UVALDE, Texas – It was a season of wins, losses, emotions and ultimately uniting a community.
The Uvalde Coyotes football team played last season with a city still reeling after the tragedy at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Now their head coach, Wade Miller, has been nominated for the NFL’s High School Coach of the Year Award for his work on and off the field.
“I was shocked. To me, this is just what I’m supposed to do. But after you sit back and look at it, it makes me proud. And it’s not just me. It reflects the program doing things the right way all the time,” said Miller.
Miller has been a Texas high school coach for nearly 30 years, but nothing could have prepared him for last season, bringing together a group of young men affected by the shooting that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
“For these guys to accomplish the goals that we had set last off-season and then to do it the right way through a tough situation, I’m proud of them. I’m super proud of my coaches,” said Miller.
The Coyotes dedicated their season to the victims and their families, taking the field not only for themselves but for the community.
“For them to go out there and play with such effort and really sometimes even above their abilities was special. It makes you proud to coach them, and it makes you realize that they’re going to be good human beings when they get out of here,” said Miller.
Miller led the Coyotes to a 5-5 regular season record and a playoff appearance in a tough district. The Coyotes were 2-8 the season before. Miller’s first with the program.
Wins and losses aside, Miller’s leadership helped get the team through an emotional season.
“He’s always there for us, and ever since that tragedy, he’s showed us nothing but love and support,” said Justyn Rendon, a Uvalde High senior leader.
“I think coach Miller was the right guy. I think it was a blessing for him to come here. I don’t think anybody else would have handled the pressure like he did,” said Chris Rodriguez, a Uvalde High senior leader.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Miller and the Coyotes bonded with Houston Texans players and members of the organization. The Texans nominated Miller for the award, which represents the best in coaching at the high school level.
The NFL will honor the winners from each conference at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas and then during the Super Bowl in Arizona.
The NFL Foundation and Nike have also teamed up to provide the two winners with a $15,000 award for their high school football programs and a $10,000 cash award. The other 30 club nominees will all receive a $1,000 cash award.
“He’s really changed his program around, and he’s just been there for us from the beginning, from this tragedy to the end till now,” said Rendon.
“We trusted that he was going to be there if we ever needed him,” said Rodriguez.
Miller is overwhelmed with the response he’s received from colleagues and other coaches who learned of the nomination, saying it’s been a “humbling” experience. But he credits his players, coaching staff and the community for coming together to help heal under the Friday night lights.
“That’s really what all this is about, just the bond it has created with not just me and coach Miller, but with the team and everybody all around,” said Rendon.
“The most rewarding part of all this is for these guys to see them enjoy their season and to see them uplift their community,” said Miller.