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Catching Up With ... former Colt Fred Miller

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He lives in Upperco, in a weathered old farmhouse on 46 acres that he bought for a song when he retired from football. There’s a sweet spring-fed pond out back full of catfish and bass, a vegetable patch stuffed with sweet corn and beans, and a woodpile large enough to keep the home fires burning all winter.

Fred Miller doesn’t want for much. And if he did, you wouldn’t hear a peep from the 69-year-old tackle, a mainstay on the Baltimore Colts’ defensive line during their heyday.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Miller spent a decade here (1963-72), much of it as defensive captain of the Colts. Though undersized at 250 pounds, he anchored the club’s front four despite chronic back spasms and bum knees that would have sidelined most others.

Baltimore Sun photo by Doug Kapustin

Teammates called Miller "a pro’s pro" and paid heed when he spoke, which wasn’t often.

"Fred never has a bad game, and he’ll never tell you he’s in pain," head coach John Sandusky once said.

Sun file photo

The son of a Louisiana farmer, Miller plowed through enemy lines, dragged down runners and helped the Colts to Super Bowls in 1969 and 1971. Guess which one he’d rather recall.

"The one we won," he said of the Colts’ victory over Dallas in Super Bowl V. "That was one of the hardest hitting games I ever played. The next morning, when I got up for breakfast, I could hardly lift my arms to cut my pancakes. First time that ever happened."

Trouble is, said Miller, "nobody will let us forget the ‘other’ Super Bowl (a loss to the New York Jets two years earlier). Every year, at Super Bowl time, when I turn on the NFL Channel, they’re running that game in its entirety."

That’s when Miller sighs and hits the remote.

"When we lost, we didn’t know it would last forever," he said.

Caught up in a purge of Colts’ veterans in 1973, Miller retired rather than play for Washington, where he’d been dealt. The onetime LSU All-American settled in northern Baltimore County and returned to his roots. He bought into a hog farm in Havre de Grace. He sold forklifts. Whatever the job, Miller worked hard and retired as vice-president of a machinery firm that makes corrugated boxes.

All the while, he raised a family, a few steers and a dozen chickens on the farm.

Married 46 years, he has four sons, 11 grandchildren and a golden retriever named "Lady" who tags behind as Miller does his chores – harvesting tomatoes, fixing the tractor and repairing the goose pit out back for hunting this fall.

Much of his time is spent caring for Charlene, his wife, who is bedridden with congenital back problems. Miller fusses over her tirelessly, morning to night, despite painful reminders from his recent knee replacement.

 Sun file photo

"Our marriage vows read, ‘In sickness and in health,’ " he said. "This is what it meant."

On occasion, when Charlene is asleep and Lady is tuckered out and the crickets are singing, he’ll take out his Super Bowl ring. And remember.

"What a bond we had as a team," Miller said. "We gave a damn about each other. No cliques. Our wives socialized. We babysat for each other. That didn’t happen on other clubs."

The ring, he said "means that, at one time, we were top of the heap, the best in our profession.

"That’s a pretty sweet feeling."

Comments

I didn't know too many professional NFL guys, but I
know Fred & I'm proud to call himafriend. What is said in the article about him is all true, but one word of caution don't get between him and the tv when an LSU game is on .

Fred was a mainstay of a team that had the best 10 year run of any team in NFL history. Even reading about him now, it's easy to see how Fred, and guys like him, banded together for the run. It's his attitude that set the tone for our city. He was a model then, and he's one now. A good man.

Great story on a very good person and a super Colts player. It was great to hear Fred is OK and that he got his knee fixed. Fred and our mutual friend, Barney Cable, visited my old work place at Lehigh Cement in Union Bridge several years ago. It was great to share so many old memories with Fred then and this story kind of brings the memories back as if they just happened. Thanks again for the story and best of everything to Fred and his family

If you ever had the pleasure of watching the old Balto.Colts as I did you would remember how great Fred Miller always played, he was one tough S.O.B.

ITS FUNNY, WHEN I SAW THAT FRED MILLER WAS THE FEATURE FOR THE ARTICLE, HIS #76 POPPED INTO MY HEAD, NOT HIS FACE. BACK THEN WE REMBERED OUR
FAVORITE PLAYERS #'S. I'M A 57
YEAR OLD BLACK GUY WHO GREW UP IN BALTO CITY. I WON'T LIE, I WANTED TO BE JOHN MACKEY AS A KID, BUT FRED MILLER WAS NEXT ON MY LIST OF THE COLTS I ADMIRED. MY DAD AND I USED TO WATCH THE COLTS PLAY OR LISTEN ON THE RADIO. MY DAD (HIS NAME WAS ALSO FRED) WOULD ALWAYS SAY HOW TOUGH FRED MILLER WAS ON THE FIELD. TODAY I RELIVED A LOT OF MOMENTS WHEN I SAW THE ARTICLE. WHAT A TOUGH SON OF A GUN. AS MY DAD WOULD SAY.

