SCHENECTADY — DeVaughan Miller has never been one to settle.
“Even at a young age, I was headstrong about academics,” the Schenectady High School senior said. “That always came first. My parents always encouraged me, but it was kind of an internal thing. I didn’t want to be that slacker kid.”
That drive has elevated the 17-year-old to an elite level not only in the classroom, but also on the football field and in his many musical pursuits.
The multidimensional Miller was recognized for his diligence recently by being named the Friends of Schenectady Patriots Male Scholar Athlete of the Year award winner, the school’s Scholar-Athlete award winner from the Capital District Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, and the school’s Jazz Ensemble award recipient.
“I just set a standard for myself,” Miller said. “It takes time and dedication.”
Miller will be taking his 3.24 grade-point average to Castleton University where he plans to study accounting. He’ll be playing football for the Vermont-based Spartans, too, while continuing to play music.
“After I committed I was approached by their music department. They want me to be part of their wind orchestra,” said Miller, who plays the saxophone, electric bass guitar, stand up bass guitar and the drums. “So I’ll be doing sports and academics and balancing the music, too.”
“He is going to go out there and make Schenectady proud. He really is,” Patriots varsity football coach Carm DePoalo said. “He’ll be successful. He’s a solid kid. He’s the kind of kid you want to be around. He’s the kind of kid you want your program to be about.”
Miller said he was taken aback when presented with the school’s Student-Athlete of the Year honor.
“I was like, ‘Wow.’ I couldn’t stop smiling,” Miller said. “There are a lot of good kids in the building, and for me to get picked out of all the other students, I was humbled. I’m definitely appreciative of all the people who helped me along the way.”
Miller was one of Schenectady’s football captains during his third varsity season and saw action on both offense and defense. Come awards time last fall, he was named to the Section II Class AA all-star second team for his performance as an offensive guard.
“My teammates always pushed me. My coaches pushed me,” Miller said. “I pushed myself.”
“He brings his lunch box and goes to work,” DePoalo said. “Nobody outworked him, and for that, he was somebody the kids looked up to.”
The Castleton University staff liked what they saw on film and offered Miller a spot on their team.
“I wasn’t expecting that at all. I was filling out recruiting forms when I got the call [from Castleton defensive coordinator and director of community engagement Anthony Marsella]. “They said they’d love for me to come visit, and I fell in love with it. It’s a nice campus and they take academics seriously. They said if you don’t have a certain GPA, you’re done. That’s motivation for me.”
Castleton’s roster is dotted with former Section II players that helped the Spartans go 6-4 last season, which was their first winning record since 2017.
“I just want to get that time to play. I want to make an impact like I did here,” Miller said. “If I don’t play the first year, I’ll try to solidify my spot.”
Miller has often told his message of diligence as a peer/youth mentor with the Capital City Satellites-Pathfinder Club and with Schenectady County Community College’s Liberty Partnership Program.
“Always keep working,” said Miller, who with his mom Dalene, dad Craig and three siblings resides in Schenectady. “Life throws a lot of adversity at you. You’ve got to keep pushing. It’s all mental. You’ve got to push yourself.”
Miller is always game for a challenge, as is evidenced by all the instruments he has taken up and become so proficient playing.
“I started with the guitar. That was my first instrument. And I used to play the piano. It’s gone from there,” Miller said. “My family always had music around. I was born with it. Put a cassette tape in and I was singing.”
Miller has performed with the high school’s Jazz and Symphonic bands, with the Empire State Youth Orchestra, and with the Capital City Seventh-Day Adventist Church (Albany) band.
“He does a lot of things off the field including the music,” DePoalo said. “On Tuesdays he’d always say I got to leave practice early. Fifteen minutes early. I was okay with it. You know he’s doing things that are right.”