When he was on the football field for Blue Springs High School, there were few opponents Darrian Miller couldn’t elude or outrun.

He was The Examiner's Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 and 2010 and a two-time Simone Award finalist and he managed to put a lot of distance between the previous Missouri big class rushing mark of 6,346 yards – set by former Fort Osage standout Dalton Krysa – when he finished his career with a remarkable 6,566 career yards and 88 touchdowns on the ground (he also caught four touchdown passes).

Off the field, it was a different matter.

At times, he was his own worst enemy.

“I had problems off the field,” said Miller, who just turned 24, “and back in high school and college I didn’t handle them that well. But that’s all in the past. That’s when I found out it’s harder to run away from stress and expectations than it was a linebacker or defensive back.

“I made mistakes – a lot of them – but I’m in such a good place now, and I am so excited about the future. I’m excited about getting back in the game. I’m going to approach it differently this time.”

The Kansas City Phantoms, the new Champions Indoor Football League team that opens play March 13 at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, announced today that they have signed Miller for the upcoming season.

“We know Darrian has had some issues in the past,” Phantoms coach Chris Coffin said. “But you know what? I don’t know what the issues were, and I don’t care. With me, Darrian has a clean slate. He came in for one of our tryouts and was great on the field and a real personable young man when we talked.”

Miller was impressed with Coffin’s approach following the workout.

“He’s a straight shooter,” said Miller, the 2010 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year. “I was impressed with him. We talked about some things and I can’t wait for practice to start in a couple of weeks.”

Coffin hopes Miller’s success at the prep level, and success in limited action at the University of Kansas and the University of Northern Iowa, transfers to the indoor game.

“He is a dynamic player with a very high ceiling, and we’re really looking forward to seeing how his abilities translate to the indoor game,” Coffin said. “I know what he did at Blue Springs High School, and I know he had some success in college. Now, we hope he has a lot of success with the Phantoms.

“When we came to town, we promised fans a lot of local talent, and now, we’re going to have the greatest high school runner in the history of the state in our backfield. He’s excited, and so are we.”

Miller attended the University of Kansas, where he made an immediate impact. He saw action in all 11 games as a true freshman, finishing second on the Turner Gill coached-team with 559 rushing yards.

He played in eight games as a sophomore, again finishing second on the team with 322 rushing yards. But Gill was gone, new coach Charlie Weis came in and they never meshed.

“I did a lot of stupid stuff in college – but that’s all behind me,” said Miller, whose bright eyes and ready smile indicate many of his past demons are gone. “I smoked, you know, I drank – I did all that stuff. But over the past few months, I’ve experienced a great spiritual growth.

“I’m back out on my family farm in Mayview, Missouri (a small community of 212 located outside of Odessa), working hard, I’m doing some personal training with athletes at the Do Work Factory in Independence – we worked with KP (University of Missouri basketball standout Kevin Puryear) and Alphonso Hodge (a highly respected area trainer) works with everyone from high school athletes to college to the pros. It’s a great environment for me.”

After Kansas, he finished his college career with two seasons at Northern Iowa. He rushed for 307 yards and a touchdown and caught 22 passes for 268 yards while also returning punts and kickoffs as a senior in 2015. As a junior in 2014, he had 357 yards rushing and three TDs and caught 10 passes for 92 yards and two scores while also returning kickoffs and punts.

Now he’s ready to tackle football again.

“I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I’m actually looking forward to playing football. I worked hard – I wanted to outwork anyone I played with or against in high school – but I didn’t enjoy the game.

“When people said, ‘There’s Darrian Miller the football player,’ I wanted to run away. I didn’t enjoy the fame or what came with it. And even in high school, a lot comes with it. I just wanted to be a guy – a good student, a friend – it was all so strange because I wanted to be the best, I really did, but I didn’t want to be a football player off the field, I just wanted to be Darrian Miller.”

Miller walked through Blue Springs High School Wednesday afternoon and glanced at the football trophy case, and smiled.

“I might have been the best rusher in the history of the state, but (my former teammate) Keeston Terry (who is now on the Wildcats coaching staff) was the man we all measured ourselves against,” Miller said. “We had some great players and great coaches. I owe so much to my coaches and my teammates – I just wish I would have enjoyed it more.”

He paused and went over to give a staff member in the principal’s office a hug and a smile, and added, “I’m going to enjoy my time with the Phantoms. I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life.”