- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- For a day, maybe two, something like the Silver Football trophy can stay with Braxton Miller.
But that’s as long as the Ohio State quarterback will allow any hardware for his various individual accomplishments to sit around his place before shipping them off to his parents.
Rather than dwell on what he’s already done and the possibility of getting wrapped up in his own glory with things like the shiny ball that he was given last season as the Big Ten’s best player, Miller is intent on keeping his focus on the future -- and maybe a much more recognizable statue.
“I see [Heisman Trophy polls], I hear it, but I really don’t pay too much attention to it,” Miller said Thursday at Big Ten media days. “If you pay too much attention to it, you lose focus about what’s important for your team and yourself.
“I see it on ESPN sometimes. I’ll hear it and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ But I just have to get better to achieve that goal.”
Miller didn’t actually mention the Heisman by name, but a year after finishing fifth in the voting, even acknowledging the race for the most famous award in college football marks a noted change from a year ago.
The team remains the top priority for the junior, and his humility is still mentioned by his teammates and his coach as often as his dynamic athleticism. But Miller has clearly set his sights on claiming an award that has turned a handful of Buckeyes into legends already, and he’s certainly aware of what that would mean for his own legacy.
“It was just a blessing to be there, to be in the same type of talk as Archie [Griffin] and Eddie [George] and Troy [Smith],” Miller said. “It’s unbelievable where I was, where I was in high school, where I am now.
“I’m just blessed to be where I’m at now and to get better.”
And for all the attention, awards and gaudy statistics he piled up as a sophomore, there is still undoubtedly room for that improvement Miller is chasing.
Almost from the moment Ohio State clinched an undefeated record in Miller’s first full season as the starter, he has been working to clean up footwork that has been spotty in the past, trying to develop his communication skills in an effort to become a better leader, and working to improve his knowledge of Urban Meyer’s spread offense going into his second season leading it.
The benefits are most likely to show up in the passing game for the Buckeyes, an area where Miller has been effective at times in the past but wasn’t anywhere near as dangerous as Meyer would like. And until the evidence starts showing on the field in a meaningful setting, Miller is right back where he was for most of last season in Meyer’s eyes -- not yet a Heisman candidate with an endorsement from his coach.
“At the time I was asked about Braxton Miller, he wasn’t playing like a Heisman Trophy winner,” Meyer said Thursday. “I love Braxton, and if it was all about like and feel-good and all that, I would have said, ‘Yeah, give him the Heisman.’
“If I had to do it again, I would probably kind of stay away from that answer, but I just get asked things and I’m honest. If it’s time, this year I will say Braxton Miller is a Heisman candidate. At this time, I can’t say that.”
That won’t stop the rest of the country from putting him on the short list of favorites going into the season, and the crush of attention on the face of Ohio State’s program isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.
How Miller handles the spotlight will be crucial for the Buckeyes, given just how large a role he plays in the spread attack. And if things go according to plan, his parents might need to clear out a new space in the trophy case.
“There’s a lot of Little League stuff in there,” Miller said. “Growing up with basketball, there’s AAU, middle school, high school, now college [trophies]. There’s a lot of stuff.
“Lot of room for more.”
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