TAMPA — Clarke Miller has lived in eight cities during his 17 years, but he says that Tampa is “my favorite.”
“Tampa is a big city on the water with a small-town feel,” Miller said. “It has everything you’d ever want or need.”
And that includes Plant High, home to a football program that has won four state titles since 2006 under the guidance of head coach Robert Weiner.
Miller — who moved often as the son of a military father, Dan, who is presently deployed in Afghanistan — was presented in Arizona with a choice of cities to move to before his freshman year: San Antonio or Tampa.
“I looked at this high school called Plant in Tampa and read stories about (Weiner) and how they had won four state titles, and I said, ‘That sounds good,’ ” Miller said. “Man, I made a great choice.’”
Weiner, of course, couldn’t be happier with Miller’s choice, because Miller is a coach’s dream.
“Clarke is a quiet leader who has the respect of everybody around him,” Weiner said. “He’s a very generous and giving teammate.”
Miller, who plays everything from tight end to wideout to kicker, is also very dependable, particularly at crucial moments.
“I have no doubt that Clarke Miller will make a great catch in a big game or perhaps convert that winning field goal,” Weiner said. “I have total confidence in Clarke.”
Miller said he’s fine with being called on in the clutch.
“I’m pretty good about keeping a cool head,” Miller said. “I don’t know why, but I feel it’s my role to be that guy who makes the catch on a third-and-long. I feel like that’s my job.”
The long list of successful Plant quarterbacks appears on the verge of getting a little longer.
Next up? Rex Culpepper.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Culpepper, son of former NFL lineman Brad Culpepper, certainly looks the part. He also has looked sharp in preseason drills. The only question, and it is a rather large one, is how he will perform in regular-season action.
The good news is he will have plenty of talent around him, including senior running back Patrick Brooks (927 yards, seven touchdowns in 2013), receiver Jordan Reed (49 catches, 613 yards in 2013), and offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen, who committed to Clemson.
Up front, the Panthers look stout with defensive tackle Kyle Henderson (Georgia Tech commit) and defensive end Raeder Frantzen (Florida Atlantic commit).
The linebacking crew is relatively inexperienced but talented and aggressive with juniors Tykese Keaton-Baldwin, Michael Murphy and Brendan Butler.
Behind the linebackers is a strong group, led by cornerback Derrick Baity and safety Johayward “Scoop” Bradshaw.
Every year, the expectation at Plant is to win a state title.
Even last year, after reaching the state semifinals before losing, felt like a bit of a disappointment.
“It’s the kind of culture that we’ve cultivated,” coach Robert Weiner said. “We make no apologies for it, but it is a fact that our goal every year is to win a state championship.”
This year that possibility is very real, though it will be far from easy coming from a stacked Class 8A that includes the likes of Bradenton Manatee, Apopka, Orlando Dr. Phillips and so on.
• About the Panthers
Stadium: Dad’s Stadium, 2415 S. Himes Ave., Tampa
Class-District: 8A-6 (with Alonso, Bloomingdale, Newsome, Riverview and Wharton)
Coach: Robert Weiner (113-21-1, 11th season)
Last season: 11-2-1
Aug. 29: at Lowndes (Ga.)
Sept. 5: Robinson
Sept. 12: Gaither
Sept. 19: at Bloomingdale
Sept. 26: Tampa Bay Tech
Oct. 2: Riverview
Oct. 10: at Sickles
Oct. 17: at Newsome
Oct. 24: Wharton
Oct. 31: Alonso