By Michael Muldoon
---- — CHESTNUT HILL — Everybody agrees, Andover’s Brian Miller is quite a talent.
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani called him, “a tremendous athlete and a very tough football player.”
BC’s top receiver Bobby Swigert said of the redshirt freshman tight end, “He’s a very big kid and very talented. He’s definitely a presence. I’ve been very impressed with Brian Miller.”
He has always impressed. That’s why two years ago he was ranked the No. 9 high school senior tight end in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 30 by ESPN.
The Eagles have their fingers crossed he can showcase his talent this fall. He hasn’t played in a game since a horrible leg injury on a seemingly harmless tackle in the famed eight-overtime Andover 88-82 win over Lowell on Nov. 12, 2010.
If he’s healthy, the region will have a lot to root for with the Maroon and Gold. Big sophomore Bobby Vardaro of North Reading, the former Phillips Academy star, is slated to split time at left guard for the Eagles.
Miller played wide receiver during the spring, quite a sight given he’s 6-4, 230 pounds. But BC is now healthy at wide receiver, and his more natural tight end position is a more pressing need. Especially since BC’s top tight end, senior Chris Pantale, recently broke his foot, putting his season in jeopardy.
BC would love for Miller to take a lot of those Pantale reps. It’s just a matter of staying healthy. After a healthy spring, his leg injury flared up again. He said at yesterday’s media day he expects to be back in a couple days.
With all he’s been through, Miller remains confident.
“There are some lingering issues,” he explained. “There was a lot of work done. It will never be perfect.”
He still has screws in that left leg. Nonetheless, he’s pronounced himself 100 percent.
The successful spring did wonders for his outlook.
“It was a great feeling. It was over a year since I had done anything. I was finally doing what I love,” said Miller, one of the team’s most highly-touted recruits.
Even with the recent setback, he’s confident.
“Overall, I’m doing very well,” he said optimistically.
There was little reason for optimism 21 months ago. It was a tibial plateau fracture. He had screws put in and his meniscus repaired for what Miller called “a bone which snapped in half.”
After four months on crutches, which cost the returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star basketball player his senior season on the hardwood, there was still a long, frustrating, soul-searching road ahead. It wasn’t until last December that he started feeling like his former self.
He heard the whispers that his once so promising career might be over. But he wouldn’t let the negative thoughts creep in.
“I never thought about it like that,” said Miller, who has a 3.1 GPA. “I always thought there is no way I’m not coming back. Nothing was going to hold me back.”
The first couple weeks were the worst.
“It was the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life. And the most pain I ever hope to be in,” said Miller.
He says he couldn’t have gotten through the rehab alone.
“My family was there the whole time,” he said. “And some great friends. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through without them. Without them, I don’t think I’d be here right now.”
He believes that this will be a positive season. “He certainly can help us if he’s healthy,” said Spaziani.
Vardaro hopes to build on strong freshman campaign
When veteran Nate Richman went down with a back injury last fall, Bobby Vardaro, then a redshirt freshman, was ready.
He started the final eights games for the Eagles and stamped himself as a player to watch.
The well-respected Phil Steele’s College Football magazine named him a preseason fourth-team All-ACC offensive lineman.
He’ll have to live up to the accolades if BC is to regain its former status as “Offensive Line U.”
The last couple years have been trying ones at the Heights. All the pundits have fourth-year coach Frank Spaziani “on the hot seat.” If the Eagles go 4-8 again, it likely will be ex-coach Frank Spaziani. And perhaps ex-Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo, too.
In his just over two years at BC, Vardaro has already had a stunning four offensive coordinators.
“At first it was weird,” said Vardaro, an economics major with a minor in computer science. “In high school, we always had the same coaches. We pretty much lost the entire offensive staff. You just have to get used to it. But I love the guys who are coaching us.”
He’s determined to do his part to return the Eagles to glory.
He spent the summer on campus “getting a lot better and stronger.”
He’s up to an impressive 415-pound bench press. Quad-captain Emmett Cleary, who many expect to be the next BC offensive lineman in the NFL, is a big fan of his linemate.
“He has great technique and is very strong,” explained Cleary. “He just fits the mold of what we look for.”
Bobby Swigert, who is Vardaro’s roommate, called him, “very, very physical.” He added, “He’s a huge kid with tremendous feet. He always wins (the linemen’s) agility drills. He has a real good shot of being a successful lineman this year and in the years to come.”
Holding his own as a freshman gave him a good foundation upon which to build.
“It started off definitely intimidating,” admitted the 6-5, 312-pound Vardaro, who said he’s slated to alternate at left guard this fall with Harris Williams of Lynn. “With each game, I gained confidence. Honestly, I don’t think I could have picked a better school. I’m excited. I’m a lot less nervous. I’m ready to play.”
2012 BC Schedule Date Team Time Sept. 1 Miami 3:30 p.m. Sept. 8 Maine 1 p.m. Sept. 15 at Northwestern 3:30 p.m. Sept. 29 Clemson TBA Oct. 6 at Army Noon Oct. 13 at Florida St. TBA Oct. 20 at Georgia Tech TBA Oct. 27 Maryland TBA Nov. 3 at Wake Forest TBA Nov. 10 Notre Dame TBA Nov. 17 Va. Tech TBA Nov. 24 at N.C. State TBA