2019 INDUCTEE - CURTIS MILLER
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
When they finished, their father-in-law Curtis Miller started telling stories about when he played.
“We were stunned by what we heard,” Orr said. “It was amazing what he accomplished. He just didn’t play sports. He was a star.
“We asked our wives (Miller’s daughters Brigitte Orr and Tracy Osborne) if they had ever heard these stories. They had heard them all their lives, but they didn’t realize what a big deal it was. I told them he needs to be in the Hall of Fame.”
“My father and mother worked all the time just so we could have food on the table and clothes on our back,” Miller said. “We lived on Sykes Street and my grandmother watched after us.”
Life starting looking up for Miller when during the summer before his freshman year at Decatur’s Lakeside High, he grew four inches to 6-foot-4.
“I was the tallest student in the school,” Miller said. “Coach Lorenzo Jackson saw me walking the halls and told me I needed to play sports.”
Miller played football, basketball and competed in track and field.
“In football we always had a tough time getting past (Huntsville’s) Councill,” Miller said.
Miller started on the varsity basketball team as a freshman. He was the team captain his senior season in 1959 when the Tigers went undefeated at 22-0.
“Anytime you go undefeated during a basketball season, it’s quite an accomplishment,” Orr said. “Every basketball team has at least one bad game during a season.”
“There weren’t a lot of 6-4 people in those days,” Miller said. “I loved to rebound and play defense. To me those are the two biggest keys to having a successful team. I played like Dennis Rodman (NBA Hall-of-Famer who played in the 1980s and ‘90s) before he was even born.”
In 1959, Miller led Lakeside’s track and field team to a championship by compiling the most points of any person at the district meet. He was part of the champion 440- and 880-relay teams. The shot put and broad jump championships also went to Miller. He scored 11.5 of his team’s 42.5 points.
The 1959 Lakeside graduation class had 38, including Miller. Right after receiving his diploma, he headed to Washington, D.C., to find his future.
“There just seemed to be more opportunity up there,” Miller said.
Not long after arriving in the nation’s capital, Miller got a phone call from home.
“My dad said the Alabama A&M basketball coach was looking for me,” Miller said. “He said he had a basketball scholarship with my name on it.”
Miller quickly returned to Alabama and became a student-athlete at Alabama A&M.
“College life was totally different from anything I knew,” Miller said. “It was a great experience.”
After two years at A&M, Miller returned to Decatur to marry Elizabeth. He worked at Amoco for 32 years before retiring in 1999.
Leaving A&M didn’t spell the end of his athletic career. Miler joined the fabled Decatur Rough Riders as a pass rusher in 1962. It was a semi-pro football team that existed for five years and won 66 out of 68 games.
“It was really just a bunch of guys that didn’t want to give up playing sports,” Miller said. “I don’t think anybody thought it would be so successful.”
The Rough Riders took on all comers. The two losses were to the freshmen team from Tennessee State University in Nashville. One of TSU’s star players in one of those wins against the Rough Riders was Claude Humphrey, who later had a Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Atlanta Falcons.
“The Curtis Miller story is unbelievable,” Orr said. “I know his family and friends are extremely proud for him to be honored. He really deserves it.”