Cody Miller was really good at making tackles, said his mother, Kim Miller, of rural Burbank. "He's very athletic."
"I sacked opponents' quarterbacks many times in the four games I played this year," said Cody.
His father, Jerry Miller, who is Union County's state's attorney, couldn't have been more proud as he heard his son's name announced over and over at each game.
Then a routine checkup on Cody's heart murmur, which he'd had since birth, permanently benched the football player.
"We weren't able to get him in for his usual checkup until after football started," said his father, who explained besides a heart murmur, his son had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.
Because of this syndrome, Cody's heart had two electrical nodes causing it to beat without rhyme or reason. That was taken care of in 2001.
The Millers knew eventually Cody's heart valve would need replaced but everything had been going so well, the family wasn't anticipating any problems until he was approximately 22 years old.
However, the checkup revealed Cody needed immediate heart valve replacement surgery. On Nov. 2, Cody underwent surgery in Ann Arbor, MI.
Despite missing nearly a month of school, Cody is looking forward to graduating this spring. He plans to study criminal justice at The University of South Dakota this fall.
Cody has an academic 3.0 grade point average and plays trombone in his high school band. He also works part-time as a cook at Pro's Bar & Grill in Vermillion.
"My days of playing in the game and any other contact sport are over," said Cody, who is learning to ice skate while he "debates" with his doctors and parents about playing hockey.
"I'm trying to find something that's as fun as football," said Cody, who enjoys watching his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, and following the careers of New England Patriot wide receiver Randy Moss and Viking running back Adrian Peterson.
"It's been pretty tough for Cody," said his father, explaining that he faces future surgeries as valve replacements last between two and 16 years.
"It's been stressful, a tearful time," said his mother. "It's hard knowing he's got to go through this. Kids that age shouldn't have to go through all that, and he's got more to come."
Cody is faced with medical bills � in amounts that many older adults have trouble dealing with.
A "Heart to Heart" Raffle and benefit dinner and auction are planned to help alleviate Cody's medical expenses.
The raffle winner will receive the "Heart to Heart" Valentine's Package, which consists of a heart-shaped diamond pendant necklace, a dozen roses, dinner for two at Mona Lisi restaurant in Vermillion, and two movie tickets to the Vermillion movie theater.
The winner will be announced live on KVHT-KVTK radio station (106.3 AM-FM) between 8 and 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 8.
Tickets are available at the Union County States Attorney Office in the courthouse and on USD's campus at Slagle Hall and I.D. Weeks Library.
On Saturday, Feb. 16, a Cody Miller Benefit Auction and Dinner will be held at the National Guard Armory in Vermillion.
The dinner will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. followed by an auction featuring both live and silent auction items.
Dinner consists of a French dip sandwich, baked potato, green beans, dessert and beverage � all for a free-will donation.
Auction items can be viewed at www.usd.edu/~krmiller/codymiller.pdf .
Money raised will be matched, up to $2,500, by Modern Woodmen of America and an additional $1,000 by Thrivent. Donations to "Cody Miller Benefit" are also being accepted at any Wells Fargo banks.
"We feel fortunate (his heart ailment) was found," said his father, "and doctors are able to handle this."
For more information about contributing, contact Modern Woodmen of America financial representative Cathy Lynch-Baker at (605) 665-7799, or Joleen Bos at (605) 624-4282.