Randy McMichael was just a nineteen-year-old kid who was chasing a football dream at the collegiate level. However, his first year at the University of Georgia was anything but that. McMichael was ready to flunk out of school as he skipped another class to sit in his dorm room with a torn ACL and ‘no father figure.’ Then Mr. Miles knocked on the door.
“Get up,” the towering, retired defensive linemen said.
Robert Miles walked McMichael to a small local elementary school, Barrow Elementary, before running across the street to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, UGA’s football facility, to get McMichael’s No. 86 jersey.
“You are going to be a mentor to these kids,” Miles said as he handed over the “McMichael” embroidered uniform.
“And he didn’t get to put on his uniform but one time that whole year… and that was the only time… and he remembered that,” Miles says.
McMichael would soon be the model for an entire drawing class at Barrow Elementary, and before he knew it, he became a mentor and role model for those kids, too.
“Mr Miles was there for me to lift my spirits,” says McMichael. “He has always been there for me. I owe a lot of my success to him in the league.” McMichael went on to play for the National Football League for eleven seasons.
While Miles had a huge impact on McMichael, Mr. Miles continues to find a way to establish a relationship with every student-athlete on campus. Miles serves as the Life Skills director for the UGA Athletic Association and has been preparing student-athletes for life beyond their sport for thirty-four years now (the first eleven years as an academic counselor).
“I remember every student-athlete that’s come through the University of Georgia since I’ve been working here,” says Miles.
Miles was a starting defensive end on the 1980 National Championship team. In his time as a Bulldog, he earned a scholarship as a walk-on player from Alabama (deemed one of the best walk-ons in UGA history) and met his now late wife, Felicia Miles. Amidst fathering three sons to adulthood and experiencing life as a student-athlete, Miles knows too well the ups and downs an athlete goes through in one’s college career.
“If you ask former football players who they remember most from their time here, they would say the athletic trainers and Robert Miles,” says UGA Sr. Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton.
This past Tuesday, the Georgia Way equipped student-athletes to volunteer at the UGA Special Olympics Prom. As the decorated Clarke Central cafeteria was filled with dancing college athletes and ESP olympians, Mr. Miles could be found soaking it in from afar.
“If you just focus on the athlete’s school and sport, we’d be remiss,” says Miles. “It’s not all about guiding and directing, its experiencing at the same time … The kids want to know you care.”
While the kids enjoy their special night, Mr. Miles does not leave one hand unshaken. He dabs up one athlete after asking another about their exam, yet still does not forget to share a laugh with some of the special olympians’ parents.
“Robert Miles is one of those beloved people; he is all about giving to others,” says Felton.
The Georgia Way helps facilitate the event by purchasing long stem roses for the student-athletes to distribute to the prom attendees. As the athletes lined up to escort the olympians down the ‘red carpet,’ Miles encouraged his athletes with an infectious and proud smile. Not once did Miles neglect thanking an athlete for their time.
“Mr. Miles gives opportunities to mentor, volunteer and be more than your sport,” says former Bulldog football player and current UGA student Marshall Long. “Everyone loves him. He would be the first person I’d call if my car broke down.”
Long soon after volunteered, along with several other athletes, for the pie-in-the-face event to help raise money for the Special Olympics at UGA. While the Olympians and athletes all gathered for the fun, Mr Miles could be found watching at a distance with pride.
“He is a great man and I think you will find it hard to find anyone who says something negative about Mr. Miles,” says McMichael.