Fred Miller was one of the good guys. I'm glad to read things are going ok. I'm not sure which Company he was working with(while playing football with the Colts), maybe Pyle Corp? I believe somehow he was in the ring of Colts that used to sell fork-lifts and such to people like my Father. #76 took the time to write a letter to me and send me a Team Autographed Football the Christmas of 1970. He also invited me and my Father to a function hosted by the Pyle Corporation for People like my Father who could help recommend the purchase of equipment and such to their Employers. All the old Colts were there and we watched the 1958 Championship Game. The Autographs and memories I got that night, the Christmas Letter and Football are all still in my possession and I value all of them for what they are because Fred Miller took the time to think of me.

It's great to see that people remember the guys that made the game great. They're still around and appreciate the fans to this day, maybe more than ever. Darnell, send me an email (jake@cordish.com) with your address and I will mail you an autographed picture of Fred (my hero... and my dad).
Thanks for your wonderful comments.
God bless.

Fred is the "symbol" of what greatness in professional sports should be. I look at the lifestyles of some of the players today, and wonder where all of our "heros" have gone. I'm happy to say that Fred is my brother-in-law, one that I am indeed proud of.

I can't tell you how much it means to see a man I'm proud to call my father remembered in the game, as we (his children) have experienced him in life. He has always been the fairest, and most level-headed man I know, and very loved by his family. I'm extremely proud to call him my dad.

Thanks for the update on Fred Miller. He's looking great in the recent photo and it's good to know he did well in his post-NFL career.

The '69 Super Bowl was a disappointment, but fans, sports pundits (and players?) didn't know how good the Jets really were until a few years after the championship game.

For me the toughest losses were to the Packers during the 1960s. The Colts and Packers played some very tough, close games. If the Colts had managed just a few more points against the Pack in those '60s games, then the Colts would have been the team of the decade. Nevertheless, the Colts-Packer games were super football contests and Fred Miller always played stellar defense in the big games. A great guy, a great Colt legend.

Another beloved Baltimore Colt. A Class Guy who's career ran up again two guys who wouldn't know the meaning of the word,Class: Irsey and Thomas !

Fred Miller,is the very best human being I have ever met. It is with great pride I call him my friend. Fred is a credit to his family his self and our country. Good Hunting Fred

I am very proud to have Fred Miller as my grandfather. He is an incredibly humble and endearing man. I thought this article was very well written!

My senior year in High School, 1981, I played tackle for the Hereford Bulls in Parkton Maryland. Fred Miller's son was on the team and Fred Miller would help coach. His son had to leave the team that year for unforseen reasons. What really impressed me about this man is that he still came to every game even after his son had to stop playing. He gave me a little extra attention as I played his position when he was a Baltimore Colt. I weighed about 165 back then playing on the line and was usually out matched in size and weight. Fred would tell me to hit hard and that the size difference doesn't matter. I remember one time I came off the field and was met by Fred on the sideline. "What are you doing out there letting that SOB get the best of you! You get back out there, go in low, grab the front of that guy's shoulder pads, fire up into him, twist the pads and put him on his back! When I went out on the very first play I did exactly that, right on his back. When I came off the field the next time, Fred Miller had an ear to ear smile and said "that's the way you do it"!
I really appreciated the help he gave each of us that year during the football season. What an incentive it was to have a Professional Football Player giving a High School kid one on one coaching!

Glad to see this article about a man who has long deserved to be remembered as a Baltimore Colt in the days when they still worked a job in the community and mingled with regular people.

Fred is a great human being first, secondly a great football player. Fred #76 was a childhood hero as all of the old colts were to me.
I am 52 years old now living in Scottsdale Arizona and I still think about the old Colts and Baltimore almost every day.
What a strange feeling I had when Fred actually worked for me for a short time at Ward Machinery. (he was a childhood hero of mine) I am glad he is still doing okay and keeping busy on his farm.
Please give him my best
Hal

My husband and I grew up with Fred Miller in Homer, La. He was a great football player for his high school team the Homer Pelicians and LSU.
We are very proud of him and what he has accomplished.

Fred David and I grew up together in Homer, Louisiana and went to LSU together. Our high school team played in the state championship game his senior year and we won a couple of bowl games at LSU. Fred is what you see is what you get. A fine friend and outstanding father and husband. In spite of all the great accomplishments , my fondest memory is when Fred, Ray Wilkins and I packed all of our belongings in his Volkswagen and headed to LSU for school..I still do not know how we got everything and us in the beetle.

IFred was several years younger than me but his mom would let him ramble the creeks and hunt the hillsides with me. I loved him then, and still do.

