MEET THE MAVS

MEET THE MAVS

This Kidwell-sponsored content series highlights the unique stories of UNO student-athletes that have built a special connection to our city and community.

MEET THE MAVS

This Kidwell-sponsored content series highlights the unique stories of UNO student-athletes that have built a special connection to our city and community.

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

If you play hockey, chances are you traveled plenty of miles throughout your journey.

I’ve certainly traveled a fair share myself.

As I chase my dream of playing professional hockey one day, I’ve experienced plenty of communities, arenas, and cities across the country.

But honestly, nothing really compares to Omaha.

Our passionate fans surround the rink at Baxter Arena at every home game. No doubt, we have one of the best attendances in the entire country.

But it’s the love and support they show us when we’re not competing on the ice that means even more.

I got involved this past summer at a private lessons company here in Omaha called TIP (Train, Improve, Perform).

What started out as a summer job to earn a few extra bucks became something much more gratifying.

I work with the Omaha Junior Mavericks in the 12 and 13-year age group, and they’ve become like a second family to me.

Getting involved in the Omaha hockey community has been incredibly rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy giving back to these kids and watching them grow and prosper in a sport we all love.

This community is special, and it means a great deal to me to be a part of it. To be the recipient of such overwhelming support is not something I take for granted.

Each time I put on that jersey and circle the ice during warm-ups, I do everything I can to make this city and community proud.

My family support

Like most kids, I grew up playing a variety of sports, but I started to focus on hockey around my freshman year of high school.

I’m from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the highest level of junior hockey there is AA. The next closest AAA team, which is the highest tier, is in Detroit, Michigan.

My family knew my dreams and aspirations were to attend a Division I school and turn pro thereafter.

In order to reach those goals, I had to prepare myself by playing against the highest level of competition that I possibly could.

So, we had a decision to make as a family.

Do I move away from my family and friends to Detroit? Or, do I stay here and potentially miss out on taking my game to the highest level.

Well, I got the best of both worlds.

I was able to accomplish this because my dad graciously offered to drive me to and from practice in Detroit every Monday and Wednesday. And for games on the weekends.

That’s a two-hour drive. One way.

When I hear people say they never would have accomplished their dreams without their family, I know exactly what they’re talking about.

It ain’t any different for me.

Blessing in disguise

As I moved up the ranks in junior hockey, I spent some time in the USHL during a portion of my high school career.

It was more than a little intimidating at times, but I learned so much playing for Sioux City and Lincoln. I owe a substantial amount of credit to both teams for the knowledge and experience I was able to acquire in that league.

When I wasn’t playing hockey, as seldom as that was, I had to sit down and decide which college I wanted to attend.

Initially, I committed to Michigan State.

I have family in the Lansing area, and the Miller household is an avid supporter of the Spartans.

So, when I committed to play hockey for them during my sophomore year of high school, it was a tremendous privilege.

But, things took a different turn.

About a year later, Michigan State got a new coach. To put it mildly, my scholarship was in serious doubt.

I was crushed, obviously.

This also meant I had to start the recruiting process all over again to figure out where I was going to play.

Fortunately, not all setbacks are bad.

Because I had to reevaluate my options, I had the chance to take an official visit with UNO. And to put it mildly, I was instantly blown away.

It just felt like home right away, you know?

I loved the coaching staff, rink, Aksarben Village, and everything about the city of Omaha.

I thought not playing for Michigan State was one of the biggest disappointments of my life. It turned out to be the best thing to ever happen to me when I shortly after signed with UNO.

Today, truthfully, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

This also meant I had to start the recruiting process all over again to figure out where I was going to play. Fortunately, not all setbacks are bad. Because I had to reevaluate my options, I had the chance to take an official visit with UNO. And to put it mildly, I was instantly blown away. It just felt like home right away, you know?

Community power player

I’m in my third year at UNO now.

I’ve had an abundance of special moments both on and off the ice in Omaha, and I look forward to many more before I graduate.

What I value most about UNO is their mindset that if you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded with the goals you set out to achieve.

This goes for the classroom and on the ice.

As I’ve been able to make an impact on this team the last few seasons and have the honor to be an assistant captain, I want to keep embracing that mindset and be someone the community can look up to.

Like I said, the Omaha community means everything to me.

Working with the kids at TIP and seeing them improve and show their support at my games – they probably don’t realize this, but it means more to me than it does to them.

I’ve also been working closely with one of the co-founders at TIP, Matt Smith, for two brand-new organizations in Signed Sports and the Omaha Bull Market. They help support Omaha athletes through NIL, and it’s been amazing to be a part of and build from the ground up.

It just goes to show how the Omaha community goes about showing their support for athletes. They see us as individuals first and don’t identify us by wins, losses, or stats.

I can’t emphasize enough how important that is to student-athletes.

With that kind of support, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish together.

It’s an advantage in every sense of the word.

And it’s a community I’ll be forever grateful to be a part of.