• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

A legacy of commitment

Kevin Miller steps down as Solon head football coach
Solon head coach and educator Kevin Miller addresses archery team members Feb. 26, 2019, at the Solon United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, in advance of a trip to the state archery tournament. (file photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Head Coach Kevin Miller never missed a football practice in 19 years.
“Never. No matter how sick,” he said the day after hanging up his cleats. “I felt that’s what I needed to do to, to provide the necessary example for our players. That was my own choice.”
Miller, 49, submitted his letter of resignation from the coaching position Wednesday, March 11, and spoke to his team the same day.
A Solon native, he graduated in 1989 after his team won the school’s first state title in the fall of 1988.
He returned in 2001 and amassed a 190-32 record as head coach at Solon, including four consecutive football championships (2007-2010), something no other Iowa district had done.
The 2019-20 Spartans, helmed by son and senior quarterback Cam Miller, ended the season 12-1 with the only loss in the Class 3A championship against Western Dubuque.
Cam committed to attend and play football for North Dakota State, while daughter McKenna is a junior at Iowa State University.
Fargo is eight hours away, and McKenna is likely to pursue a career on one of the coasts, Miller noted. It weighed on his mind after the end of the season.
Miller and his family made a lot of sacrifices when his kids were younger so he could devote the time he needed to the program.
“There were many years where my kids were at BASP and daycare while I was in the weight room and doing football-related activities with my players,” he said. “Those are some regrets I have.”
Cam may dress for some games, and Miller wants to be there if that happens.
“I don’t want to miss out on any more opportunities to visit my children, see my children perform,” he added. “I missed out on some stuff.”
Balancing the desire to spend more time with family and the commitment it takes to achieve the highest level of success on the football field did not seem possible.
“It really came down to if I can’t give this program 100 percent– which I like to think I’ve done over the span of the last 19 years– then I can’t do it,” he said.
Miller expects his players to be mentally tough with a strong work ethic, and he’s tried to live that example.
“That’s just my blue collar roots. I grew up on a farm,” he explained, the son of Maury and Joyce Miller. “Our program, I like to think, represents blue collar values– work ethic and toughness, discipline and respect– all of the things that my dad taught me are the same things that I tried to instill in our players. It wasn’t about X’s and O’s, obviously that’s an important component, but it’s the character piece that’s the most important part.”
There have been seven generations of Millers’ family in Solon, and by the time his nephew graduates in 2022, a Miller will have been involved in the football program for 39 straight years.
“This is where my family settled,” he observed. “My roots run pretty deep here.”
After graduating from Solon High School, Miller played basketball at Loras for a year, and then attended the University of Northern Iowa.
He started his teaching and coaching career in the Lone Tree schools while his wife Nichole was in dental school.
One-year stints with Boscobel (Wis.), MFL-MarMac and Iowa City Regina followed.
“I was a model of consistency there for a while,” Miller noted. “I hopped around quite a bit.”
In his first two years as a head coach, he won one football game.
“But it was in those moments that I grew the most as a football coach,” he said. It forced him to reflect on the things he needed to do to establish a premier program.
“It’s about investing time,” he noted.
When the Solon head coaching position opened, he almost didn’t apply. His wife turned in his application late in the afternoon on the day of the deadline.
“There was part of me that wanted to establish my own identity, my own program,” he said. “We had things going at Regina pretty well.”
But coming back to his hometown to grow an already-successful program was a pretty lucrative opportunity.
The Spartans, under Head Coach Ed Hansen, just finished as state runner-up, and Hansen did a remarkable job of establishing a tradition, Miller noted.
“All I’ve tried to do is develop that and continue that tradition,” he added.
Solon went 3-6 the first year with Miller at the helm.
“I think the natives were a little restless for a while,” he recalled.
Miller said the key to his early years was the decision to retain coaches Ed Hadenfeldt, Brent Sands and Mark Sovers from Hansen’s staff.
“That was the best thing I think I ever did for this program was having those three come on board right from the very beginning,” Miller said. “I’m indebted to them. And I attribute a lot of our success and consistency to those three individuals who stayed the course with me throughout.”
Miller will continue his physical education teaching position with the district, but knows he will miss the connections he’s made with his players year after year.
“I value relationships with our kids, and I feel as a coach you have such a deep connection with young people,” he explained. “And I really believe as coaches you have the ability to make a real profound impact.”
It’s a role he’s never taken lightly.
“I see it as a tremendous opportunity and a platform to lead a positive example for a younger generation of players and to instill those character, qualities and values that I think are essential in our world,” he said. “There’s not very many people in various professions that have the ability to have that type of impact, and I’ve taken that very seriously.”
Miller has urged his players to discover the characteristics that make them unique and find their purpose in the world. He’s hopeful his players will carry the skills and qualities of the program with them in their lives and make a lasting impact on their communities.
Coaching high school football at the highest level is like having another full-time job, especially in-season, he noted.
But that’s the level of sacrifice coaches are willing to make for their love of community and school. You have to outwork, outperform, sacrifice, commit and dedicate.
It will be hard to leave that behind.
“There’s going to be a hole in my heart,” he said.
But he and Sands will be starting a master’s program for educational leadership this summer, and he has a few other opportunities he’s also excited about.
He’d like to spend some time golfing, biking and reconnecting with my wife, who has been supportive of his decision.
“This place means a lot to me. It means the world to me,” Miller explained. “I bleed orange and black. It was a hard decision, there’s no question about it.”
He knows the football players were a little disappointed, but he thinks they are starting to understand his priorities.
And he wants Solon to know he is thankful.
“I’ve had tremendous support here from the administration to the faculty, parents, all the great players I’ve had the honor to coach, the best coaching staff imaginable.”
It’s been his honor to help young men prepare for their futures.
“It’s always been so important to me,” Miller said. “I’m just so grateful to this community and everyone that has given me the opportunity and the support to make a difference here.”