ADA, Minn. — Ada-Borup junior Mason Miller has verbally committed to North Dakota State for football. Miller said the final choice for him was between NDSU and South Dakota State.
"NDSU and SDSU separated themselves because it's a small-time feel with a big-time campus," Miller said. "NDSU separated itself just because they're better, they're closer to home and I can work on the farm. If I went to SDSU, I couldn't do that as easily."
Miller had looks from Power Five schools, but said the interest kind of cooled from those schools and didn't really compare to the pursuit of NDSU and SDSU. As of early May, fresh off of a trip to Iowa, Miller was most intrigued by Iowa, Minnesota and NDSU. Wisconsin just visited Ada a couple weeks ago.
In all, coaches from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa State, NDSU, the University of North Dakota, and Northern Iowa all visited Ada this winter to see Miller. Columbia and Yale also contacted him.
The recruiting process hasn't been something that fazed Miller.
"It's been awesome," Miller said. "Not many people from Ada can say they ever had this happen. No one has gone through it, so I can't turn to anybody and ask what I should be doing. Everybody had their two cents, but ultimately it comes down to what I want to do and what I think would be best for me in the long run."
Miller is a little under 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds. He's been on the radar for coaches since he was a 6-5, 205-pound freshman tight end and linebacker for the Cougars. Miller moved to left tackle and defensive end when Ada-Borup moved from Class 9-man to 11-man football his sophomore season and the Cougars went 12-1 and made it to the Minnesota Class 1A semifinals.
Miller played defensive end and tight end as a junior. He had 31 tackles, six for loss, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble on defense in 10 games as a junior. He also had nine catches for 149 yards.
He said NDSU sees him as an offensive tackle.
"With Mason you are getting a very good football player with an unlimited ceiling," Ada-Borup football coach Paul Tinjum said. "I think eventually Mason will be a better college player than he is a high school player. With his frame, reach, athletic ability, toughness and intelligence, he will be a force once his body fills out and he focuses just on football. He has the intangibles that every college program is looking for in a left tackle. Off the football field, you are getting an excellent student and the type of person that you want representing your program."
Miller wants to study agronomy, which is the science of soil management and crop production. That played a big part in his decision, as he's been helping neighbors farm since he was 10 years old. He's worked full-time on farms the past three summers.
That wasn't the only thing that drew him to NDSU.
"The national championships are a big draw," Miller said.
Miller grew up with basketball, as his parents both played basketball in high school. They raised him on old videos of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Miller took more to Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon. He loved Barkley's mean streak and Olajuwon's footwork. He averaged 12.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks in the regular season and 19.7 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks a game in the state tournament for Ada-Borup's boys basketball team.
He was first noticed by an NDSU football coach for his footwork as a sophomore at an Ada-Borup basketball game. For the next year-and-a-half, he grew and the interest from other schools spread.
"I never imagined this," Miller said. "The only time I thought I'd be playing collegiate football is the last year-and-a-half."
Miller went fishing at Upper Red Lake last weekend with some friends. It was there where he made his decision to become an NDSU football player.
"It was the perfect place to think because you're by yourself," Miller said.