Coaldale's own Dr. Rich Miller has made valuable and lasting contributions to the Pennsylvania sports world as an athlete and to our society as a doctor, Navy officer, and citizen. His lifelong accomplishments are truly extraordinary and he exemplifies the best of the best that the town of Coaldale has produced over the years.
Rich is a 1963 graduate of the former Coaldale High School, a 1964 graduate of Bullis Prep School, a 1968 graduate of Lehigh University, and a 1972 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
A tremendously intelligent and talented four-sport athlete, Rich was a natural and influential leader on every sports team on which he participated from Little League through high school, prep school, and college. He was Co-Captain of the 1962 undefeated (11-0) Coaldale Tigers football team and Co-Captain of the 1967 Lehigh University Engineers (now Mountain Hawks) football team.
His sports leadership ability carried over into his professional life as he attained the rank of Captain in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Naval Reserve, with 30 years of service to his country. Lending further testimony to his incredible ability to lead people effectively, he served during his Navy career as the Commanding Officer of the Marines Medical Support Unit at the Lehigh Valley Naval Reserve Center. He also served as the Chief of Obstetrics/Gynecology at Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital in Lehighton.
During his four-year football career at Lehigh University, Rich started every game as either a Tight End or Split End, playing one year on the Freshman team and three years on the varsity squad. He established three Lehigh pass-catching records: 1) most passes caught in one game (13 against Rutgers University); 2) most passes caught in one year (58 in 1966); and, 3) most passes caught in a career (132 in three seasons). The 58 passes he caught in 1966 ranked 1st in the East and 7th nation-wide. Following his senior season, 1967, he was named as a first team Split End on the All-Middle Atlantic Conference team, was chosen as a member of the prestigious NCAA All-American Academic Team, and was selected to represent Lehigh University as the Lehigh Valley Scholar-Athlete at the 1968 National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.
Upon graduation from Lehigh in 1968, Rich received an offer to play professional football with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and offers to attend the football camps of both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals. His commitment to the U.S. Navy precluded him from accepting any of these offers.
As a Tight End and Cornerback/Defensive End for four years at Coaldale High School, Rich was known for his toughness and for his innate ability to run perfectly-precise pass patterns and to catch any ball thrown close to him. In his junior year, for example, he caught the game-winning extra point pass from Quarterback Bill Edwards in a 13-12 win over McAdoo and two 40-yard touchdown passes in a 31-0 victory over Nesquehoning. As a senior co-captain on the 11-0 1962 team, which featured All-State running back Ed Kassak, Rich led the Panther Valley and Schuylkill County areas with the most touchdown receptions. He was also chosen to play in the 1962 Schuylkill County Dream Game. When Coaldale head coach Geno Poli once remarked that the members of his 1962 squad “had superior intelligence and work ethics,” he placed Rich at the top of his list in those categories.
Rich’s exploits as a baseball pitcher extended over a 10-year period from the Coaldale Little League and Church League through high school and Bullis Prep School in Silver Spring, MD. Possessing a blazing fastball and a wicked curveball, he dominated batters in Little League. Records from that era show that Rich struck out, on average, two batters per inning (92 strike-outs in 47 innings). He continued to dominate through Coaldale’s Church League program, and, as a Freshman on the last Coaldale High baseball team in 1960, he was a member of the starting rotation which was predominantly made up of upperclassmen. At Bullis Prep School, Rich was one of four starting pitchers along with Lansford sports star Donnie Fredericks.
At Coaldale High, Rich also played Basketball for four years and participated in Track and Field for three 3 seasons. His all-around athletic ability was demonstrated in the fact that he excelled in both the running and field events, having earned several points at track meets over the years in the javelin toss as well as in the half-mile and mile races.
After his own sports career ended, Rich lent his leadership ability to youth sports in the Panther Valley area. He worked as a coach in the Nesquehoning Little League and as a coach for The Panther Valley Midgets in the Tri-County Football League. In addition, he volunteered his time and services over several years to perform as the team doctor for the Marian High School Colts football team.
In 1981, he was awarded a “Congressman’s Medal of Honor” by U.S. Representative James Nelligan for performing emergency services under trying conditions.
Coaldale folks should be proud that Dr. Rich Miller is one of ours.
Submitted by Mike Panchura