Photo Credit: Monmouth University

No Obstacle Too Big For Monmouth's Dymere Miller To Overcome

WEST LONG BRANCH – Entering his senior year of football at Pennsylvania powerhouse Coatesville High School, located 40 miles west of Philadelphia in an area referred to as “The Pittsburgh of the East” due to its once thriving steel industry, Dymere Miller had yet to see any significant playing time for the Red Raiders.

Coatesville High School football, which plays at the highest level in Pennsylvania, PIAA 6A, and has been ranked in the state’s top 10 for at least the last 10 years, is the epitome of “Friday Night Lights,” and rivals the much-ballyhooed Texas high school football landscape. Coatesville Stadium has a capacity of 7,500 spectators and on game nights it fills to capacity. It regularly sends players to DI schools on scholarships, but for Miller that seemed like a pipe dream.

Miller is now a standout wide receiver for Monmouth University and was a second-team All-CAA selection last season after leading the Hawks in receptions (55), receiving yards (820) and receiving touchdowns (seven) in just nine games. But at the time at Coatesville, he was just trying to get on the field for his senior season and contribute after battling a herniated disc in his back since his sophomore season.

“I got that back injury my sophomore year during football season,” said Miller. “I was diagnosed with a herniated disc and I really couldn’t do much and I didn’t even see the field at all from my sophomore season into my senior season. I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t even thinking of playing football in college until after my senior year. The pain was so bad at times I had trouble walking, and it prevented me from participating in offseason lifting program. It affected not only my ability to play but my attitude.”

Finally healthy enough to take the field three games into his senior season, Miller started the last 13 games and blossomed into a game-breaking wide receiver. He caught 26 passes for 523 yards, averaging 20.11 yards per reception, with 10 touchdowns. Coatesville went 14-1 that season but lost a heartbreaker, 27-24, in the PIAA 6A semifinal. In that game, Miller had seven receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown.

With his back now cooperating, Miller was finally able to showcase his all-around athleticism. As a starting guard, he helped the Coatesville basketball team post a 29-3 record before losing in the state final in overtime, 74-71. In the spring, he anchored the school's 4-x-100 relay team that broke the state record in the state championships (40.99) and came in third place in the 200-meter race (21.63).

After his breakout senior season on the football field, Miller began to rethink his options for playing college football. However, with less than one season on tape for recruiters to critique, his options were limited.  He did have some DII colleges interested in him but his head coach, Matt Ortega – the winningest coach in Coatesville history - helped him decide on a post-graduate year at Salisbury School in Salisbury, CT.

“Dymere battled back injuries early on but found a local doctor here that really did a good job with him getting him back on the field,” said Ortega. “He was what you would call a late bloomer and actually on the smaller side for his age. He really grew into his own his senior year. We knew going into his senior year that prep school was going to be the option we were going to use for him because we really felt that he needed one more year because of how much time he missed. And it was a great decision by him and his family to take the grad-year because that’s what really did it for him.”

It’s not lost on Miller the role Ortega’s guidance and direction played in his development as a DI athlete as well as a person.

“Coach Ortega is definitely a great guy,” said Miller. “He was a good outlet for me and a good person to be around. He's a great coach who taught me a lot while I was there and someone I can still turn to. He steered me in the right direction on my decision to take a post-grad year and I’m really grateful for that.”

And respect goes both ways. It didn’t go unnoticed by Ortega the struggles Miller was going through while injured and trying to get back on the football field and the way he handled it.

“Absolutely,” Ortega said when asked if was impressed with Miller's resilience. “He just kept plugging along. He had some great mentors and players before him who really showed him the way. They gave him the road map on how to work hard and strive to be the best and he took that in, and it opened doors for him. He gained more and more confidence his senior year and towards the middle of the year you started seeing glimpses of how good he could be, and it really happened late in his senior year - that’s when he really started to mature.”

In hindsight, Miller’s decision to take a post-grad year couldn’t have worked out any better.

“I only had one year of varsity so I thought I might as well take one more year to get my body right and get bigger and better,” said Miller. “Deep down I thought I was a DI player and that’s why I took that route. My family talked about it, and we decided that was the best option for me.”

Ortega had some connections at the Salisbury School having previously sent some players there so he figured it would be a good fit for Miller.

It was more than a good fit for Miller – it fit like a glove.

After recording 27 receptions for 435 yards and seven touchdowns on offense as well as excelling in the secondary on defense, Miller was named to the 2019 All-NEPSAC first team. In a two-game stretch against Hotchkiss and Kent, he scored touchdowns by returning an interception 87 yards, a 67-yard kickoff return, and a leaping 35-yard catch in the end zone. He was awarded the Richard T. Flood Athletic Medal which represents the best all-around athlete in his class at Salisbury.

