By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Two Concord University football players who have faced off against each other in practice for years will share a final bond today, as senior starters for the Mountain Lions against West Virginia Wesleyan.
Josh Miller is the nose tackle who occupies blockers so other defenders can make dozens of tackles. Cody Smith is an offensive lineman whose job as center this year is to take on interior linemen like Miller.
Miller said, “Me and Cody, we’ve had each other in fights. But through four years, I’d say he’s probably my best friend. That’s kind of weird, because we go up against each other and fight, every day, but he’s probably my best friend.”
Smith said, “You have to leave everything on the field. I mean, me and Miller fight every day on the field, but once we leave the field, it’s like nothing ever happened.”
When Smith reported in as a freshman, he thought he’d be Concord’s premier middle linebacker. It didn’t work out that way. He gained pounds and strength through weightlifting, and then-coach Mike Kellar asked him at the end of the year to play defensive line.
Smith said, “I’ve never been the type of a guy who would argue with his coach. I’ve always done what the team needs most, so I said yeah, and went to the D-line.”
After Smith’s sophomore year, offensive line coach Garin Justice was named Kellar’s successor.
Smith said, “After a year playing behind [Josh] Miller, Coach Justice came in. He was trying to get me (for the offensive line), all year.”
Smith started at offensive guard last season. With the graduation of center Brandon Link after the 2011 campaign, Smith was selected to take over that job.
“I loved linebacker, I’d played linebacker since I was a kid,” Smith said. “But playing with the O-line, I love those guys, and I love Coach Justice. He’s taught me so much about the offensive side of the football. This is where I belong. This is where I’ll forever remember playing, is O-line.”
Miller said, “I also played O-line in high school, and I came here and they put me at nose guard.
“They tried to get me to play offensive line, and (the defensive coordinator) wouldn’t let ’em.”
“I’m happy with it. I enjoy my defense and my whole team. ... We’ve been here four long years, and everybody’s stuck with us.”
Miller said that Smith “had to learn the position, but he progressed and he’s probably one of the best centers in the conference in my opinion.”
Smith said about Miller, “He’s definitely the top nose guard I’ve gone against, all year. And that’s made me so much better, going up against other people, because I know every day in practice I’m going to be practicing against the best player in the league.”
Smith said practicing against Concord’s nationally-ranked defense “helps us tremendously.”
Smith said, “As a freshman, it was culture shock, coming from Ohio. It was just different. But I still played. But now, as a senior, it feels like a second home to me. I love this place; I love the people here. Especially all my teammates, they’re like my family.”
Miller said about his college career, “There are all kinds of high points, from the (2011) conference championship to all the good times with your friends, in the dorms and stuff like that. The high point, I’d have to say, is the conference championship.”
He said that while he’s played at Concord, “I’ve grown spectacularly. With the help of Coach (Pat) Dawson, he’s a heck of a coach. He’s always learning. That’s what makes him a good coach, he never stops learning.”
Smith said about Justice, “He’s been a hell of a coach for us since day one. He came in and he took over a program (in which) coaches were leaving, players were leaving — and he showed us the right way to go. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Now the last game is at hand. Both knew it was coming.
Miller said, “It’s sad, but you’ve just got to enjoy it. If we win, I’ll celebrate my butt off. ... If we lose, I’m still going to celebrate. I’m not going to be sad about it, because we’ve done a lot here, and we’re going out on a good note.”
Smith said, “It’s bittersweet. I’m ready to go on with my life. I’m ready to graduate, I’m ready to go back home and start working. But I’ll never put the pads on again. That’s something that you can never get back, that feeling.”
Miller said, “We want to be the best at everything we do. ... I’d like to have another (championship) ring, but I’m just out there to get that win.”
— Contact Tom Bone at