The whole rugby locker room shakes before the game. With music blaring, players shouting, and rugby balls flying around, the team feeds off of each other’s focused energy before walking out on the field. As kickoff approaches, the starting 15 binds in a circle under their defending goal post, surrounding their captain, Eric Miller. Miller leads the team in a prayer, offers words of inspiration, and then leads them up the field, ready for the game. In doing so, Miller recognizes “that all the abilities [he has] are gifts from God and [he] cannot take them lightly.”
As anyone who has ever played the game will agree, rugby is a unique sport played by very “unique” people. To the outside eye, rugby players seem fueled by aggression and slight insanity, which, though not fully incorrect, fails to encompass the necessary discipline and unity vital for success on the pitch. This need for discipline reveals the importance of strong leadership on the team, especially from the captain. Eric Miller may pass on the shenanigans, but his loyalty and dedication to the team sets the standard for the rest of the players, while his spirituality and equanimity help bring the team to the proper pre-game mindset.
Beginning in his freshman year, Miller is one of the few four year players on the team, making him one of the most experienced players in the program. “Eric Miller is one of those guys who has always loved the sport and loved to play,” according to head coach Matt Ortiz, and he “leads by example.” For instance, Miller served as a Kairos retreat leader the week of the team’s first game against St. Thomas. Although Miller was “exhausted from the retreat and was worried that [he] wouldn’t be able to perform to the best of [his] abilities,” Miller recognized his team needed him, and wasted no time and rushed to suit up for the match, “knowing that [he] was ready for the game” after seeing “the excitement on [his] teammates faces.” He then began his only pregame ritual: “a small prayer for the outcome of the game to be in our favor.” His pregame prayer epitomizes Miller’s view of the role of a captain, to “lead by example and [his] try my hardest to have that example be beneficial to not only physical fitness of the team but also their character.”
This behavior was not limited to his time on the rugby team, but also carried over to his four years on the football team. Miller suffered a season ending ACL tear, which most players would use as an excuse to miss early or long practices, especially senior year. However, head coach Brandon Hickman noticed that “after this happened, his commitment to his brothers was very evident because he never missed a practice and cheered on his teammates on Friday nights.” Miller proved himself to be a true “Man for Others,” overcoming his disappointment and doing “whatever it took to help his teammates.”
In addition to being a dual sport athlete, Miller is very active in community service. Miller was the recipient of the Louis Kramer Memorial Scholarship, awarded to the junior with the second most community service hours in his class, and is the Marketing Advertising Executive for the Ignatian Leadership Corps. When asked what motivated his service involvement, Miller stated, “It started out just for the requirement, but the more and more I did the more I enjoyed it and the people I was working with, and after that the hours didn’t really matter to me.” Miller’s favorite service event is the ICan Bike Camp, a week long camp run by the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas that teaches kids with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike. “I have done the DSGD ICan Bike Camp for three years,” reflected Eric, adding “it is a lot of fun and very rewarding.”
Miller’s devotion to his team and his community embodies the profile of the Jesuit graduate. He has transcended beyond his own personal agenda and works towards improving not only the competitiveness of his team, but also the character of each player.