HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Thursday, the National Football League announced the high school football coaches nominated by the league's 32 teams for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award, representing the best in coaching at the high school level.
The Houston Texans' nominee works nearly 300 miles from NRG Stadium.
The Texans' nominee for the prestigious award, named after Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula - the winningest coach in NFL history, is Uvalde High School head football coach Wade Miller.
In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting, a massacre during which 19 students and two teachers were killed, coach Miller helped unite the Uvalde community by leading his young men to five regular-season victories and a playoff appearance.
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"They were a tight group before the shooting," Miller said about his players during a Zoom interview with ABC13. "They'll never have better friends than the ones they have now. They're resilient, and they put it on themselves - they thought they had to do well to help the town. We would try to talk them down off of it. They just went out and did it, and they played above their heads. I couldn't be more proud of them. They're a special group to a lot of people, but especially me."
This season, the Texans hosted Coach Miller and the Uvalde football team for a game at NRG Stadium just days after a contingent traveled to Uvalde and surprised the team with new uniforms.
"I tell people all the time: the love that we get from the city of Houston is unbelievable," Miller revealed. "The Texans have been great, and then the Astros Day when they bussed the families down, and they got to be on the field, it's just special, and you can feel it."
The coaches up for the award were judged based on areas coach Shula excelled at most during his career: character, integrity, leadership, dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety, and on-field success.
"It was something that you hope nobody else has to go through," Miller said about the shooting at the campus less than two miles from Uvalde High School. "For us to get through it, and then to have a really good season - it means so much to me, my coaches and the players."
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For the first time, the NFL will recognize two winners, one from each conference, AFC & NFC. These two winners will be invited to the Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas on February 5th and will be recognized in special ways during the NFL's week-long celebration of football. Throughout the week, coaches will receive VIP access and accommodations to attend the Pro Bowl Games practices for both AFC & NFC teams, on-field access at Sunday's Pro Bowl games, and a chance to interact and engage with various members of the football community.
The NFL Foundation and Nike have teamed up to provide the two winners a $15,000 award to their high school football programs and a $10,000 cash award. The other 30 club nominees will all receive a $1,000 cash award. They will also attend Super Bowl LVII in Arizona as special guests of the NFL.
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