TAMPA — Even at his most deflated, Schyler Miles still came up a half-pound too heavy.
Giddy anticipation for the Westchase Colts’ season opener had been sabotaged by a scale. Schyler, then an 8-year-old on the back end of his chubby phase, had weighed just a few Jolly Ranchers above the 90-pound limit for his division.
For three months, he had logged distance runs with his dad — a personal trainer and former state champion wrestler — to whittle his weight down to Tampa Bay Youth Football League standards. Minutes remained until one final weigh-in. Schyler scurried for deprivation.
“I had a little cup; I just kept spitting in it. That’s what I usually did,” said Miles, now a brawny three-way senior captain for undefeated Berkeley Prep. “Just chewing bubble gum and spitting.”
Saliva was supplanted by tears at the final weigh-in. Schyler was a few ounces above the limit.
It remains the only organized football game he has missed in a decade.
“And he never wants to miss a snap,” Buccaneers coach Dominick Ciao said.
Neither tweaked knee nor hyperextended elbow has deterred Berkeley’s defensive cornerstone. If the 11-0 Bucs possess a portrait of resilience, it’s their 6-foot-2, 225-pound inside linebacker with a taste for the ball and distaste for junk food.
The de facto quarterback in Ciao’s 4-4 scheme, Miles leads the team in tackles (82), caused fumbles (four) and instinctiveness. At fullback (and occasionally tight end), he has 16 carries for 52 yards, with four catches for 88 more.
“I just think he has a tremendous instinct to get to the football,” said Ciao, whose team hosts recent nemesis Fort Meade on Friday in a Class 3A region final. “Plays downhill, plays fast, great anticipation. … He’s a football player.”
Brandon Miles, his coach with the Colts, said he saw that from the time his only child was in pull-ups. The first sign was physical.
“The kid is built like a tank,” said Brandon, who won a state wrestling title at Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High before dabbling in wrestling and football at Indiana University.
“I use this analogy all the time, but from the time he was a small kid, I knew he was a linebacker. If this kid walks like a duck, talks like a duck, acts like a duck, he’s a duck. And I’m talking in terms of a linebacker, because he has that look, you know.”
That look would be refined by a diet devoid of sugar and saturated fats. Brandon, a trainer at a North Pinellas- and Westchase-based boot camp for women, essentially outlaws junk food in his Palm Harbor home.
A typical meal for Schyler on the eve of a game likely includes organic chicken or beef, accompanied by a baked potato and whole wheat pasta slathered in non-fat Alfredo sauce. Afterward, father and dad will adjourn to the living room to study game tape.
They’ve done it for years, sometimes more than once a week. The result: the 3.0 student at Berkeley is, by all accounts, a 4.0 student of the game. Of his college offers, the five he’s most seriously considering are Notre Dame, Iowa State, Florida, Cincinnati and West Virginia.
“I think it’s my instinct, just where I’m always near the football,” Schyler said when asked to identify his best attribute. “I’m not the biggest guy, not even the fastest guy, but I work hard and just go 100 mph every play.”
Friday, he’ll try once more to drop weight — off the figurative shoulders of him and his classmates. Fort Meade (9-2) has been their albatross, winning all three games vs. these Berkeley upperclassmen.
But unlike last season’s two meetings, the Miners must travel, for miles.
And through Miles.
“It’s just this year we’ve got a strong group of seniors to lead us,” he said. “It’s been different than any other year. Everyone’s dedicated this year and just wants it really bad.”