Okay, so about 25 years ago, I was coaching the OLB’s at Brooklyn College. I was new to coaching, but still fairly fresh from playing the game at a small college in North Dakota (Minot State back then, now Minot University). I was enthused at the opportunity to coach under Stew Yaker, a personal mentor of mine back in high school. Along with Coaches Frank Morogiello and Barry Cohen, Mrs. Miller (an English teacher at Canarsie High School), Father Scavo (long before high school) at St. Jude, and later Dave Gresham (Writing) at Minot, Sam Toperoff (Writing) at Hofstra and William Jannen (History/Law) at Brooklyn College, coaches and/or teachers and professors have always been the most supportive and influential people in my rather twisted life. The screw-ups along the way were all mine (to own forever, and I do own them) … any and all forms of redemption came from the decency and guidance of those mentioned above, and ultimately my wife, Ann Marie.
Back in my novice coaching year, I had a group of young men to coach and work with. One would suffer a horrible tragedy when his sister was murdered during the season. He was strong as a bull, tough as nails, and would go on to be a fine policeman. Another was already married, was also tough as nails, and would always give everything he had. Another was the guy we’re featuring tonight, Vincent Miller. A young man with a ton of determination and desire, Vincent was a coach’s dream: somebody who paid attention, did the work, and was always anxious to learn and do more. I’d say Vincent had about as much desire and determination as anybody I ever played with, and I played with two guys in college who went on to play in the NFL.
About six months ago, I hooked up with Vincent via Facebook (how else?) What a pleasant surprise it was and has been.
I decided to feature some posts about people with extraordinary stories … people with that special brand of work ethic and/or determination that allowed them to pursue and achieve their interests and dreams. When I asked Vincent to fill me in on what he’s done since we parted so many years ago (I hadn’t heard anything about him), he sent me an email that tells an extraordinary story. I was literally dumbfounded by what he wrote me (including learning that he was actually failing off the football team back when I was coaching him—I left midway through the following season during a marital breakup and lost contact with pretty much everyone).
So, here’s Vincent’s story … in his words (with some minor editing from me) … it’s actually quite amazing.
Vincent L. Miller is the senior BPI Project Lead at ADP’s Innovation Lab in Chelsea NY. He received his MBA, in strategic management and a MS in Finance from Baruch College in NYC. A lean transformation specialist and an authority in service operations management, he is a member of member of the Adjunct Faculty at Baruch College, he is certified in Lean by the Society of Mechanical Engineers, certified in Six Sigma methodology by the American Society of Quality (ASQ) and he is a certified in Quality Engineering by ASQ.
Born in Brooklyn NY, Vincent is the eldest son amongst six children. With an early interest in learning, he excelled in school. Smart enough to be selected for the SP class in Junior High School, he was skipped from the 7th grade to the 9th grade. Electing to follow his friends rather than focusing on academics, he decided to go to Automotive HS. The summer before entering HS would change his life.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Vincent played football in the street every day. Developing a love for the game, he played from morning to evening. That particular summer, he and his brothers visited family in Alabama, where he met his cousin Donnell and decided he wanted to play organized football. Upon returning to NY, Vincent began his journey. Playing sandlot football for Dave Johnson, who instilled a strong work ethic and a high standard of achievement.
Upon graduation from Automotive, Vincent took a year off from school before deciding to go to college. Holding miscellaneous jobs he devoted his time to weightlifting, hanging out and training to play football. Prompted by his desire to play college football, he decided to apply for college. He gave some consideration to Colorado State, Alabama A&M and Alabama University, but he feared home sickness and enrolled in Brooklyn College. In his first year, his focus was academics, and playing football for Kings Bay. That year his GPA was 3.3.
In 1981 Vincent joined the BC football. An undersized first-year outside linebacker, he immersed himself into football and started every game that season. (Here Vincent was very kind to me, but we’re gonna skip that part). That same semester, Vincent’s GPA was 0.00—four classes and four F’s. (Amici, when I first read this, I did a double-take and said, WTF?) (smiley face, I think) ...
For the next 3 years, “Right” (Vincent’s nickname) subordinated everything to football, weights, track and partying---all in that order. For three straight years, he failed half his classes during football season and passed every class during the spring semesters and summer sessions.
In 1983, the NFL was very interested in small college football players. And in1983 Vincent/Right was considered one of the best small college football players on the East Coast. So with his last year coming up, he put all of his eggs in one basket. He stopped going to class totally. He worked out twice a day. He joined the track team. He worked all summer to get his 40 speed down and his weight up. That year he went to camp in his best ever shape. He figured in order to make himself marketable, he had to excel at as many aspects of the game as he could. That year he started returning punts.
Well into his first game of the season, Right was having the worst night of his college career. In the third quarter he had no tackles, no assists--nothing. Determined to do something exceptional, he told his running mate that he would take the next punt. He caught the punt and returned it 45 yards, giving the team excellent field position, but when he was tackled, he was hit in the ankle by a helmet. In a single moment, his hopes for a professional career in the NFL were gone. His ankle remained swollen for the next 3 weeks. When the scout came to check his time in the forty, it went up from 4.5 outdoors to 4.8 indoors—much less than average.
Other opportunities did present themselves. Kicked out of school for poor grades, Vincent left BC without a degree and headed to Italy and play and coach professional football. During that time he learned to speak Italian.
Upon his return to the states, Vincent began his professional career. After a few miscellaneous jobs, he landed a position with Schmitt Sussman. Promoted 3 times in 5 years, from Sales Representative to his final assignment of Assistant Vice President within this $500 million dollar insurance agency. For eight year he lead a staff of 35 service agents and support staff, producing $13 million in annual sales—50% of the agency’s annual revenue. While at Schmitt Sussman, Vincent was recruited by MCU to turnaround an underperforming operation. Vincent was responsible for new customer acquisitions, managing service channels and defining service standards for nine offices and 300 frontline staff within the organization. At MCU, Vincent led the development and execution of strategic plans that doubled assets from $575 million to $1.1 billion through the acquisition of 235 new corporate accounts and 60,000+ new customer accounts during his tenure.
It was during his time at MCU that Vincent decided he wanted an MBA. His problem was he needed to finish his undergraduate degree first. In the spring of 1999, fourteen years after being kicked out BC, he enrolled in the New School in New York, and in one year he took 40 credits and graduated. After graduating, Vincent entered Baruch College. There he studied strategic management for two-years. He graduated with a 3.79 average. A year later he completed his MS in finance, graduating with a 3.53.
Now an Adjunct Professor at Baruch College, Vincent is teaching 3-courses this semester. A senior member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), he was selected to present at 2012 World Conference on Quality Improvement. Vincent is married and has three children.
Okay, so what does his old OLB coach say to a story like that?
Bravo, of course … and, Sei un compagno straordinario, Vincenzzo.
Next TK Special Feature has to do with another hard working individual who built a small family business into a million dollar enterprise. Look for it over the next two weeks (not that we won’t remind yous) …