POPLARVILLE — East Mississippi Community College quarterback Vijay Miller is taking staying busy to an extreme.
Miller spent the summer pitching in the minor leagues for the San Diego Padres organization. On Thursday night, the former Itawamba Agricultural High School standout threw two touchdown passes to help No. 1 EMCC rally past Pearl River C.C. 59-10 at Dobie Holden Stadium.
“In sports, you are taught to stay in the moment and to focus on the game at hand,” Miller said. “That advice has been very important to me. I am playing ball and having a good time with my brothers. This can be a championship team.”
Miller played football and baseball at EMCC during the 2016-17 school year. After one baseball season, Major League Baseball’s Padres selected him in the 14th round of the annual first-year player draft. Miller didn’t play football last season. However, the Padres were receptive to him resuming his football career during the baseball offseason this fall.
“All I can do is put the future in God’s hands,” Miller said. “The Padres have been great, blessing me, letting me do the things I love. I am not sure what the future holds in both sports. I do know I am enjoying my life. Special thanks to the (EMCC) coaches who also worked with me to grant me this opportunity.”
Michigan State transfer Messiah deWeaver joined the EMCC program in January. deWeaver drew his second start Thursday night. On the other hand, Miller returned to the Scooba campus roughly 24 hours before the team’s season opener against Hinds Community College last Thursday.
Miller played in the second half of the 50-0 victory against Hinds C.C. Against PRCC, Miller came in after three series and sparked the Lions (2-0).
“Vijay gave us a lift,” EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. “Vijay can beat you with his arm and his legs. It seems like a sudden transformation, but he had already been in the program. That meant he could step in right away and make contributions.
“Vijay stepped in and threw the ball downfield with authority. That’s not to say Messiah can’t do that. They both can do that. They complement each other well. We pumped the accelerator with Vijay there in the second quarter. It kicked in and worked well.”
Miller was 18-for-30 for 234 yards and two touchdowns to Dontario Drummond. Miller entered with the rare deficit, as PRCC carried an 8-7 lead into the second quarter.
With Miller at the helm, EMCC drove 67 yards on 15 plays. Miller scored on a 2-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal.
The lead then grew to 21-8 at halftime when Miller hit Drummond for a 42-yard touchdown on the final play of the half.
“Vijay really gave us a spark,” Drummond said. “We have good chemistry together. Once the offense starts clicking, we are hard to stop.”
EMCC scored on five of six second-half possessions. Former Starkville High standout JaQuez Akins represented the defense with a 30-yard interception return for touchdown.
PRCC had 81 of its 187 yards on the first drive.
“We don’t get down very often,” Akins said. “I think everybody was trying to get used to the field. It was a challenge out there tonight. You really couldn’t keep your footing. It was hard to cut. After that first possession, we had to send a statement. After that, it was more like what we like.”
Miller delivered the type of performance Stephens likes. The Lions have thrived by blending a drop-back passing quarterback and a running quarterback in most of their championship seasons.
“You have to be dedicated to do what Vijay is doing,” Stephens said. “He loves the game. He wants to be out there with his teammates. We have two who can the play the position at a very high level.”
Miller still plans to pitch professionally next spring. He hopes a strong showing at EMCC can lead to a senior college scholarship offer and a chance to continue to play the other sport he loves.
Whether it is striking out a batter to win a game or throwing a touchdown pass, Miller wants to be in the moment.
“Both are huge adrenaline rushes,” Miller said. “It’s hard to say which is the bigger thrill. Just being out there. Whether you are the pitcher or the quarterback, everybody on your team is counting on you. That will make you go to a level you didn’t know you had.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.