Ohio State football: Classical interests help Harry Miller deal with a modern problem

Harry Miller has a list of interests broader than many other college students.

As the Ohio State offensive lineman casually bounced between references to Kahlil Gibran, Walt Whitman, Bernard Baruch, G.K. Chesterton, Marcus Aurelius, Joan of Arc, Hindu scripture and stoicism during a 20-minute meeting with reporters this week, that was easy to see.

He has plenty in common with his fellow students, of course. He plays guitar, wears his hair how he wants to (long), has tattoos up and down his arms — and he is on Twitter.

The last one means he gets to experience something most college athletes with any level of fame or success do: Not only the general toxicity of social media but also vicious, often-hateful messages from a vocal minority of fans anytime something goes wrong.

When Miller touched on that, however, he did not sound like he was complaining.

It turns out his varied interests armed him well to deal with the social media mob.

“So not to wax poetic, but there’s a poem called ‘Defeat’ by Kahlil Gibran where he talks about how, ‘To be enthroned is to be enslaved,’ and ‘to reach one’s fullness is to be like a ripe fruit that falls and is consumed by the masses.’ And essentially how in victory and success, everybody’s very capricious and they want to praise you and smother you with praise, but really there’s a great gift to having to do something very difficult that knocks you on your butt,” Miller said.

“And it’s the fact that nobody else wants to share that with you and that’s the only thing that’s going to belong only to you, and so it was very isolating to have people tell you they hate you, people tell you to go kill yourself, people telling you to go switch universities. That’s a hard thing, but I think it’s a great gift to have that and know that other people would not have taken it. Other people would have been very different with that, but it was a great gift to have that for me.”

A center by trade, Miller moved to guard last season so he could be part of the starting lineup.

He had some ups and downs along the way, including a game at Michigan State in which he moved back to center when several members of the offensive line were sidelined by positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing.

That, too, turned out to provide valuable lessons for Miller, who was a five-star recruit coming out of Buford, Ga., in the class of 2019.

“I realized there were a lot of technique things I had in the center position I hadn’t made concrete grooved in,” he said. “Fortunately I was able to have an entire year now of this offseason to create that lizard brain and to create that muscle memory of performing certain center techniques while in a high-stress environment.”

With Miller having displayed an extremely intellectual approach to life, he was asked if that ever gets in the way of his development as a football player.

Of course, playing offensive line — especially center — requires intelligence, but many a coach has warned about paralysis by analysis being an issue in many sports.

The middle of a play in the middle of the line in the middle of Big Ten game is no place to stop and contemplate the meaning of life, but that is something Miller has already come to terms with.

After some reflection, of course.

“We have a G.K. Chesterton quote in our locker room that says, ‘The true soldier fights not because he hates what is across from him but because he loves what is beside him and what is behind him,’” Miller said, citing a quote other players have also used in the past. “And the realization came that, you know, I don’t want to run through this person because I hate this person.

“This was also the realization from the Bhagavad Gita when Arjuna talks to Krishna, and he says, ‘This is my mission as a human is to do this, and it’s not because I hate this person. It’s because this is my this is my fate. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.’

“This is my task, and I’ve been given this task. And to quote Joan of Arc: ‘I’m not afraid. This is what I was born to do.’ And so I think I don’t do it out of malice. I don’t do it out of hate or anger. I do it because it is my task to play football for Ohio State, and that’s what I’m gonna do with all of my heart.”

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