At this time last year Jimmy Miller and Michael Stuart were getting ready to play in one of the biggest games of their lives. Both had recently accepted scholarships to play football at USC and their Westlake Warrior team, which would eventually finish the season 14-0, was preparing to face Hart on Fox Sports West in one of the most exciting games of the year. This year, the two will redshirt and spend their time on the service team, a group of reserve players who get the first team ready to play in the upcoming game.
It's quite a change for the two former Westlake stars but one that is not uncommon for a college freshman. Those who ruled the playing fields only a year ago now find that the entire roster is filled with players who are just as talented as they are and they begin the process of working in the weight room to get ready to their opportunity in the future.
"It's been a tough adjustment," said Miller. "When I was a freshman at Westlake I got called up to varsity for the playoffs and it feels a little like that. I'm getting adjusted to it and I realize my role this year is more as a service player so I'm just helping the team and doing whatever I can."
Stuart agreed, "To not be playing on game days is weird. We're used to starting every game since we were little kids and now we come here and everything is new to us. I realize though that wherever they need me on the service team, on d-line or at linebacker, I'll do it because I'm helping out the team."
Both players came in as tight ends and Miller is still at that position but Stuart was moved to outside linebacker after the first day of fall camp. Even though Michael saw a lot of success in high school on the defensive side of the ball the switch to defense initially caught him by surprise.
"I wasn't used to it at the beginning but I'm comfortable now," said Stuart. "It's going good, much better."
Stuart will be on the sidelines tonight to watch his former Westlake team take on Hart in a rematch of the exciting 25-24 game from last year which saw Michael catch 11 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, including the go ahead touchdown with less than a minute to play. Miller provided a some key catches as well and both players also starred on defense throughout the game which explains why they share a similar memory when looking back on the game.
"I remember being just dead tired at the end of the game, just really relieved that we won," said Jimmy. "It was awesome to beat them."
"Cramps when it was all over, that's what I remember," said Stuart. "It was the best feeling ever playing a game. Winning a game on the last play, how can you beat that?"
A replay of the 2003 Westlake vs Hart game will be shown on Sunday night as part of the Fox Sports "Classic" high school series. The game will air at 8:00pm on Fox Sports Net 2.