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Jayhawks' star eyes win and family joy in Phoenix

Rich Miller's journey from dreams to reality: A historic season, family support, and a shot at Kansas football history.

4 min read
Detroit native and Kansas linebacker Rich Miller has enjoyed the holiday in sunny Arizona. [Guaranteed Rate Bowl photo]

PHOENIX – When senior linebacker Rich Miller stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac Friday afternoon, his beaming smile summed up all his emotions from his experience as a Kansas Jayhawk. 

“It feels great, man,” Miller said. “This is the type of stuff I used to dream about growing up.”

With a chance to win their ninth game of the season, a feat not accomplished in 15 years, Miller is fired up for Tuesday’s showdown against the explosive offense of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.

But the game, being in sunny Phoenix, and the opportunity to win another game on a historic season for the Jayhawks, isn’t the only thing that Miller is excited about. With his family out in Phoenix for the game, Miller has been inspired and shown that family is all you need, especially during the holiday season.

Family provides a fundamental support system, offering love, guidance, and a sense of belonging essential for personal growth and emotional stability. Family also provides the cornerstone of one's values, shaping identity and fostering lasting connections that enrich life's journey.

“(It’s) amazing, for sure. Just growing up, you would see people you know taking Christmas trips, and we wouldn’t be able to do that,” Miller said. 

Miller was visually excited and joyful when talking about having his family’s support in his final game as a Jayhawk. 

Kansas linemen go through some drills during Sunday's practice ahead of Tuesday's showdown against UNLV in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. [Guaranteed Rate Bowl photo]

“I’m in a position (now) with my family to be able to give them a reason to come all the way to Arizona for Christmas and have a great time watching good football, (while) enjoying cities like Scottsdale (and) Phoenix. I think it’s a great area.” Miller said. “It’s just a great feeling, man, like to put a smile on my family’s face. That’s all I really care about.” 

In fact, Miller is ecstatic that his family is in town so he doesn’t have to return to Detroit's snowy, always gloomy, cold winters. 

“Oh no, I’m never sad about not spending Christmas at home,” Miller said with a smile. “I think I spent 18 Christmas at home (and) this is probably my fourth one away. I’m cool with it (because) I’m a traveler, I love traveling. I love going to see new places and seeing what other places have to offer, so for me, this is a great Christmas.” 

Not only did Miller help his own family get to experience a Christmas away from their home, but also for his teammate's family and Kansas football fans a chance to have a little Christmas vacation this season.

“It’s other people that get to take a Christmas trip now (and) we were able to help you do that,” Miller said. 

Miller treats his team like a family, too. And with that comes a feeling of comfort and provide stability for each other. The long grind of a college football season can wear any player down, but having a brotherhood with teammates is something that cannot be broken. 

“I haven’t stopped laughing since I’ve been here,” Miller said.

Whether it's having teammates pick you up when down or just having an overall good laugh, it shows a feeling of love and bond between the team, resulting in that family away from family feeling.

This support system can make any holiday season gloom go away for anyone. 

Not only is having family out here inspiring, but also the chance to make Kansas football history a driving factor to get the win on the line for Miller. 

“It will mean so much. We talked about it a few weeks ago, and (we are) doing a lot of firsts around here,” Miller said. “It’s been a long time (since a nine-win season), and it’s gonna mean so much to go put it all on the line.” 

And with the season coming to an end, he took time to reflect on his highlights from this season. 

“Winning more games than we did last year,” Miller said when asked about his highlights from the season. “I told myself I was gonna have a lot of fun this year and I made sure that I had fun. (There) were a few ups and downs, but I won’t trade this team for no one in the world.”

This week's KU Football Coverage:

• 'A little bit of everything and everybody' - Jayson Gilliom's return to action

• Quarterback Jason Bean ready for his last dance with the Jayhawks

• 5 KU bowl records that could fall in Phoenix

• Rising Kansas football program seeks bowl game redemption

• Jayhawks' star eyes win and family joy in Phoenix

• Ten Jayhawks who have a shot of winning MVP honors on Tuesday

• Photo Gallery - Arrival, Media Day & Outreach event

• Final tune-up for bowl game includes outreach event in Phoenix

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