MONROE — Ryan Miles was a little uncertain as to whether he’d play football past the high school level.
His coaches knew he could. His teammates, friends and family knew he could. It was him. He just didn’t physically feel like it’d ever happen.
But the Monroe High School senior star figured the bounce back would be greater than the setback.
“Right at the end of the school day, we had a meeting — and my legs were shaking from nerves,” Miles described the afternoon of the Hornets’ Week 1 matchup against Talawanda this past fall.
“I felt like that all the way up to the start of the game — the first game of my senior season.”
Miles, the spearhead to Monroe’s option offense for the last two seasons, immediately lost those jitters. He drove the Hornets down the field on their opening possession and scored on an 8-yard touchdown run.
He then crossed the goal line from 5 yards out to put Monroe on top 14-0 in the second quarter.
“We were hyped. We scored on the first drive,” Miles said. “Just feeling that environment again during that first half was so electric — especially during the start of your senior year.”
Late in the first half, Miles took one to the house for his third touchdown, but it was negated by a holding penalty.
Miles said the Hornets ran a similar play the next snap.
“We were running out left, and I juked someone out,” he said. “Then I get hit with a helmet right in the knee. I thought maybe it was dislocated or something was out of place.
“All I remember was just falling to the ground with probably the most pain I’ve ever felt,” Miles added. “I was just wondering what’s about to happen. I really had no idea or direction. I had no idea what I was going to do.
“Our trainer came over, and I’m grabbing his hand as tight as possible. He told me my kneecap was in place. I wasn’t sure what was going on with it.”
Miles got his right knee checked out the very next morning at 8 a.m. and was told he had a full medial collateral ligament tear, a full anterior cruciate ligament tear and a torn meniscus.
“I tried for the whole trifecta,” Miles joked before a long pause. “Right after it happened, I was wondering if I’d be able to do what I wanted to do since I was a little kid. That was to play college football. I kind of felt like the world was ending.”
Miles was told his senior season was done — after two quarters, two rushing touchdowns, 49 yards rushing and 90 yards passing. He amassed over 2,000 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns for his prep career.
“When you talk about Ryan Miles, he is exactly what you’re looking for in a football player and a student-athlete,” said former Monroe coach Bob Mullins, who mentored Miles since his freshman year.
“He is just well-rounded with everything he does,” Mullins added. “He’s a great person. His character is off the charts. He’s just an incredible person. The best compliment I can give him is that I have three little boys, and I hope all three of them turn out to be like him.
“But it is gut wrenching. You don’t ever want to see anyone get hurt. I knew what his hard work and dedication meant to the team, and I knew his character alone would bring him back to do what he loves to do.”
Mullins was right.
Though it wasn’t easy for Miles, who had a stagnant recruiting period after the injury. He had looks from Centre College, Mount St. Joseph and Wittenberg.
“Those were the main three,” Miles said.
“I was sitting on the sidelines wondering if I would ever play football again — because I didn’t know the severity of the injury just yet,” Miles noted. “I was kind of starting to lose hope. It was really rough for me — not just for football, but for a lot of other activities your senior year that you miss out on.”
He had the support system to power him through. Friends, family and the Monroe community stepped up. Gifts and words of encouragement let him know that, in fact, it may not be the end for him.
“After the season was over, I was getting back into the recruiting,” Miles said. “A fire lit under me since I didn’t get to play my senior year. After seeing the guys that I love so much get to play the game — and I couldn’t do anything to help them or do anything for them — it really hurt.”
Miles’ persistence allowed him to maintain a relationship with personnel at Centre, where he took an overnight visit.
“I loved every second of it,” he said. “I got to do an alumni event and talk to people who went to Centre. I just loved it.”
Strength and conditioning got his leg back in shape, and Miles said he’ll be sprinting within the next month. He was confident enough to let the staff at Centre know that he’d commit to play next season.
Miles, who was recruited to be a defensive back, made the announcement public on Sunday that he’ll be playing football after high school.
“I think that anyone who would go through this, it sucks. It sucks bad,” he said. “But it’s so much sweeter when you get to accomplish something like this after it happens.
“Nothing is worth achieving if you didn’t have a struggle to go with it. I had to grind to get through this. I’m glad I got through it.”