Hawgs’ Miller defies age on area amateur gridiron

DEFYING TIME — Offensive lineman John Miller (78) stands with Iowa Sharks owner/teammate John Elkin (69) on the sideline during a Sharks game in Southerland, Iowa. Miller has been playing amateur football for 17 years, and now is a part of the South Central Hawgs. (Photo courtesy of John Miller)

TRUMAN — During his 17th season, John Miller wants two more.

Miller plays amateur football for the South Central Hawgs. He’s an offensive lineman who has played the amateur game for 17 years and he’s 58 years old.

“When I was, oh I wanna say, around 48, 49 years old, somewhere in there, we had an exceptional team and we played in what was called the WFL (World Football League) then,” Miller said. “We ended up playing a team in the semifinals and the team we played was called the Dallas Diesel and there were a lot of guys who played for the University of Texas. That was quite an experience to deal with.

“I was pretty close to 50, so I just decided to keep going. … Soon I was over 50 and still feeling pretty good, so I was thinking, ‘I wonder what it would be like if I could still contribute until I hit 60.'”

At that time, Miller played for the Dubuque (Iowa) Bruisers. He said he played for the Bruisers for 10 years before the owner of the Midwest Rampage, out of Carlisle, Iowa, convinced him to switch teams. Miller said he played for the Rampage for three years.

“I had always wanted to see, I played college ball and still had the desire to do it, so I went to play for them (the Bruisers),” Miller said. “I played for that team for about 10 years. Then after playing for them, I had played against the guy who owns the Rampage for six or seven years and he talked me into coming to play with him instead of against him.

“In 2017, the Rampage made it to the (Southern Plains Football League) championship game, but lost and the team was gonna fold after that,” Miller said. “But everyone decided they wanted to come back and win the league. So in 2018, the whole team came back for one more year and we did end up winning. Once we won the league, we decided to call it good with that team, so that team no longer exists.”

With three years left in Miller’s plan to play to 60 and the Rampage no longer an active organization, he needed to find a new team. Miller said he thought he’d give it a try with the Hawgs because he liked the environment they created for players and fans.

“They’re just a really quality bunch of people and in some ways, as a team, they’re one of the best teams I’ve ever played for,” Miller said. “They really are supportive of one another and they really make it a quality environment for the fans to come watch. It’s just a very positive experience all the way around and that’s what I was looking for to finish out the last couple of years. … I wanted to be at a competitive level, but also with a quality organization and they’re very much that.”

But playing at a competitive level means staying in good enough shape to compete with players as young as 18.

Miller said as he’s gotten older, it has become more difficult to stay in playing shape.

“It’s gotten to be harder and harder,” Miller said. “I also own a farm and work on the farm. When I first got going, I didn’t have to work as hard to be in shape to play, now I really gotta, if I want to try to contribute at all, I gotta spend a lot of time in the gym.”

Though the work to be ready to play has become more difficult, Miller said how he feels after games hasn’t changed too much.

“I always kind of get out and farm the next day after games and move around, but the body gets kind of tired,” Miller said with a laugh. “But I never really get sore and I’m not in pain.”

Through the tough work getting ready for games, or keeping his body healthy after, Miller said he still loves to play. He said the other members of each team and the camaraderie between everyone has been what he enjoys most.

“I’ve really enjoyed the team aspect of it and the people who are involved,” Miller said. “I’ve always been really lucky to be with teams full of really quality people. We have a lot of fun and I still really enjoy it.”

Many might believe football is a young man’s game and the rosters around Miller the past few years might show the same.

Miller has been the oldest or one of the oldest players on his team for most of the latter half of his 17 years in amateur football. But through the thoughts of good people and laughs about making it this far into a football career, there was a memory from a few seasons ago that seemed to stick out in Miller’s mind.

“People ask me different things like what am I most proud of. There was a year when I was three times the age of our quarterback. We had an 18-year old quarterback and I was 54 at the time,” Miller said through a laugh.