The perfect combination of physical and cerebral player, All-Metro middle linebacker Micah Kiser has been calling the defensive plays for Gilman since his sophomore season. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior leads the defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions into their season opener Sunday night against Ohio powerhouse Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati.
Kiser, who has a 3.5 grade-point average and has committed to play at Virginia, had six sacks, four interceptions and 91 tackles as a junior. His value to the Greyhounds, ranked No. 2 in Maryland behind Good Counsel, lies as much in his knowledge of the game and his understanding of Gilman's scheme as it does in his ability to make plays. Of course he aims for the NFL, but he plans to study economics at Virginia in preparation for a possible career in finance.
How did you get started playing football?
I've been playing since I was about 5. I started playing flag football at Catonsville, [the] Catonsville Stars rec league. My cousin played first because he knew the head coach. The head coach went to his pool, so I started playing flag and flag led to tackle and now I'm here.
Have you always been a linebacker?
Yes. Growing up I played middle linebacker and running back until I was 12. I played a year at quarterback, but I still played middle linebacker, too. I always liked to hit people. My mom hates that when I say it. It sounds so barbaric, but it's true (laughs).
When did you start calling the defensive plays?
Probably the middle of sophomore year. I wasn't really in the rotation until I played pretty well in a scrimmage and all of the sudden I found myself starting. The coaches didn't really have a lot of trust in me at first. We had a lot of seniors on that team, but I started doing pretty well and I studied a lot and the coaches started putting more and more trust in me, so I started calling everything, being able to audible at the line.
Did you like that responsibility?
It's awesome. There's also a lot of pressure. Everyone looks at you. If you mess up, it's on you, but at the same time you get to lead everyone. Being able to do that since I was just 15 is a really awesome thing, being able to call the defense. You grow up looking at people like Ray Lewis and you watch him on video and see him barking out commands and people just following him, so it's really cool to be able to do that.
Did it take a while to get comfortable doing that with so many older guys, telling them what to do?
When I was younger, it was really weird, you being 15 and just a sophomore telling seniors what to do, but at the same time, you gain their trust on the field playing hard and people seem to follow you if they see you going hard and they trust in what you say. I'm usually not going to mess up mentally. I'm pretty good at learning the game plan.
Obviously, there's a lot of physical work in getting ready for football. Do you like the mental work? Are you a student of the game?
Yes. I watch a lot of film. I probably know the game plans better than anyone on the team. I consider myself an extension of Coach [Stan] White's hand on the field and if you know what [the opposition is] doing before the play starts, you can get that extra step.
What are you expecting when you go out to play Archbishop Moeller?
Their offensive line is really big. They had a really good offense. They have a good quarterback who can run just like Shane [Cockerille] is for us. We're just going to give it our best. Everyone's going to give it 100 percent effort and that's all we can ask for.
Do you think the trip is going to set the tone for the season?
It will and it won't. I think we all expect to compete and do well for the state of Maryland. This isn't only about us. This is about everyone else who ever played for Gilman and the state of Maryland. We're trying to go out there and represent well for the state against an Ohio powerhouse. Win or lose, we have to come back the next week [Friday at Good Counsel]. I know sophomore year when we beat Good Counsel, everyone was on top of the world and then we went against Don Bosco and they really gave it to us [33-6]. We were 14th in the country and then got crushed, so we've got to stay level headed either way and just be ready for the next game.
Who has influenced you most as a player?
As a player, I watch a lot of Ray Lewis, but that's just an idol. The coaches here have done a really great job with me considering I was pretty raw coming in. Coach [Henry] Russell's been working with me. He's been my linebacker coach for three years now and he's really had a good effect on me. And obviously Coach White. The man is a mad scientist when it comes to defense and he really gets us ready to play.
Who has most influenced you as a person?
My dad. I really look up to my dad. He goes to work every day. Puts us first. A really good disciplinary figure in my life. Taught me what's right and wrong and I really respect and like my dad a lot.
If you weren't playing football, what do you think you would be into?
I'd really focus on lacrosse. I tried the piano. I played the trumpet. I've always been more inclined to sports.What are you most looking forward to about senior year? Probably just the last year of being with everybody. Senior year is really a chance to really get closer with all your friends and to people you're in school with, people that you might not have hung out with that much but now this is the last year you're going to be with them and you want to value the time. I probably would say that's the best thing, valuing the time with everyone. I actually think school is pretty fun. We're a bunch clowns really. If you just hung around the football team, you would think these guys are a bunch of jokes, but we love each other. We know football is a means for a lot of us to go to college, but at the same time, it's mostly for us to have fun and be around each other and learn how to be a man from Coach [Biff] Poggi. It's a great program, but you learn so much from this program it's unbelievable, more than just football. That's probably the best thing about playing for Gilman football.
What's the greatest lesson you're going to take away from playing Gilman football?
Probably just what it really means to be a teammate and literally valuing every part of the team. Not everyone's a superstar. Not everyone's going to get to play but at the same time they're on that scout team, they're giving you that look that you're going to see the week coming up. Really valuing everyone and loving your teammate as a brother.