Academically, while Miller took honor classes at Coatesville, Salisbury helped better prepare him for the rigorous curriculum he would undertake in college.

“Without Salisbury, entering college I would’ve probably been lost (academic wise),” said Miller. “Salisbury really helped me with time management and study habits. We had study hall for two hours every night, Monday through Saturday. I had never done anything like that before, so that really helped me once I got to Monmouth.”

Miller’s head coach at Salisbury, Chris Phelps, knew he had a diamond in the ruff once he saw his new player in pads.

“We were aware of his back issues but that was one of the reasons he was flying under the radar,” said Phelps. “We had heard really good things about him from college recruiters in his area, so we gave him an offer as a post-grad. Right away we saw that he was super talented but the things that really jumped out at me was that he’s a super smart football player, he was well coached, and he was around a lot of good players and coaches. The second thing I noticed was that he just loves to compete. Sometimes guys will say they like to compete but with Dymere you definitely see the competitiveness in him."

“As a potential recruit, I told him I was looking for guys who would embrace the academic experience here, I’m looking for impact football players that want to be part of a team culture and good character guys who want to be part of our community. He committed to that and lived up or even exceeded expectations. Even being a one-year guy, he stepped up into a leadership role right away. We still keep in touch regularly.”

Phelps was also instrumental in Miller’s college recruitment.

“I have a great relationship with Coach Phelps, and he gave me a lot of opportunities,” said Miller. “I think he sent my film to every DI coach in the nation. He definitely has a lot of connections and that was a major help in my life, especially getting me here (Monmouth University) where I’m at right now – that was all him. We definitely still communicate. He checks in on me and I send him film and stuff.”

Following his senior year at Coatesville and just prior to his season at Salisbury, Miller came to a prospect camp at Monmouth University and was recruited by wide receiver coach Kevin Callahan Jr.

“Dymere came to a camp here going into his prep school year and absolutely crushed it,” said Callahan Jr. “He didn’t have a ton of film because he had a back injury in high school, so he went to prep school. We saw the first couple of games at Salisbury and he was dominant. At that point we decided to offer him a scholarship.”

“Before Salisbury I went to a camp at Monmouth and afterwards they showed me a lot of love and offered me during my season at Salisbury,” said Miller. “I came to Monmouth for an official visit, and K.C. (Kevin Callahan Jr.) actually came all the way to Salisbury to get me so that was also a lot of love. You could tell they definitely wanted me to become part of the family and I wanted to be part of it too, so I’m just glad it all worked out.”

And so is Monmouth.

“Dymere is one of the smartest players that I’ve coached,” said Callahan Jr. “He’s a guy we can put a lot on his plate in terms of asking him to do different things, different assignments. He grasps concepts very quickly and that makes him a lot of fun to coach. He’s got a good perspective on things. I think he’s got a good knack for saying things that need to be said that are true. He’s got a very good sense of the moment, sense of the room and see’s things in a way a coach wants people to see things and that makes him a good vocal leader at times in the receiver room."

“He’s overcome a lot of challenges in his life already,” Callahan Jr. added. “And that gives him the experience to overcome the next ones; that’s a testament to who he is. He’s a lot of fun to be around and he keeps you on your toes. He had a great year last year and we want to build on that. We excited for him to play a full, healthy season and see what the next step for him is.”

It’s been a perfect match for both Miller and Monmouth University.

“It’s been great,” Miller said when asked how his experience at Monmouth has been. “Especially the relationships I’ve built here. I’ve met some guys here that I feel like I’ve known my whole life. I can always count on them, lean on them through tough times and I’ll be there for them too. We hang out with each other like 24-7 and it’s kind of weird when we go home and don’t see each other. So, I’ve definitely developed some great relationships here.”

Early in his career, Miller had the luxury of playing behind two of Monmouth’s all-time great receivers, Terrance Green Jr. and Lonnie Moore, who he quickly bonded with while learning his trade.

“Lonnie and T.J. they definitely showed me the ropes,” said Miller. “I was with them all the time when they were here. They really helped me out watching them and seeing what they do, putting the work in and that definitely set the bar high for what I would need to do here as a senior.”

As a sophomore playing behind Moore and Greene Jr. Miller had 20 receptions for 267 yards and one touchdown. Then came his breakout junior season, 2022.

“I wouldn’t really say it was my breakout year because I was playing through injury the whole season (shoulder injury that caused him to miss two games). So, I don’t really look back on that as my breakout season, I’m ready for this season, this season means a lot to me coming up. I’m expecting big things this year.”

Lining up opposite Miller at wide receiver will be Assante Kearny, who had a breakout year in his own right a year ago when he collected 37 receptions for 638 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. The combination of Miller and Kearny has the potential to be one of the top duos receiving threats in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) this season and a chance to find their way into the Monmouth record books if things break right.