ATHENS, Ga. — For all the trash talking Prince Miller does on the field, he never has been much of a conversationalist.
A two-year starter at cornerback, Miller knew he was better than most of the wide receivers he covered, but he never felt like a leader in the locker room. Speaking out didn’t come naturally, and he didn’t feel his status as a starter made him a leader by default.
Last season, however, Miller saw too much he didn’t like. The sting of losing hurt too much to keep quiet. The clock was ticking on his college career, and Miller realized it was up to him to seize control of his future.
“On the field, I’m always vocal, but not in the way of pushing guys,” Miller said. “I’ve always been one of those guys who just loves football, and I love all the trash talk and stuff that goes with it. But this year, I’ve really tried to just motivate guys, push guys and make sure we’re practicing hard and things like that.”
The story isn’t entirely uncommon, coach Mark Richt said. Georgia makes a point of putting its seniors in position to lead, and most accept the challenge.
That has been true of the vast majority of Georgia’s veterans this season, but Miller’s emergence was a bit of a surprise.
“Some guys don’t really look at themselves as a leader until they are a senior, until they know they’re a leader of the team,” Richt said. “When you’re a senior, you are a leader, no question.”
That was the case for Miller.
Walking in from a morning workout last week, Miller struck up a conversation with his coach.
“I’ve got five months,” Miller reminded Richt. “That’s it.”
In his sophomore season, Miller finished just shy of a shot at a national title. In his junior year, he watched championship aspirations disappear, in large part because of the failures of his defense.
The clock was ticking, and Miller didn’t want to see his career end with more disappointment. He needed to come out of his shell and take responsibility, not only for his game but also for the players around him.
“It just comes with being a senior,” Miller said. “Talking to the other older guys, we know what needs to get done, and I just took it upon myself to be one of those guys who’s more vocal and just become a better leader.”
Miller, as much as any of Georgia’s veteran defenders, has the credentials to speak out.
It’s not just his success that makes him a worthy mentor, although he has had plenty of that. Miller has appeared in every game since he arrived at Georgia, starting 18, and has been a difference maker in many.
For Georgia’s younger cornerbacks — a large contingent this season — it’s more the obstacles Miller has overcome that make him a leader. It’s his perseverance that has earned their respect.
“We might have a bad practice and get down, but he’s been there,” said sophomore Brandon Boykin, who is penciled in to start alongside Miller at cornerback this season. “He’s a senior. He can tell you, ‘You’re going to have a bad practice or this or that is going to happen, but don’t get down on yourself.’ That might have happened with a couple of the freshmen because they’re not making plays right now, but I think Prince, being that leader, he’s seen it. He’s been through it all, and he’s there to comfort them when they’re down.”
Branden Smith arrived at Georgia just two months ago amid a great deal of hype. Smith was a five-star prospect with lightning-quick speed. He assumed he would make a smooth adjustment to college football. He was wrong, and that’s where Miller stepped in.
“He’s been the biggest thing for me right now,” Smith said. “Coming in, I didn’t know anything. He’s been through it, and I’m trying to get where he’s at. Everybody’s looking up to him and just following him.”
Miller is the lone senior among Georgia’s cornerbacks. Only Boykin and Vance Cuff have any playing experience at all, and neither has started a game. It’s a group of students, with a lone teacher.
It’s never a role Miller envisioned for himself, but it’s one he not only has become comfortable with but one he has embraced.
“We definitely needed somebody to step up in the secondary and be a leader, and I could tell that the guys are ready to follow,” Miller said. “They just wanted somebody to lead them, so I took it upon myself to do that.”