DANVILLE — Some people think that the best players on a team get the star treatment.
They are not required to do the same things in practice or they get to slide by in some form.
That’s definitely not the case for Danville junior running back Devin Miles and his coach, Marcus Forrest, makes sure of that.
“We need him to be leading and doing things the right way,’’ Forrest said. “He has to be the role model for everyone else.’’
And how has he done with that?
“He’s doing everything that we have asked from him and a little more,’’ said Forrest, who is constantly challenging the running back to be better.
But, the truest test of a player with that star-ability is what his teammates will say about them.
“Devin is arguably the best running back in the conference, right now,’’ said Danville senior tight end and guard John Ward. “As long as the line does their job, and we give him an opportunity to make a cut — he will make the right choices and make a big play.’’
Braxtyn Schroeder, a senior offensive tackle, says it is amazing blocking for a back like Miles.
“You know that he is going to get the job done as long as we do our job up front,’’ Schroeder said. “Actually, there are times that we will make a mistakes and he will still make it look right.
“I know that if I make contact with my defender, Devin is going to read it and make a move. I don’t have to do anything special, he makes it easy on the linemen.’’
There is only one problem, according to Forrest.
“Every once in a while, our lineman try to look back and see where he is running,’’ Forrest said. “We’ve had to teach the kids that they should not try to see where he is going, just block their guy to the whistle and let Devin go where he needs to go.
“If they want to see what happened, we will have it on video and they can see it on Monday.’’
Miles calls it be allusive on the football field.
“I’ve always had the ability to make people miss,’’ he said. “I think it’s a combination of my vision and awareness.’’
Ward, who also plays defensive end for the Vikings, says it’s also his speed and quickness.
“He just has that ability to make a move around a defender,’’ Ward said. “It would be very difficult to try and tackle him one-on-one.’’
Each and every move that Miles makes is a product of past experiences.
“Sometimes, I will try to make a cut and the defender is right there,’’ he said. “I just learn from that and now that I need to do something differently the next time.
“Each team is going to try to defend us differently and I have to be ready to adapt.’’
A year ago, Miles had three straight games of 100 yards of more, including a 211-yard rushing effort against Champaign Centennial, this week’s opponent.
But after that game, the defenses made some changes, focusing on Miles, and he fell short of 100 yards in three straight games.
“When people key on him, like they did last year and some this year, it opens things up for the rest of our offense,’’ Forrest said. “Last week, he had to fight to get 90 yards on 21 carries. Those were tough yards and that’s going to happen. It was good to see him keep battling through that game.’’
It actually took Forrest one game a year ago to figure out that Miles belonged at running back.
After Miles had 182 all-purpose yards (31 receiving, 100 kickoff return and 51 punt return) the Vikings coach decided to move him to his natural position of running back.
“I’ve always wanted to be a running back,’’ Miles said. “Ever since little league, I’ve been a running back.’’
So, why did his varsity career begin at receiver?
“He was missing all summer. It seemed like he wanted to be a point guard more than anything else,’’ Forrest said. “I heard about him doing things, but I had to see it. So, we put him at receiver.
“We found out that he could catch, he could run kickoffs and he could return punts. We decided to find out if he could run the ball.’’
Miles, who was a guard on last year’s Big 12 Conference and Regional Championship basketball team at Danville, said that football has always been his first love.
“Other people may have questioned which one I loved more, but it’s always been football to me,’’ Miles said. “Thankfully, I’ve been good enough to play at a high level in both sports.’’
And Miles says his love for football started at an early age watching the Danville Vikings win back-to-back Big 12 Conference titles in the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
“I learned a lot watching those guys play,’’ said Miles, naming Dennis Hightower, Eddie Clark and Justin March as some of his favorite players. “Those guys showed me that I had to get bigger and faster if I wanted to play at their level.
“I knew from then that I had to keep working and I couldn’t stop.’’
This year’s season opener at Bloomington proved one thing for sure about Miles — he is not a quarterback.
“Oh no. Throwing the ball is not one of his skills,’’ said Forrest as Miles was 3-of-10 passing for 6 yards. “I’m not sure that we can even run a half-back pass with him.’’
But, that night also proved that Miles is a competitive kid that wants to win.
“I’m definitely not a quarterback, but if I practiced it more, I think I could do it,’’ he said. “We didn’t have another option and I did it for the team.
“My ideal night doesn’t have anything to do with yards or touchdowns — my ideal night is winning the game.’’