By Michael Muldoon
CHESTNUT HILL — No matter how good you were in high school, and Phillips Academy's Bobby Vardaro and Andover's Brian Miller were about as good as it gets, inevitably comes the moment.
For Vardaro, it was a few days into practice last summer.
"It was Kaleb Ramsey," recalled the North Reading resident at Boston College's media day. "It was in 1-on-1 drills. I was 325-330 pounds. He took two steps, grabbed me and brought me back 10 yards. I just thought, 'Wow, this is not Phillips Academy!'"
Ramsey is 6-3, 302 pounds and BC's top defensive lineman. Vardaro learned quickly, and his freshman teammate Miller will be learning it soon, big-time football is a whole new ballgame.
Vardaro has made impressive strides. He's now a second-string left guard.
"It's just a huge, huge jump," he said. "It was a lot of fun in high school but after a while it's the same old thing. I like the challenge."
No less a talent than BC's All-American running back Montel Harris says he's meeting that challenge.
"Bobby can definitely play," said Harris. "I've seen a big improvement in the weight room and on the field."
With starter Nate Richman battling a back injury, Vardaro could see considerable playing time.
Miller, however, is expected to sit out the year as a redshirt. Few players play right out of high school, but the 6-4, 235-pound tight end may have been the exception. He was the Eagles' top rated recruit according to Rivals.com.
But he's still rehabilitating the devastating knee injury suffered in the 8-overtime game against Lowell last November.
"It's coming along," said the imposing Miller, who is listed as 215 pounds on the roster, but he said he's still at the 235 he was last fall.
"I'm jogging more and ramping up the rehab. I'm not quite there. I'm not even doing most of the drills. But I'm running and getting more comfortable. It's not as fast as I'd like, but faster than (doctors thought)."
Vardaro always was quick for his size. But as Ramsey taught him, you can be too big. The 6-5 offensive lineman quickly got down to his current 301 pounds.
"They wanted me smaller and to keep my speed up," he said. "Quickness was one of my better attributes. It was good to be the big guy but now I feel real good."
Miller announced for BC in late April 2010, 15 months before he'd begin practice. As college sports fans know, that leaves an awful long time for another school to swoop down and pluck a prized recruit.
"Once I made up my mind, I was coming to BC," said Miller. "BC was way out ahead."
Stanford and Virginia were the other schools he considered most closely.
Top schools lined up because not too many athletes can match his size (6-4, 235 pounds), speed (4.69 40-yard dash), strength (bench presses 285 six times) and athleticism (can dunk a basketball from a standstill).
He had to get past the down times. The broken tibia and partially detached medial collateral ligament kept him out of the final few football games, including Andover's first postseason game in 35 years, and kept The Eagle-Tribune All-Star power forward/center off the hardwood as well.
"It was tough, but there is always someone who has it worse," said Miller, whose twin sister, Sara, will be playing lacrosse at Colby. "Still, I'm at Boston College and I'll be healthy soon. At times I was real upset but I took a pretty mature approach."
Position: left offensive guard
Size: 6-5, 301
Year: Redshirt freshman
Hometown: North Reading
School: Phillips Academy
Academics: "Between 3.0-3.1 GPA. I'm hoping to do better this year."
Fast fact: Reported to camp last year at 335 lbs.
Position: Tight end
Status: Will likely redshirt; still rehabbing high school knee injury
Size: 6-4, 235
School: Andover High
Academics: One of the 33 top scholar-athlete football seniors in EMass. last year; already passed a calculus class at BC
Fast fact: Ranked the No. 9 senior tight end in the country
Fast fact II: His roommate is highly touted QB Christian Suntrup