When most lacrosse players encounter Darius Miller, the reaction is pretty much universal.
“They say ‘You’re the biggest lacrosse player I’ve ever seen,'” Miller said with a sly smile.
It’s an understandable reaction to a goalie that stands 6-foot-2, 280 pounds, doubles as an offensive lineman on the football field and sports the nickname ‘The Wall.’
The recent Grandview graduate is currently putting his uncommon frame — plus several pounds of pads — to use in the nets with the United States’ U19 team that is competing in the International Indoor Junior Lacrosse World Championships in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
The American group in the Aug. 6-11 tournament is largely made up of players from the East Coast, but Colorado — and Aurora — are well represented. Miller and three players with Cherokee Trail ties in defender Jerardo Tre Reyes, goalie Chandler Nayman and forward Colby Lensing also earned spots on a roster of 23.
Miller has continued to flourish in a sport that actually came first for him as a contact sport, even though he weighed more than 100 pounds in first grade and had youth football coaches drooling to put him up against players at least three years older because of his size.
His mother, Elaine, didn’t want that for her son, so she kept him out of football until he was older. During that time, Miller’s love of lacrosse grew. In grade school, he remembers going to games of the Colorado Mammoth — the state’s National Lacrosse League franchise that plays at Pepsi Center — which is part of what got him interested in playing box lacrosse, which is much different than the outdoor game.
“Things are always happening in box,” Miller said of the game that is played indoors with just five players and a goalie on the field as opposed to the much larger outdoor field game.
“It’s a lot like hockey,” he added. “Some guys hit each other into the boards in the corners and start fighting and all that. …We’re starting to see more fans come out to watch.”
Miller developed a love for football as well once he started playing and ended up competing in both sports during his time at Grandview.
He played a large part in the success of Wolves’ football team, as part of an offensive line that provided the push behind a total of 13,087 rushing yards over the past four seasons. Grandview lost to Valor Christian in a Class 5A semifinal thriller in the fall.
During the field lacrosse season, Miller manned the nets for the most successful season in terms of wins for the Grandview boys lacrosse team (14), which matched its deepest progress in the 5A state playoffs. The Wolves lost to eventual state champion Cherry Creek in the quarterfinals.
Grandview boys lacrosse coach Scott Hussey noted the way that the box lacrosse experience had helped Miller, who played well enough to make the All-Centennial League second team.
“Darius has a huge box pedigree and a lot of the work he did there started to help him,” Hussey said during the season. “He’s really stepped up this year and we’ve seen a huge growth in his outdoor game and a lot of that is due to the box world. He also has the perfect goalie mentality where he just lets it roll of his back if he gives one up. I can’t say enough good things about Darius.”
Miller has a future to look forward to in lacrosse with the program at CSU-Pueblo — where head coach Sean Blair is a big supporter of the box game — and he also has a goal to make it to the professional ranks.
Though just 10 percent of the NLL is made up of American players — the rest are Canadian or Native American — Miller hopes to break through for the good of the game in Colorado and the country.
“I think that would be fun and help grow the game,” he said.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports