Roy F. Miller

Profile Updated: July 6, 2016
Residing In: Brainerd, MN USA
Spouse/Partner: Becky Best/spouse
Occupation: retired
Children: son Whit, born 1969; daughter Laura, born 1971; addresses unknown
Military Service: U.S. Army Reserve
Yes! Attending Reunion
School Story:

THE FOOTBALL STORY
This could just as easily be called WHY I BECAME A JOURNALIST instead of THE FOOTBALL STORY. When I would speak to civic or school groups I was often asked why I became a journalist. My standard answer was that I wanted to be a baseball player but couldn’t hit the fastball in youth baseball and realized my baseball future was doomed.
I was a baseball nut. I would play it every day I had a chance growing up. And I loved it when my dad took me to Topeka Owls minor league baseball games or when Mom and Dad and I walked the three blocks to Garfield Park to watch some outstanding fast-pitch softball action. At Potwin Elementary School I apparently was such a sports nut that the class prophecy said I threw “a wicked ball” and would become a major-league pitcher. But by the time I was in the ninth grade at Roosevelt Junior High the class prophecy said I would become a lovelorn columnist for the New York Times.
The Topeka Public Library, back in those days, had converted an old city bus into a bookmobile. Once a week it would park on First Street next to the Potwin lower playground. I read a lot of juvenile sports books. And as I realized that playing baseball was not in my future I noticed that the sports writers always seemed to be right in the thick of action to cover sports stars. I think about that time, probably when I was in the fourth grade, I started reading adult books. One of the first was a book about journalism and what that career entailed. I have no idea what that book said except I always remember it said to be punctual. I could tell time. And Mom always made sure we were everywhere on time. So I decided I wanted to be a journalist.
So why is this called THE FOOTBALL STORY? Further proof came that I would be a good sports writer, not a fullback (or running back as they are called today) when I went out for football in the seventh grade. I endured the team bus trips to Gage Park, about three miles, to an empty field we called our practice field. And it didn’t take long for me to realize that my skinny little body was not suited for football.
Roosevelt had two games for the seventh-graders. As the third-string fullback, I didn’t make it into the first game. And I didn’t make it into the second game at Curtis Junior High. But I got my chance to play when they had a special quarter for all the subs who didn’t make it into either of the regulation games.
Imagine, here I was on the Curtis playing field where my father first introduced me to football. There wasn’t TV back in those post-war days for watching the steady diet of football on TV today. I thought a football was something you just threw or kicked. But him taking me to those afternoon games at the field near the school where my mother attended introduced me to football games. Today my mind travels back to those hot September afternoons when we would walk up and down the sidelines and get cockleburs in our socks and watch the action. There were no bleachers. No scoreboard. Just a couple of goalposts in the Shorey neighborhood.
But I’m sure that was far from my thinking when I finally was told to strap up my helmet and get out there for the seventh-grade battle of subs. Curtis, a school named for Charles Curtis, President Hoover’s vice president, kicked off. I think I prayed the ball wouldn’t come to me. But here it came bouncing right to me. Here was my chance for gridiron glory.
I fumbled the kickoff. But I picked up the ball. And I fumbled again. And I was tackled after a gain of maybe five yards, to be charitable to myself. But it was the Rough Riders’ ball. And on the second or third play from scrimmage the play was called in the huddle for the fullback to take the handoff and pick up some yardage. All I remember from that opportunity was that one of our players had fallen in front of me and I just stopped. I wasn’t smart enough to jump over my fallen teammate or run around him. So again I was tackled.
Soon Curtis had its chance with the ball. On defense, I was the safety. Which means I had my scrawny body as far away from the action as possible. On its first play from scrimmage, Curtis chose to run a reverse around my side of the field. But I had been fooled by the fake handoff and was running to the other side of the field. I guess most of my team had been tricked, too, because the Curtis back scampered to a touchdown and ended the little game for the subs.
And so there ended my football career on the same field where I first saw the sport played. I never realized how poignant that was until I started writing this recollection.
But, wait, it wasn’t the end of my athletic career. Several years later, when I was driving somewhere on a football Friday night, I had the radio on WIBW and picked up a broadcast of a Topeka High game just as the broadcaster, Dev Nelson, said, “Stuart Miller has gone in at center.” I took a vicarious pleasure out of that since I had introduced my brother to football in our stamp-sized yard.
But, wait again, my athletic fortune hit its peak a few years after that. Shortly after I had gone on a trip covering a Kansas State-Indiana basketball game with Dev Nelson, the sportscaster, I heard him give the play-by-play for a Saturday Big Eight Conference game back when the Wildcats had a seven-footer, Roy Smith. Announced Dev, “Roy Miller goes in for a dunk.” He meant Roy Smith. I always wanted to be a famous sports star, just not for K-State.
--Roy Miller

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