have been games where he scored four or five goals and I said to him, ‘How’d you play today?’ He would say, ‘Okay.’ And there might be other games where he would have a goal and an assist and I would say, ‘How’d you play today?’ And he would say, ‘Really well,’ “ Tierney said. “He gets it.”
But no one said it would be easy. Playing the game is easy, but meeting his goals in the classroom is the hard part.
“(It’s) way different than high school. You know you’ve got mom and dad there to watch over you,” Miller said. “Here it’s independent. I’ve got into trouble a little bit, but coach has been there to kick me in the butt and keep me going.”
“It’s been a good a good symbiotic relationship between the two of us,” Tierney said. “I promised his mom I’d take care of him.”