For years, war terminology has seeped into football telecasts. Quarterbacks become "field generals," games are equated to "battles."
Tehuti Miles knows better.
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After four years in the Army — including a stint in Afghanistan, where he wielded an M4 during watch duty — Maryland's first-year practice-team running back has earned the right to dismiss the comparison. He knows all too well that the football-as-war metaphor amounts to hype.
"We all know it's not the same thing," he says.
After leaving the Army last January, Miles could not have imagined what would come next — that he would not only be a member of the Terps, but that his team would be in a bowl game celebrating military service.
Friday's Military Bowl matching Maryland (7-5) against Marshall (9-4) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis is the first bowl game to be held at a service academy. The game, which benefits the United Service Organizations, will feature a flyover of World War II-era B-25 bombers and a giant American flag that will be spread across the field.
And, with Miles, it will also have a veteran on one of the sidelines.
"That's a cool thing," said Steve Beck, the bowl's president and executive director.
'He's got that toughness'
Miles does not volunteer to share his war memories, although he will discuss them if asked. He spoke so softly in a series of recent interviews that media members had to lean forward to hear him.
"I do still have those [wartime] experiences," he said. "I try not to let it bother me. I try to think of other things. The only time it might bother me is at night."
Miles, 23, acknowledges that he isn't same person as when he enlisted in 2008.
"If I'm in a restaurant or something like that, I have to sit where I can see everybody," said the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Miles, who played high school football in Hammonton, N.J., and became interested in military service after attending a cousin's Air Force base graduation.
"I still have flashbacks sometimes. Some people won't even notice it. I might have it just walking with you somewhere," Miles said.
After leaving the Army, Miles wanted to treat himself and attend school in a warm climate. He looked at Florida colleges, "but I was thinking maybe I should be a little bit closer [to home]," he said.
After being admitted at Maryland, Miles contacted the Terps' coaches and asked about the possibility of walking on.
Miles isn't eligible to play in games this season because of questions about whether the high school courses he took met core academic requirements. Maryland won a waiver earlier in the season allowing him to practice, and he has been a member of the scout team that prepares the Terps for upcoming opponents. He is expected to be cleared to play in games next season.
For now, Miles' nature — his quiet intensity — is revealed on the practice field.
"If he's running with the scout team, he's going to run," center Sal Conaboy said. "A lot of guys on defense will get upset with him. He'll hit you. You can tell he's got that toughness to him. He has that drive."
The coaches' initial instincts about Miles were confirmed once they saw him practice.