Thanks to his abilities on the football field and the track, and his intelligence in the classroom, Dante Miller became the first-ever Richmond student-athlete to sign a letter of intent to play sports at an Ivy League School.
Miller, starting running back on the 2017 football team, verbally committed to James Madison University (Va.) last November but announced that he had a change of heart earlier this year and would, instead, play his college football at Columbia University (N.Y.). He put the pen to the paper on Feb. 7.
He was one of six Raider athletes to sign letterrs of intent during the 2017-18 school year.
Owen Bowers agreed to play two years of softball at Florida SouthWestern State College; Altman Griffin is going to suit up for UNC-Wilmington’s volleyball team; Gordon Pihl’s dream came true when he signed with Brunswick Community College; and Chase Coulthard and Jonathan Lee will continue to their football and baseball careers, respectively, at UNC-Pembroke.
Miller picked up his first few Division I scholarship offers the spring after his junior campaign — the first being extended in late April of 2017 — from Gardner-Webb University, the U.S. Naval Academy (Md.) and Wofford College (S.C.).
Those were his only three offers going into his senior season, but Miller caught the eyes of almost a dozen other programs with his play last fall. He would rush for 1,327 yards and 19 touchdowns on 158 carries, make the all-conference team for the second consecutive season and get the opportunity to play in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas All-Star football game.
James Madison, which had shown some interest over the summer, amped up its recruiting pitch midway through the 2017 season and offered the running back spot on its roster — which, after conversations with his family and coaches, led to Miller’s verbal commitment a couple of weeks after the season ended.
What most thought was the end of the process, however, was only the beginning.
Since it was only a verbal commitment, and he didn’t participate in the NCHSAA’s first-ever early signing period, Miller wasn’t contractually obligated to stick with his decision to attend James Madison — and he didn’t.
An offer from Columbia wasn’t on the table when Miller made his initial decision, but he began to rethink things after he “stumbled across” the Upper Manhattan school — while looking at Harvard — and saw that “it was a pretty good school.”
Miller, who boasted a 4.78 GPA at the time of his decomittment, was eventually able to get in contact with the Lions’ coaching staff and they set up an official visit for mid-December. While there, he and his family realized that the opporutnity to “play great football in a great city” and get a “great education” was the better fit for the Richmond standout.
And on Jan. 11, the day he received his acceptance letter in the mail, Miller decommitted from James Madison.
Nearly a month later, Miller sat in the school’s library alongside Coulthard, a “lifelong friend” and teammate, and signed his national letter of intent — stamping his decision to attend Columbia this upcoming fall.
WHAT WAS SAID
“It feels pretty good to start the trend and show my brothers that they, too, can go to an Ivy League school,” Miller said. “It also feels good knowing all of the hard work amounted to something and that I’m making my mom and family proud.”
All six Raiders who signed are now preparing themselves for the college life.
Miller joins a Columbia team that finished the 2017 season with an 8-2 overall record and a 5-2 record in the Ivy League — its best outing in the last two decades. He understands that college football is going to be “really advanced” and hopes to make a difference as the program turns things around in the coming years.
He will also run track for the Lions next spring, looking to test his speed against some of the fastest runners in the country.
As a senior, Miller was named Boys Runner of the Year in the conference after winning every 100m and 200m race during the regular season and winning both title races at the conference championship meet He was also a member of the 4x100m and 4x200m relay teams that won conference titles, and helped the 4x200m team place second at states.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.