Braxton Miller made it pretty clear Monday at Big Ten Media Day: He's chasing the Heisman Trophy.
He has to.
“Oh yeah, absolutely," the Ohio State quarterback said when asked if college football's highest individual honor was one of his goals for his senior season. "I walk by a lot every day: Eddie George, Troy Smith and Archie (Griffin). So I see it every day, I pass it. I’ve got to get it. I’m doing whatever it takes.”
Miller's come close in each of the past two seasons, finishing in the top 10 in voting in years when the award has been handed to Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston and their insane video-game numbers. He figures to be right in the mix again as the Buckeyes hunt for a national championship.
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But it's that doing whatever it takes that might be why he hasn't been able to lift the stiff-arming trophy yet.
"Braxton Miller, his issues are he goes sometimes above and beyond what his body is going to allow him to do," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Monday. "Some of the guys with durability issues ... those are guys that have the competitive spirit at the highest possible level, and that's all they do is know how to go. So do we try to slow Braxton down? Absolutely not. We try to protect him, surround him and maybe come up with a good scheme to get the ball out of his hands maybe a little quicker. Those are all the things that we address. But the durability issue isn't because his body wasn't meant to play college football. It's because of how hard he plays."
Miller missed nearly three whole games last season — the main reason he didn't finish higher in Heisman voting — and he was injured again in the Buckeyes' loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. It forced him to have offseason shoulder surgery, and all accounts — including his own — are that he's fine and will be completely ready come the season.
"It's never in the back of my head, I just go out there and play," Miller said. "It's part of the game. You never know what to expect in a game as far as an injury standpoint. That's just how I am."
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In fact, he said his injury might have made him even better, if that's possible. He said sitting on the sidelines during spring practice with the coaching staff was just what he needed.
"That's probably what I needed, just learning the game from the shoulders up," Miller said. "Just learning from the defensive coaches, standing back and just looking at how practice is."
An improved Miller should be a scary thought for opposing defenses, as he's been just about as good as it gets in the past two seasons. He's now the two-time-defending Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year thanks to his true dual-threat ability as a passer and a runner. It's why the Heisman conversation can't happen without his name in the mix. Add to that improved health — Meyer said Miller's in the best shape he's ever been in — and an increased hunger to be college football's best player.
Miller doesn't just want to win the Heisman. He has to.