Ronnie Miller admitted in the press box that there may be a few teary-eyed moments.
For the past four months, he watched his son Landon grind every day to get back on the field before his senior season ended after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus back on June 1.
The Mavericks’ matchup with East Ridge on Friday was the stage for that emotional comeback. Landon Miller was a team captain during the coin toss and hauled in a pair of passes for six yards in his Anderson County debut.
“It’s his senior year and he had a lot of hopes — and he still has a lot of hopes for beyond high school — but it was quite devastating,” Ronnie Miller said. “We weren’t sure he’d be back before the year was over, but here he is.”
Landon Miller positioned himself to be an important part of Anderson County’s dynamic offense after he transferred from Lenoir City, performing well in a few spring scrimmages before that unfortunate day in June.
The senior planted during a drill on Anderson County’s turf field and the knee gave out. At the time, it appeared his season had come to an end before it even started.
Instead, he committed himself to getting back. One hundred and 18 days later, he did.
June 1st it felt as if my life was over when I tore my ACL and Meniscus. Now, 118 Days later, I’m playing the game I love again. God is good pic.twitter.com/ljlNgA9fkX
— Landon (@landon_miller3) September 29, 2017
“It says a lot for his character and work ethic and it says a lot about his family for the way they raised him and the constant support they gave him,” Anderson County head coach Davey Gillum said. “Our trainer worked with him rigorously daily, pushing him on the rehab and making sure he did everything possible to get back as soon as possible.
“But at the end of the day, he was the one that had to make the decision to go through the pain and work and he’s done that. We’re real proud of him.”
The process was not always easy, but Landon Miller made the most of what he could each step along the way.
While he was on crutches, he still attended practice, mentally preparing and doing anything he could to help the team. When the crutches got put aside, he pushed himself physically to get to the point where he was comfortable with playing.
“The first month being on crutches and not being able to walk was pretty tough, but after I was able to walk I was out here doing my thing,” Landon Miller said. “I was watching practice and serving everybody as I could. Whenever I first got out here in a helmet, I was only going half speed, but it felt like I was going full speed and it just progressed to where I’m at now.”
All that hard work culminated with Friday’s 49-7 victory over East Ridge.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound wide receiver is not quite at 100 percent, but proved he can do everything he needs to play.
On his first reception, a nine-yard gain from junior quarterback Stanton Martin, Landon Miller ran a precise comeback route. He also did a solid job blocking while on the perimeter during running plays.
“I turned around and saw that ball coming through the air and I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Landon Miller said of his first catch. “It all just happened so quick, but it felt amazing being able to get back out here.”
No play drew as big a response from the press box as his first catch did. After he got tackled and bounced back up, everybody in the box reached over to high-five Ronnie Miller. That moment did enough to quell any concerns about being out there after only four months of recovery.
“I was a little nervous, but he caught a couple of balls and that was encouraging, and I know it was encouraging for him,” Ronnie Miller said. “It was exciting to get him out there and get him started, and hopefully he’ll keep growing as the year goes.”
Most importantly, there was no hesitancy on Landon Miller’s part.
There never has been throughout this whole process.
“There hasn’t been as much hesitancy as people think there should be,” Landon Miller said. “With the adrenaline that is pumping through my chest, I’m not really worried about anything other than playing the game.”
“They say one of the biggest issues with kids coming back is just being nervous, but he really hasn’t been,” Ronnie Miller added. “He’s gone hard and it hasn’t bothered him. It’s scared the rest of us more than it has him.”
It will only get better as his knee continues to strengthen.
Anderson County, which improved to 7-0 with their victory over the Pioneers, looks poised to make a deep run this season, and maybe Landon Miller will be able to provide a few more teary-eyed moments down the stretch.
“Hopefully it’ll make it a little easier and he’ll get more and more playing time and get back into a rhythm,” Ronnie Miller said. “I think this team will go a at least a couple of rounds deep (into the playoffs), if not longer, and hopefully he’ll be able to help the team as the year goes.”