Braxton Miller works on his legacy


Beginning Aug. 3, we're counting down the days until the college football season starts with a look at the 25 most interesting people in the sport.

COLUMBUS, Ohio --- The collection on the dresser is already impressive enough, maybe the finest one ever assembled in Big Ten history.

There are a couple Chicago Tribune Silver Footballs honoring the best player in the conference, a pair of offensive player of the year awards, a trophy honoring the top freshman in the league, and a few more items that Braxton Miller struggles for just a moment to correctly identify.

By themselves, that hardware will be difficult enough to move when the Ohio State quarterback's career comes to an end. But there's still a season a left in his record-setting tenure with the Buckeyes and potentially more trinkets left to collect, which may have to join the overflow that doesn't fit in his place or with the rest of the pile of accomplishments that he kept with his parents before they eventually needed to find extra storage to watch over it all.

"It won't fit over at their house anymore," Miller said. "I've got too many.

"It's kind of tough to keep track of them all. Cannot even name them."

At this point, it's actually far easier to rattle off what's missing from his overstuffed resume, and it's no secret what's at the top of that list.

For all the attention and acclaim that has come Miller's way thanks to his natural arm strength, his incredible mobility, and the way he's parlayed that combination into eye-popping statistics as both a passer and a rusher, his individual achievements far outweigh what his team has been able to do during his three seasons as a starter for the Buckeyes.

There are a couple of pairs of gold pants that Miller is quite fond of, charms reflecting victories over rival Michigan, one of which capped an unbeaten season in 2012. There are also two division titles to his credit, spanning the longest winning streak in school history as the Buckeyes rattled off 24 consecutive victories once Urban Meyer arrived and teamed up with a quarterback perfectly suited to run his version of the spread offense.

But Ohio State has higher expectations than just winning its division, and without so much as a conference championship -- let alone a national crown -- Miller's legacy at one of college football's most storied programs remains very much incomplete despite the stockpile of individual honors.

"You know, he was the main catalyst for shattering basically every offensive record in the history of Ohio State football and winning 24 straight games, which has never been done before at this great university," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "He's done this, he's done this, he's done this, he's done this, he's done this, but there's still a 'but.' At the end of the day, that position is defined by not only just winning, but winning championships, too. That's real, and that's part of playing quarterback at Ohio State."

Statistically, there is probably nobody who has ever filled that role any better than Miller. Assuming he stays healthy after recovering from a shoulder surgery that held him out of spring practice and limited his reps so far in training camp, Miller is on pace to break all the major career records in school history for quarterbacks. And along the way to setting those individual marks, Miller has already won 26 games for the Buckeyes, the program's fourth-highest total among all starters.

It's a current two-game losing streak, though, that has helped put Miller in a sort of historical limbo heading into his final campaign. The Buckeyes were ineligible for the postseason during the perfect season he guided as a sophomore, leaving him unable then to fill the championship void that has dominated the offseason conversation about his career. But Ohio State was one game away from playing for the national title last season when everything slipped away during an uneven performance from Miller against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. And that was followed up with another loss to Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl despite his gritty effort to play through the injury that led to his surgery while also trying to overcome Ohio State's anemic pass defense that put even more pressure on him to perform in both defeats.

Regardless of the true culprit in those losses, Miller has done everything he can since deciding to come back for one more season to script a different ending. Herman loaded up on videos of Jon Gruden's QB camp, watching 10 or 12 of them with Miller to see how those future professionals handled themselves and noting the preparation they showed when asked to break down the game. The Buckeyes even filmed Miller going through those paces with Herman standing in for Gruden, and they also had a former NFL general manager come to campus to meet with Miller.

When he couldn't throw the football during practice in March and April, the Buckeyes outfitted him with a special camera and microphone on his hat so they could monitor his mental reps and provide feedback on his reads and decision-making even when his physical work was limited. And like everything else, that was all designed with a goal that didn't elude the Buckeyes by much a year ago and could be within their reach again this fall.

"He knows, but we haven't had to have a conversation about that," Meyer said. "I just want him healthy, and he's a very intelligent guy, and he gets it.

"That one thing that's missing is a championship. He went 12-0, but he needs a championship. I think every great player is measured by championships."

By virtually any other measure, Miller has already stamped himself as one of the most prolific individuals the Big Ten has ever seen.

And, obviously, if he can add one big team trophy to the collection, Miller's dresser might collapse under the weight of all the new personal honors he figures to add in the process.

"I don't even know how much hardware he's won individually," Herman said. "All I know is that I've read a couple times that he's the most decorated player in the history of the Big Ten.

"What that means, I have no earthly idea. But at the end of the day, maybe after we're done playing this year, we'll count them all up together or something."

If all goes according to the detailed plan, by then the Buckeyes might actually be able to start their reflecting in the team section of Miller's resume.