The game — not his name — is focus of U-High’s Manny Miles

“He’s fearless, and I don’t want to take that away from him.” Chad mahaffey, U-High coach, on Manny Miles

For Manny Miles, it’s all about the game.

Is the son of LSU football coach Les Miles ready to take his skills to a new level at quarterback? He said he thinks so and, more importantly, so do the people around him.

“I believe we can be better on offense this year,” University High lineman Garrett Brumfield said. “I’ve got to give it to Manny; he missed part of spring practice because of baseball. He was out there for one week and looked sharp. It looked like he’d been there all along.”

Brumfield, an LSU commitment, said he believes Manny is the man to lead the Cubs into what may be their most anticipated season in decades.

After advancing to the Class 2A semifinals last season, U-High moves up to Class 3A and District 7-3A, home of defending state champion Parkview Baptist. That’s a lot of pressure for a 6-foot, 180-pound junior who has seen spot duty the past two seasons.

Miles wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’m ready for it,” he said.

“I love playing games and having everything coming down on me. That’s why I like pitching — that style and pressure. Quarterback is like that, too.”

No contest

Fans at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Class 2A state tournament in Monroe this past spring who thought the LSU football coach’s son was a baseball novelty quickly learned otherwise.

Miles provided a benchmark moment when he no-hit defending state champion Calvary Baptist in the semifinals. Although the Cubs didn’t win the state title, Miles established himself as one of the top players in Class 2A, and he earned 2A all-state and all-metro honors.

That Miles finished 11-0 with a 0.49 ERA and two no-hitters says plenty, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, coach Burke Broussard said.

“In 25 years as a high school coach, I’ve never had a player have a season like the one Manny had last spring,” he said. “He was dominant and consistent all year. He made 11 starts, gave up nine runs and only five of them were earned. And we didn’t play an easy schedule.”

Broussard said Miles’ demeanor is just as important as his fastball or any other pitch in his arsenal. Broussard recalled a game when a group of opposing fans directed some taunts at Miles.

“There wasn’t anything mean-spirited,” he said. “It was strictly high school stuff, but that’s enough to bother some players. Not Manny. He brushes it off. I think it motivates him.

“Another team tried to get to him with stuff on Twitter. I cautioned him and told him not to respond. He said, ‘Coach, that doesn’t bother me.’ I think that mentality is good for a quarterback, too.”

The gunslinger

U-High football coach Chad Mahaffey said he believes the combination of baseball success and experience has Miles ready to take the reins.

The Cubs return running back Nick Brossette and a corps of receivers led by D’Vante Dotson and recent Florida commitment Tre’ Jackson. Mahaffey views Miles as more than a caretaker of the offense.

“He reminds me a lot of Will Briscoe, the quarterback I had at Central,” Mahaffey said. “He’s got that kind of gunslinger’s mentality. He’s fearless, and I don’t want to take that away from him.

“But at the same time, you want to be cautious to still protect the ball at all times. He’s going to have to learn what his limits are. And I think he will. He’s an excellent competitor, and he’s good in big spots. The fact that he’s already been in big spots for us before as a receiver and a punter should help.”

Having such a talented supporting cast also should help Miles adapt to his starting role. The junior has stayed busy honing his craft.

“I’m just working to get my throwing motion better, trying to get the ball out faster and making sure I have my reads on defenses down,” Miles said. “When you go from playing quarterback in JV games to varsity, there’s a faster tempo, and I needed to prepare for that. Having Nick, Garrett and all the other guys makes it easier.”

Titles, not entitled

UHS defensive coordinator Andy Martin, the Cubs’ associate head coach, said he knows the days when Miles would slip over to play a little defensive back are over.

“We knew Manny was going to be our quarterback this year, so we stopped playing him on defense last year,” he said. “That’s a loss for the defense. He’s is a talented athlete and a student of the game.

“There’s no doubt that he’s benefited from being around his dad and LSU. But he’s not some entitled kid. Manny’s very down to earth and just a regular kid.”

Added Mahaffey: “There are other kids on this team who know a lot more about what LSU is doing than Manny does. That stuff is not as important to him. He’s thinking about his team and what he needs to do to get better.”

Football and family

Miles said his father gives him advice all the time. The two bond over football and baseball. As a former catcher, Les Miles has an understanding of pitching. And the LSU coach credits his wife, Kathy, for playing a pivotal role in the growth of their four children.

“Well, you know my wife was a point guard in college, and I think Manny got the ability to distribute (the ball) from her,” said Miles, a former offensive lineman at Michigan. “I have one of the greatest partners in parenting you could have.

“When I was a younger parent, I was probably a little messed up. I had visions of these kids who would be great athletes. But now, that’s not what I think about. First of all, we pride ourselves in having children who can make their own decisions. More than anything else, I’m more concerned about my children being good people first and contributing to whatever they’re a part of in a positive way. I want Manny to have the best season he can and to help his team be as successful as possible.”

Those are goals father and son can agree on.

“It won’t be easy, but I think we have everything we need to be a really good team,” Manny said. “We all want to see how far we can go.”