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."