Tough doesn't cover it. Fred's State Championship High School Team was known as the Eleven Iron Men. The team members played both defense and offense and were undefeated.

I started Homer Elementary School 1st grade with Fred David Miller and graduated with him. He was a fine person and a great football player. So glad to read wonderful article about Fred David. May God bless Fred David and Family.

Beverly Pixley Volentine

I was thinking of Fred today and googled his name to see what he was up to. Great article and glad to see he is enjoying life.

The reason I was curious is that he had such a great impact on my football life and, more importantly, life in general.

I attended a football camp at Fork Union in Va. for a couple of years and he was my favorite instructor. Inspirational, patient and caring are 3 things that come to mind. He was a great teacher and the things I learned from him served me so well throughout my life-including football.

The impact that guys at his level can have on kids is tremendous. Today's athlete (in general) aren't cut from from the same cloth. I'm glad I came along when I did.

Thanks Fred, I think of you often.

In the early/mid 60's, I was a student at Homer Elementary School, in Fred's hometown. Fred never failed to stop by the schools to visit and sign autographs when he was visiting home. Fred, of course, was and still is our hero...one of the famed 1957 Homer Pelican "Iron Men".

I met Fred when he worked for Ward Machinery and I enjoyed the pleasure of his experience and listening to his Southern drawl. He is a special person, and when you consider the sporting career he has had, his family must be very proud of him, not too sure about the roasted hogs though!

I have really enjoyed reading all of the various articles of "Catching Up With". However, after reading this article of Fred Miller and reading all the posts - this one was definitely my favorite.

Growing up a Colts Fan in the 60's, there were many popular and great players. Fred Miller was a solid dependable player that didn't get a lot of fanfare. Many of the other defensive stars like Mike Curtis and Bubba Smith received more attention.

However, Fred Miller was always one of my favorite players because he was durable, consistent, and the consummate team player. I think of the old Colts often despite enjoying our Ravens. I have always been proud of our Super Bowl 5 victory. It is great to see that Fred is doing well and still appreciated by everyone in the Baltimore community.

And younger people wonder why us older Baltimore Football fans still are still so close to the Baltimore Colts of yesterday. Fred Miller is a perfect example of the many Colt heros we charish and always will. Thanks for another great story, Toy Dept.

I am currently Head Football Coach at Homer High School in Homer, LA. As`a lifelong Homer resident and Homer High School graduate, I can tell you the 1957 Iron Man team that Miller was a big part of is still a source of pride for our small town. Fifty years have passed since that magical 1957 season, and the Iron Man team is still as important to this town as ever. The Homer Pelicans still award the "Fred David Miller Award" each year at the football Banquet. I wish Fred had returned to Homer after completeing his professional career, I would like to get to know him.

When I was a young boy in Slidell,La; my mom told me that Fred was my 2nd cousin. All the guys in the city played on football teams, myself included, and when I told them that Fred Miller was my cousin they didn't believe me, so my mom called Fred and he sent me an autographed picture of himself and the winning kicker of the previous Super Bowl. For that one mo0ment I was King of the football players in my hometown. Thanks Fred for the great memories. From your cousin Mary Ann Willson Williams' son, Buddy Williams.

I was visiting my Uncle (Barney Cable) a few years ago and we went to Fred's house to chop wood for Barney's fireplace. Little did I know we were going to be chopping down full size trees. I'm 33 and those guys whooped my ass that weekend. They still got it!

Mr. Fred is my father's best friend. My father, also a former professional athlete (basketball) have been friend's ever sisnce I can remeber and I am in my forties. I live in Texas now and every time I come home to visit my parents I Mr. Fred and Mrs. Charlene his wife. My husband is head football coach at a high school in Texas and loves to get together this from pros and listen to their stories of the game and of hunting and life. I loved it when on one of out visits Mrs. Charlene had Mr. Fred get his SuperBowl ring out to show my husband. Mr. Fred is salt of the earth - there was duct tabe on the ring so it would fit him. Thank you for the wonderful article. From Texas back to Hampstead.

REAL FOOT BALL PLAYERS -BACK THEN -NOW A HANG NAIL AND BRADY CANT PLAY -M-R-BEN SHOULD HAVE BEEN MVP--ALSO JET QB --AND MANY OTHERS -MANNING ----BRADY LOST TO THE JETS TWICE AND DIDNT PLAY LIKE -I WANT TO WIN .

My mom used to babysit for Fred when he was a young boy. When I turned 10, the Super Bowl champ Colts were in Jacksonville for an exhibition game with the Raiders and Fred invited my mom and I to lunch and the game. There I was, a 10 year old on his birthday, sitting at lunch with Fred Miller, Johnny U, Bubba Smith, and Ted Hendricks, and wearing their Super Bowl rings! Fred gave me a memory I will never forget. Cheers

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