Former Chicago Bear, Nebraska-Omaha Maverick and Wahoo Bishop Neumann Cavalier Zach Miller had a simple story for the nearly 1,200 Boys Town boosters and youth as he spoke at the 56th Annual Boys Town Booster Banquet at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in LaVista, Tuesday, May 2.
It was a simple story, but it was the difficulty Miller went through to achieve his goals that made his motivational message so meaningful.
“DO NOT QUIT!" Miller emphasized to the group and especially to the Boys Town youth in attendance.
Miller has always dared to push the limits. From the tiny town of Weston, Nebraska, population of around 300, Miller climbed the football ladder all the way to the National Football League. It was there he saw his football career derailed by a serious leg injury. But through all those hurdles, Miller never quit.
“I had a coach, John Fox, who won two Super Bowls, who would always say, 'Man, it's simple – it's just not easy!' I live by that saying. And I'm telling you this quote tonight for a reason. It may not be easy, but DO NOT QUIT!"
Miller told the group he played his senior year on the Boys Town campus at the Corral (Boys Town's football field). He was a three-sport athlete at Bishop Neumann. He earned all-state football honors as a quarterback his senior year and helped Neumann win the 2002 Class C-1 state championship. He was also part of two back-to-back state basketball championships.
He walked on at the University of Nebraska, but after redshirting as a freshman, he transferred to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He became the starting quarterback for the Mavericks in 2006 and was named the North Central Conference offensive player of the year. He led the Mavericks to multiple conference championships and a #1 ranking in the nation in 2007. He finished his college career with 4,096 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns, along with 3,122 career rushing yards and a school-record 50 touchdowns.
Miller was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the sixth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, where he transitioned from college quarterback to NFL tight end. He spent his first three seasons with the Jaguars and recorded 45 receptions, 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Miller then signed with the Chicago Bears in 2014. In 2015, he led the team with five receiving touchdowns. In 2016, he was off to a hot start leading the team in receptions and touchdowns before suffering a foot injury that ended his season prematurely.
He came back the next season for the Bears but suffered a career-ending injury catching a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints. He dislocated his knee, severing his artery. After being rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, doctors were able to repair his artery and save his leg. Miller went on to have eight surgeries on his leg.
He re-signed with the Bears in 2018 and after 18 months of rehab was awarded the Ed Block Courage Award. He retired in April of 2019.
Miller's message resonated with Boys Town youth, who often come from difficult backgrounds. Once here, Boys Town professionals work with these boys and girls to rebuild their trust and provide an opportunity for them to learn the life lessons many haven't yet learned or have taken for granted. Team sports are an integral part of this care.
For many, Boys Town athletics is their first opportunity to participate in any kind of organized sport. Boys Town coaches focus on the team sport experience to build character, not on the outcome of the game.
The annual Booster Banquet honors Boys Town student-athletes for their outstanding accomplishments throughout the season. Antwon was named Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year and Faith was named Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year, respectively, for their tremendous commitment to Boys Town athletics. Megan and Elijah received the female and male Competing with Character awards.
Five Boys Town alumni also were recognized for their athletic achievements with their induction into the Boys Town Sports Hall of Fame. Eugene Becker (1953) and Steve Green (1969) were inducted posthumously, while Dennis Binkowski (1968), Dennis Chinault (1969) and Anthony “Frank" Jachimiak (1954) are living inductees.
The Boys Town Boosters were formed 56 years ago to ensure that any child at Boys Town has the opportunity to play sports. Every year, the Booster Banquet brings Boys Town and the Omaha community together to recognize Boys Town's student-athletes and raise funds for sports equipment, uniforms, and other necessities. This support of Boys Town athletics guarantees youth have an outlet where they can have fun and learn valuable life lessons.
Thank you to all who joined us and to our speaker, Zach Miller. If you had an opportunity to meet Zach in our VIP Room prior to the event, photos are available to download now.
We look forward to seeing you at the next Booster Banquet on April 30, 2024.