Former Rowdies soccer coach survives alligator attack
LAKE WALES - When Al Miller pull-hooked his wedge shot toward a pond at Lake Ashton Golf Course, all he was worried about was what the errant shot would do to his score. After a quick search, he headed back to meet his golf partners. That's when the alligator attacked. The reptile grabbed him and slammed him on his back, said Miller on Tuesday, almost a week after the April 25 attack. "When I bounced up, here was this gator between my legs chomping on my knee," Miller said. "And when he made eye contact with me he really chomped on pretty hard. I heard the bone go."The gator was dragging him into the water. Miller dug his heels into the ground. "Both of my buddies had run down and grabbed me by the shoulders," Miller said. "They were holding on. It didn't look good to any of them. They all thought that they were going to lose me." Waist deep in water, the alligator suddenly let go. "I really had three blessings,'' said Miller, 75. "One is he let go of me, and I'm here to talk about it. Two is he missed my femoral artery by three inches. And three, he didn't hit the capsule of my knee, which would have ruined my leg forever." Miller, a former Tampa Bay Rowdies and U.S. National soccer team coach and member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame, on Tuesday went to Winter Haven Hospital because of severe pain and fear of an infection in his knee. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Gary Morse said the agency has received reports that people had been feeding gators in some of the ponds at Lake Ashton. Feeding alligators is illegal, Morse said. Officials trapped a 9-foot gator that is believed to be the one that attacked and bit Miller. They also trapped a 6-foot gator from the same pond on the 15th hole, Morse said. Both gators were destroyed. Miller said he isn't upset that people might be feeding the alligators. "Right now I can't be angry," Miller said. "I'm too happy to be alive." Miller coached the Rowdies for one year in 1983. He also led the Philadelphia Atoms to the NASL championship in 1973.
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