ASHLAND, Ore. — Four years with the SOU Raiders soccer team has taught Michael Miller a lot about leadership and the amount of effort needed to make meaningful changes, even on the pitch.
"Pressure breaks pipes, or it can make diamonds," Miller, a senior at Southern Oregon University and defender for the men's soccer team. "I really apply that on the soccer field."
And it shows. In his four years with the Raiders, Miller was named the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Cascade Conference twice. He helped anchor the backline of a stout defense, earning two nominations as an All-West Region All-Star.
Now he's taking that same mentality to a cause that means even more to him than success on the field: the Black Lives Matter movement.
"I look at it the same way in life," Miller said. "If we want change and we want our policies and our laws to benefit everyone in society, then we have to go and change that ourselves."
That drive to make a meaningful change can trace its roots back in his hometown of Fresno, California. His father, Gerald, was a police officer in Fresno for more than 20 years. He gave Michael three tasks in life.
"Growing up, my father always told me be three things. I have three jobs in life: Be the best student I could be, be the best athlete I could be, and be the best person I could be," Miller said. "And so I think student and athletic wise, I've taken care of that. Now, I just want to be the best person I could be."
He's doing that by taking to the streets of Ashland with other community members as part of a nation-wide Black Lives Matter movement.
"It's not just a black issue. It's not just a white issue. It's a human rights issue," Miller said. And so being out there with my sign, with my voice and the raw emotions in the moment, you know, I think it really was a wake-up call."