Hylton senior defensive lineman Reggie Miles likes to ponder history, particularly from the Civil War through World War II. Why were certain choices made? What were the ramifications? How did an action or inaction alter the course of events?
“It’s just so interesting to see how people back then responded to situations and what went right and what went wrong, and you can kind of analyze what if they’d done this,” said Miles, who last year posted the highest Standards of Learning history score of any student in assistant coach Jason Edwards’s three U.S. history classes. “It’s a big guessing game sometimes, and other times it’s a teaching point.”
Miles, the Bulldogs’ sacks leader with 81 / 2 heading into their Virginia AAA Division 6 state semifinal against Ocean Lakes on Saturday in Virginia Beach, made one such pivotal decision himself two years ago.
Miles strongly considered giving up football after a “dismal” sophomore season at Osbourn Park. He did not think he could play in college, so he planned to finish his last two years of high school and enlist in the Marines, whose uniform had enthralled him since he was a kid. Miles has family members in almost every branch of the service.
But his mother, Shelley Moore, talked him out of quitting football. Because of a family move, he would be enrolling at Osbourn for his junior year, so she suggested he give the sport one more shot.
“My mom, I can’t say no to her,” Miles said. “She’s never led me wrong.”
His interest in the sport rekindled, Miles worked his way into becoming a second-team all-Cedar Run District pick at Osbourn. But after another family move last winter, he enrolled at Hylton, where he wondered if he would be good enough to start for a program coming off consecutive unbeaten regular seasons.
Coaches at the school helped convince the 6-foot-6, 245-pound lineman that he not only could join the service but that he had the grades and the ability to play in college, including at one of the service academies. Last summer, before he had ever played a down for Hylton, Miles committed to Navy, choosing the Midshipmen over Northwestern, Purdue and other offers.
So instead of graduating from high school and enlisting in the Marines, he would be playing football at the U.S. Naval Academy, huge news in his military family and a development that Miles considers “dumbfounding.”
“My first response was, ‘Wow,’ ” Moore said. “This kid loves football, loves the military, wants to go to college. Wow, look at this. Look at how God has lined this up for this kid. All his passions, all his loves, all in one package. It couldn’t be any better than that.”
The mom is more effusive than the son, who exudes a sort of wary approachability, like he’s answered his front door to find an aluminum siding salesman. Moore sees the look all the time: the wheels-turning contemplation that more often than not does not tempt him to dive into a conversation. Edwards compares Miles to the silent “Preacher” character in the “Friday Night Lights” movie.
Hylton junior backup quarterback Ryan Caudle, who has a football locker next to Miles, did not know that the lineman had committed to Navy until he saw a letter from Ohio University in Miles’s locker and they struck up a conversation about recruiting.
Several hours before the Northwest Region championship last Friday, Caudle rolled into school to find several teammates horsing around in the gym, playing basketball with a volleyball. Miles was stretched out on a mat in the auxiliary gym reading C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” and listening to Dashboard Confessional.
The lineman is so reserved that he once stunned teammates before a practice by yelling at players who were fooling around when they should have been stretching.
All of the Bulldogs, even the ones he was not reprimanding, traded glances.
“Everybody was like, ‘He talks?’ ” Caudle said with a laugh. “He [usually] just kind of hides. The kid could invent a brand new machine and tell nobody about it.
“He’s a leader by example, but he’s also a kid who does what he’s told. He just kind of reminds you of a soldier.”