By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
As a child, Roy Miller remembers feeling trapped by his surroundings.
Growing up in Killeen, he only saw two future avenues - joining the military or getting in trouble.
Yet, through his own resolve and a little inspiration from former Ellison standout Tommie Harris, Miller was introduced to a third road - and the NFL.
"You need to be able to dream, you have to as a kid want to be a lot greater than yourself," said Miller, a former Shoemaker and University of Texas defensive tackle who is entering his third season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The ability to become better is what Miller and five of his local NFL brethren are hoping to convey to Killeen-area youth at the 2nd annual Central Texas Pro Combine Kickoff for Kids Weekend, going on Friday and Saturday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
"I remember in high school when I found out about Tommie and his success at (the University of Oklahoma), that just sparked a belief in me that, 'Hey, another guy from Killeen made it, I can do it, too,'" Miller said. "So this type of event is very important to this city because we actually have guys from the area that young people can relate with."
Joining Miller at the Kickoff for Kids Weekend will be Harris (formerly of the Chicago Bears), ex-Killeen and Oklahoma receiver Juaquin Iglesias (Minnesota Vikings), former Harker Heights and Baylor standout Dominique Zeigler (San Francisco 49ers), along with a pair of former Longhorns Quan Cosby (Cincinnati Bengals) and Frank Okam (Tampa Bay Bucs).
"Through this camp, through this weekend, we hope that they can put another person up on their wall as somebody they can look up to," Miller said. "It's very important that these kids aspire to be something. Especially with guys like Tommie, Juaquin, Dominique - all these guys that are going to be there - those are the types of guys they should aspire to be like."
In the decade before he graduated from Shoemaker in 2005, Miller saw few legitimate role models outside of his father - retired Sgt. 1st Class Roy Miller Sr. - and recently-retired Grey Wolves head football coach Ken Gray. Which is why giving back to their community through philanthropic events such as the Kickoff for Kids weekend is so important to each players.
"It's not about the money, or the cars and all that you get, it's about being a role model for a kid," Iglesias said. "And when you can do something to help a kid out, especially from your community, that's what it's about. You're trying to pave the way for the next generation."
So far, after hosting just 42 participants in the inaugural camp last year, more than 100 children have already registered for the event. There is room to accommodate about a 100 more still available.
"The main thing is we want to teach them to become young men, ... showing integrity and character - just the little things, (saying) yes ma'am, no ma'am - and then teaching them about school, what school has to do with it," Zeigler said. "After that, that's when we talk about football, because if you don't have those first two things, football won't even be an option because you'll fall off the path."
The point of the weekend is to also raise proceeds for Hands for America, benefitting the Fort Hood November 5th, 2009 Memorial, local youth organizations, and surrounding high school football programs.
Among the events planned is a professional combine experience where area youth will learn the basic fundamentals a collegiate player experiences when making the transition to the NFL. The NFL players will also provide athletic training and exercise advice along with overseeing various drill stations showcasing a real-life practice experience.
The Combine Experience is for children ages 7-17, with the two-day event beginning Friday at 5:30 p.m. and continuing Saturday at 8 a.m. Registration for both days is $50 per participant and will remain open until the beginning of the event.
The two-day Kickoff for Kids weekend will conclude with a series of events at the Killeen Civic & Conference Center including a "Showtime at the Apollo"-esque talent show and a Red Carpet Casino Night on Saturday evening.
All six NFL players are expected to be at the Woody Hall Unit Boys and Girls Club on Thursday.
For more information, visit the website www.hometownpros.org.
Combine party set for Saturday night
The 2nd annual Centex Pro Combine Experience goes out with a bang, Las Vegas style, during a "Red Carpet Party" from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
Tickets to the formal, 21-and-up event cost $10, including general chips for games including slots, blackjack, roulette, craps and Texas hold´em. VIP tickets cost $15. Dominos and spades are also available for an additional fee.
Pro athletes, including Roy Miller, will be in attendance. Musicians Toni Ringgold and the Equinox Band, David Bell, Michael Carubelli and Stormy Lee will perform.
For more information or to buy tickets online, go to www.redcarpetcasino.eventbrite.com. Tickets are also for sale at Obessions by Carolyn and Renaissance Records in Killeen. For more information about the Centex Pro Combine, go to www.hometownpros.org.