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Miller honored with ‘Character Counts’ award

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Fort Dodge head coach Matt Miller addresses his team following Friday's win over Marshalltown. For more photos, please visit CU.messengernews.net

Matt Miller recently retired with the most victories in Fort Dodge Senior High football history.

Winning was always a secondary message for the Dodger head coach, though. Success mattered, of course, but Miller always emphasized the importance of taking valuable life lessons away from the game itself.

Appropriately, his final honor as a coach will be for his work away from the field. Miller was recently named the 2020 Iowa High School Athletic Association “Character Counts” coach of the year for his leadership in his sport and the Fort Dodge community.

Miller will be recognized on Thursday, March 12, at halftime of a Class 4A boys state basketball semifinal in Des Moines. The game starts at 6:30 p.m.

“I was very surprised by (the news),” said Miller, a physical education teacher at FDSH. “I can’t thank (athletic and activities director) Kevin (Astor) enough for thinking to nominate me. He got the ball rolling.

“Kevin and (long-time Dodger assistant) Nik (Moser) came down to my office and told me about it. It’s a tremendous honor. I think about all the people who have influenced me as both a coach and as a person … like most awards, this isn’t about me. It’s about the mentors I’ve had and the outstanding support I’ve received from Fort Dodge through the years, both as a teacher and as a coach.”

The “Character Counts” coach of the year award is presented as a partnership between the IHSAA, the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, Character Counts and the Iowa Games. Along with the honor, Fort Dodge Senior High will receive a $1,000 grant funded by the Iowa Institute for Character Development and the Iowa Games.

Miller is a graduate of Aurelia High School in 1982 and Morningside College in 1987. He’s been a teacher and coach in the FDCSD since the fall of ’87, and served as an assistant to both Mike Woodley and Sam Moser before taking over as head coach in 2004.

“I was influenced by three Hall of Fame coaches growing up: Myron Radke, Duane Buttenob, and my uncle, Gaylen Miller,” Miller said. “Then I come here and get to work for two more Hall of Famers in Mike and Sam. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be around successful leaders who were even better people. They taught me a lot about the game itself, but even more about how to prioritize things and handle my business away from the field.

“I’ve really tried to take my role seriously when it comes to helping young kids become outstanding citizens. Because I always had people there for me growing up, whether it was my parents and family or teachers and coaches, I wanted to do my part to be the same kind of mentor to my students, my players and my assistants through the years.”

Miller’s teams won six or more games seven different times during his 16-year tenure, and FDSH went 58-49 overall during his final 11 seasons at the helm. He passed Dodger legend Forrest Marquis on the program’s all-time list for career coaching victories this past fall.

Miller and his wife, Staci, live in Fort Dodge. Their son, Drake, is a freshman quarterback on the Grand View University football team, and their daughter, Tehya, is a student at the University of Northern Iowa.

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