Carnegie Mellon 2-sport standout Bram Miller tackling double duty
Ask Bram Miller to name his preferred sport, and it’s like a parent trying to pick a favorite child.
The Carnegie Mellon junior, who starts at left tackle for the football team and is an NCAA Division III qualifier in the shot put and discus, can’t do it.
“They’re both part of what makes me, me,” said Miller, a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Colgate, Wis. “From a physical aspect, my body isn’t nearly as beaten up from track. But at the same time, there’s nothing like playing football.”
Miller has helped the Tartans to a 3-0 start, including a 20-13 victory over No. 12 Washington & Jefferson on Saturday.
“He’s a huge presence,” Carnegie Mellon football coach Rich Lackner said. “What impresses me with Bram is he has excellent footwork for a big, big kid. He’s a dominant force.
“I think some of the things they do in track have great carryover to football. There’s footwork involved and speed and power and quickness and explosiveness.”
Playing multiple sports (Miller competes in indoor and outdoor track) can be challenging at any college, but balancing practices with the academic demands at Carnegie Mellon is even more taxing. Miller, though, finds it beneficial.
“Schoolwork here is pretty difficult and takes its toll,” said Miller, a mechanical engineering major. “Football and track give me a few hours a day where I don’t have to focus on all the work I’m doing. It actually ends up helping me through all the work.”
Lackner describes Miller as a “quiet giant” and “very cerebral,” but Miller said playing offensive line has a primitive appeal.
“It’s a really good outlet for all the stuff that gets built up throughout the day,” said Miller, who earned honorable mention All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference last season. “There’s nothing like going out on the field and hitting someone as hard as you can. I know it sounds a little violent, but it’s a really good outlet.”
Miller was a 5-10, 170-pound tight end as a high school freshman at Kettle Moraine Lutheran, but he sprouted to 6-4, 230 by the next year. His days of catching passes were over.
However, wins were hard to come by. As a senior, the team went 0-9. With only 22 players, they often were overmatched, but Miller used it as a learning experience.
“I think it taught me a lot about how to deal with failures,” he said.
Lackner came to see Miller play near the end of that season while on a recruiting trip to Chicago (Miller’s hometown is 2 1/2 hours north).
“When I saw a young man with his academic credentials and his size and his film, and I’m in Chicago, you can bet your butt I’m going to go to Wisconsin and visit with him,” Lackner said.
Miller said his college choice was going to be academics-based, and after visiting Carnegie Mellon — he never had been to Pittsburgh — Miller was sold.
During that visit, Miller met with the track and field coaches, and he found out he could play both sports.
He quickly established himself as the top thrower in the University Athletic Association, winning the outdoor shot put and discus as a freshman and sophomore. He was named UAA Indoor Athlete of the Year and UAA Outdoor Athlete of the Year for field events last season. At the NCAA outdoor championships, he placed 10th in the discus and 13th in shot put.
He said finishing in the top eight and earning All-American honors are his goals this year.
“The biggest thing I learned (from last year) is you need to relax, because if you’re too wound up, you’re not going to perform there,” said Miller, who also holds the school record in the discus.
There’s a lot of football left, though, as Carnegie Mellon seeks its first playoff berth since 2006.
Miller has emerged as the anchor on a line that has no seniors, someone who “takes his responsibilities very seriously,” Lackner said.
Next up is a visit to Saint Vincent at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I think the win (over W&J) helped to energize us more than we even had been,” Miller said.
Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .