Former Ohio State linebacker Ryan Miller, fueled by coffee and compassion

Lori Schmidt
The Columbus Dispatch

Ryan Miller was voted co-Defensive Player of the Year for the 1996 Ohio State football team. 

He went on to have a successful career in radio and television broadcasting for WBNS. 

Now he is the co-founder and CEO of a local marketing company. 

Ryan Miller was an undersized linebacker who still managed to win honors as Ohio State's Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.

If you want to know the secret of his accomplishments, he will insist he needs to whisper the answer before joking: "It's called coffee." 

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He certainly needed plenty of it when he entered the work world in 1997. He hosted a morning show on 1460 The Fan, WBNS Radio. He moved to the television side of WBNS in 2000.

"I loved every second of working at 10TV. I loved every second working at the radio. I loved every second working in the media," said Miller. "It is is truly an unbelievable job, and I said it a million times when I was working in that industry, 'I can't believe they are paying me to do something I love to do.' "

Broadcasting, while great, was also a challenge. The schedule was inflexible, the hours unpredictable. For Miller, who had married former OSU women's basketball player Lauren Shenk and wanted to start a family, something had to give. 

"One of the first jobs I had in TV as a reporter, I actually had to go cover the women's basketball game," recalled Miller, laughing. "And I really, honestly wasn't that thrilled about it. Coming from football, I was thinking, 'Man, I want to go cover some other sports.' 

"All of a sudden, here comes this girl out of the locker room, and I'm like, 'Man, I could be put on this beat more often. This is pretty cool.'

"So we just started talking after the season, and you know, she kept calling me and calling me and calling me. Wore me down and we got married." 

Miller decided the long-term solution to an overpacked schedule was, ironically, to put in more hours. In 2002, while still doing television, he started pursuing a master's degree from Ohio State's Fisher College of Business.

One of Shenk's teammates, Megan McCabe, was in Miller's class. 

Ryan Miller co-founded m2 marketing with former women's basketball player Megan McCabe.

"We knew each, but we didn't really now each other until grad school, and we really hit it off," Miller said, "We just lucked out, to be honest with you." 

Together they founded m2 marketing, which offers web development, application development and graphic design services.

Golf fans who have visited the Memorial Tournament's website have seen what m2 can do. Buckeye fans who have logged on to donate to the charity of Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson are utilizing a site developed by the company. 

Miller and McCabe took on Johnson's project as part of their commitment to work with at least one non-profit organization a year. They do this at a significant discount. 

"I was really, really, really excited to be able to help out," Miller said. "And I think they're going to do great things, and if we can play a small little role on their team. Hey, that's what we're here for. That's what m2 does." 

Miller also helps run a charity of his own. He and fellow former Buckeyes Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel founded The 2nd & 7 Foundation, an organization that focuses on childhood literacy. In 1999 they staged a football camp and used the funds they raised to buy books for kids in seven different second grade classrooms.

Now? There are athletes at 172 universities and high schools in the program who read to children in more than 26 states. The organization has handed out more than 600,000 books.

"That's been ridiculous. That's actually been ridiculous," marveled Miller. "We know the mission is more powerful than ever because the solution to all our problems is education. ... I'm just as proud of that as anything." 

The 2nd & 7 Foundation was so successful, it started publishing its own books, featuring the Hog Mollies, and the undersized linebacker who helped OSU win the 1997 Rose Bowl with his grit and toughness was reading to his kids, using them as a test audience — and sometimes more than that. 

"They've also kind of helped out with brainstorming," he said. 

Sons Nolan and Eli are now 12 and 10, respectively, while daughter Quincy is 7.

"What a blessing it's been to be a Buckeye and to have so much support, not only during my four years at Ohio State, but ever since," Miller said. "I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, for crying out loud, and I came down here and people have adopted me from Day 1. It's been an unbelievable ride, and it's 25 years later and I'm still just riding this wave of gratitude."

Hearing him speak, one can't help but think his secret isn't actually coffee, but a positive attitude. 

In fact, he probably comes closer to explaining his success when he points out that he was never a straight-A student or the fastest guy on his team. "I just like to think that, like I tell my kids all the time, 'Find something you love to do, go as hard as you can, be a great listener; and good things happen,' " Miller said.

Still, he has goals to meet, so someone may want to put another pot on. 

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