By Kevin McClintock
Globe Staff Writer
LAMAR, Mo. —
Matt Miller rubbed shoulders with future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in New York City, broke down the AFC West on the Jim Rome radio program and saw firsthand the unique contributions he made to the recently released Madden NFL 13 video game.
And that was just last week.
To say Miller stays busy would be an understatement. In less than two years, Miller has penned nearly 400 stories for the popular website Bleacher Report. But he’s OK with that, because he gets paid to write about football -- an absolute dream job for most sports enthusiasts.
“More than 25 million people have read my stories, and I live in a town of 7,000,” said Miller, who writes about the National Football League, college football and the NFL draft. “That’s pretty amazing. It’s flattering and surreal that I’m getting paid to write about football.”
So far, the 29-year-old remains mostly anonymous in Lamar.
“I don’t get asked football questions when I’m at the supermarket,” said Miller, with a chuckle. “But that might change.”
One of the biggest thrills so far has been seeing his face, his name and his clever fictional tweets in EA Sports’ Madden NFL 13, which was released on Tuesday. Representing Bleacher Report, his tweets appear during the game, breaking down roster moves in the “Connected Careers” mode.
“I’ve seen it,” he said. “They sent me an advanced copy. I’ve spent the last 15 years playing Madden. It’s a defining moment for me.”
From Hobby to Career
In June, Miller received an email from Michael Young, the creative director of EA Sports. He thought someone was messing with him.
When he confirmed that Young was, in fact, linked with EA Sports, he learned the company was seeking his virtual analysis for the game.
“When you’re running your team in this year’s game, whether that’s reading scouting reports on a draft pick or just checking the news wire, you’ll see virtual Twitter feeds from me and from other analysts, breaking down every aspect of the Madden environment,” he said.
Growing up watching Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Maylock, and now analyzing players alongside them, was a great validation, he said.
One of the highlights of his role in the game is how his parents responded. They both stood in line before midnight on Tuesday to buy copies of the game.
Young sought Miller out because of his popular Bleacher Report stories as well as his overwhelming football knowledge. While Miller has only worked with Bleacher Report for less than two years, he’s long been associated with America’s most popular sport.
While working full time at Miller’s Professional Imaging in Pittsburg, Kan., he was contributing nuggets of his football knowledge to a number of football websites.
“I was bouncing around, trying to find a fit,” he said. “But they weren’t very good, and I thought, ‘I can do my own thing.’”
So he founded the NFL draft site “New Era Scouting,” and began working in Pittsburg during the day and writing furiously during the night. It gained credibility, but it never took off, he said.
He was about to give up writing for good when a friend steered him toward Bleacher Report, one of the few sports sites he hadn’t written for. He checked it out, liked the idea behind it, liked the fact that millions of football fanatics were reading the content, but found the writing rather pedestrian.
To change that, he went ahead and applied for the job. He was hired in November, 2010. By February, he was writing full time. This allowed him to quit his day job and focus solely on his favorite pastime. Today, he’s Bleacher Report’s lead NFL draft writer.
Bleacher Report is a media network serving a global audience where paid and unpaid contributors publish about 1,000 original daily content items.
“My niche is the NFL and NFL draft, and I spend every day, even weekends, working to become smarter about the game and more familiar with individual teams, and to network with fellow writers who can help spread the word about what I write and about Bleacher Report in general,” he said. “Becoming a lead writer for Bleacher Report was my previous career high. It’s still a badge I wear proudly every day when I sit down at my desk and clock in to work.”
Miller has been featured on ESPN radio, SiriusXM, NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today as well as being utilized by NFL, CFL and AFL teams. He was also the secondary and special teams coordinator for the three-time league champion Joplin Crusaders of the Central Football League.
Sometimes he’s asked to fly to New York City or San Francisco to meet with Bleacher Report heads or, like he did last week, to interview Ray Lewis. However, most of the time, he goes upstairs to his office to work in front of the computer inside his Lamar home.
He averages roughly three stories and four homemade videos each day. Most of his emphasis is on the NFL draft, which has become a spring holiday weekend for many NFL fans. Miller watches every college game -- sometimes multiple times -- to draw up profiles on potential future NFL players in preparation for April’s NFL draft, which is his busy time of the year. He gets a short rest during the summer months before things gear up to a fever pitch around late July or early August.
But sometimes watching games isn’t always fun and games.
“There are times when watching a game can become tedious,” he said. “There was a Thursday night game -- I think it was the Jaguars and the Colts -- two of last year’s worst teams. Neither team was doing very well, and it took everything I had to watch it, break it down and write about it.”
Luckily, turning his love of football into a career hasn’t soured him on the sport.
“Not yet. I have been warned about that. Once you immerse yourself from an analytical and logical standpoint, it can take the passion right out of it,” he said. “So I try to keep it fun. I play fantasy football, and I’m huge into college football. This allows myself to (remain a fan), and that helps.”