KEARNEY — Competition fueled Brayden Miller throughout his four-year Kearney High career.
He participated in football, basketball and track and field at Kearney High and played American League baseball in the summer his first three years of high school. When Kearney High added baseball this year, he elected to play baseball over track his senior year.
He admits it was a difficult decision. But it ended up paying off for Miller, as he was one of Kearney’s best players this spring.
Miller’s high level of play as a three-sport athlete during his senior year led to him receiving the distinction as the Kearney Hub Male Prep Athlete of the Year.
"My senior year was because of all the coaches I’ve been with," Miller said. "My hard work finally paid off, and I think all in all, I think the coaches like Coach (Brandon) Cool, Coach (Drake) Beranek and Coach (Brad) Archer make me the better person I am today."
Miller excelled for the Bearcats’ football team last fall. He passed for 1,466 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 53 percent of his passes. He also rushed a team-high 114 times for 655 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games.
His success throughout the football season earned him the Kearney Hub 11-Man Player of the Year award and a walk-on offer from the University of Nebraska.
Kearney football coach Brandon Cool said Miller benefited throughout his senior year from the experience he gained as a junior when he started three games in place of injured quarterback Kanon Koster.
It allowed him to get a taste of the varsity level and understand what he needed to do to carry the Bearcats in 2018, Cool added.
There’s not one game that stands out for Cool when he looks back on Miller’s career. He recalls different plays and Miller’s ability on the field, but it’s his work ethic that Cool will remember the most.
"Brayden Miller has that desire to always improve," Cool said. "He puts the time and effort into preparing himself day in and day out, regardless of what sport he is in. A guy like that, it doesn’t matter if it’s football, basketball or baseball or pingpong, it’s all the same. He just likes to compete in every event."
Miller was a reserve in basketball, before being a key member on Kearney’s first-ever high school baseball team this spring.
Miller thrived as the Bearcats’ starting catcher. He hit in the middle of the order and batted .351 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 28 games. He ranked first on the team in slugging percentage (.800) and second in on-base percentage (.406) among Kearney’s everyday players.
The Bearcats qualified for the state tournament. They played three games in the double-elimination tournament, claiming a 9-2 victory over Grand Island. Miller batted .400 and scored three runs in the three-game stretch.
"I was glad I could be a part of it," he said. "It sucked not being able to run track. That was not in my favor, but all in all, it was a lot of fun. I just hope they keep the success going in the future."
Kearney baseball coach Brad Archer believes Miller’s intelligence and athleticism allowed him to thrive in all facets of the game.
"If you look at him as a multisport athlete, he’s just been a great competitor in football, basketball and baseball," Archer said. "He’s just one of those kids that every coach loves to have on the team."
Miller will continue his football career at Nebraska as a walk-on. He selected the Cornhuskers over offers from Division II University of Nebraska at Kearney and Pittsburg State. He also held an offer from NAIA Doane University. UNK recruited him as a safety, while Pittsburg State and Doane envisioned him as a quarterback.
He moved into his dormitory May 20 and spent a week in Lincoln before departing to prepare for the Nebraska Shrine Bowl football game. Prior to the start of fall camp, Miller will focus on lifting, learning Nebraska’s offensive scheme and playing seven-on-seven with teammates, he said.
Miller’s father also walked on at Nebraska, but he said that didn’t factor into his decision.
"Nebraska was the best fit for me because the coaches are obviously great, the atmosphere down there, and I wanted to go somewhere I could work my butt off," he said. "I had other offers where I could work my butt off too, but I thought I’d go to the highest level and make a name for myself."
Nebraska has a crowded quarterback room. Sophomore Adrian Martinez is the starter, while redshirt junior Andrew Bunch, redshirt sophomore Noah Vedral, redshirt freshman and Kearney native Matt Masker and freshman Luke McCaffrey are competing for the backup job.
"My mindset is just to work hard and work harder than any other person," Miller said. "I just need to stay humble and know that I am capable just like anyone else down there, even though I am a walk-on."