“Three years ago, if you told me when I moved to Cartersville playing quarterback that I would be early enrolled at the University of Alabama playing tight end, I would have called you crazy,” Cartersville state champ tight end Miller Forristall said. “It’s an absolute ridiculous journey.”
That journey has now taken Forristall to the University of Alabama, where he moved in a couple of weeks ago and helped the Crimson Tide prepare for Clemson in the College Football Playoff championship game as the scout team tight end.
“Baptized by fire, so to speak,” Forristall said of practicing with Alabama. “It was a lot of fun. It was good. It was incredible to get acclimated, see how they are doing everything, practice-wise, because none of the other guys coming in will see that until spring ball, and other people in the class won’t be here until fall camp. So I’ll have a really good advantage on everybody else.”
“Going from a state championship in high school, which is the highest deal you can do at our level, and then a couple of weeks later, practicing and helping his team prepare for a national championship, I don’t know how many people have done that,” Cartersville head coach Joey King said. “I’m sure there’s a couple that have, but probably not very many. That’s definitely a special thing.”
Forristall said he watched the championship game in his dorm with six or seven other players who also came to campus early to practice with the team.
“We were going nuts in the dorm. It was a lot of fun getting to know these guys and seeing Alabama do what they do,” he said. “[Practicing with the team] was an adjustment of speed and physicality with everybody on the field. ... It was something I had to adjust to, and by the end of the week, I adjusted pretty well. I went from blocking high-schoolers to [projected first round NFL draft picks] Reggie Ragland and A’Shawn Robinson. So it is a big difference, but I felt pretty good.”
Practicing with the national champion is the most recent indelible memory of an already incredible football career for Forristall. After transferring to Cartersville for his sophomore year and spending the season as the second-string quarterback, Forristall moved from quarterback to tight end after the first few games of his junior year. He would go on to accumulate 511 yards on 29 receptions and six touchdowns the rest of the season.
That year, Forristall came up big in the Class 4A quarterfinals against Sandy Creek when the Canes came back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to advance to the semifinals. He caught three critical third-and-long passes for 79 yards on the two fourth-quarter scoring drives. He finished with six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown in the game.
“At the time, he hadn’t even been playing receiver or tight end for about eight weeks or so,” King said of Forristall’s performance in the Sandy Creek game. “In that situation, on that stage, to be able to catch the ball in those situations, it just says that he believes in himself and his ability. Special players do that. They have that confidence and they’re able to make those plays consistently in that atmosphere. And he did that.”
Forristall said the Sandy Creek game was one of his favorite memories of his high school career.
“The halftime versus North Cobb my senior year, I remember that pretty vividly, and the Sandy Creek game,” Forristall said. “[Halftime during the North Cobb game] was the moment when we all banned together. My class, the class above, even though we ended up losing that game, we weren’t going out without a fight. We were going to give them everything they could handle. ... [The Sandy Creek game], I remember most of that entire game as intense as it was. That was so much fun.”
After Forristall’s junior season, he caught the eye of Alabama tight ends coach Bobby Williams when Williams came to watch Cartersville in the spring.
“Coach Williams watched me, was really impressed. And then he told me to come to camp,” Forristall said of when he began being recruited by Alabama. “Usually, coaches say that and it doesn’t really mean much, and they tell that to everybody. But he said, ‘I was super impressed. I’ll be in contact.’ I told my dad that night. I was like, ‘Yeah, right. They’re never going to contact me back. That’s just what they all say.’ And I ended up getting a call four or five weeks later and they said, ‘Hey, come to camp. We’re serious.’ I did, and the rest is history.”
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to play for, currently, the best program in college football and the most historic program in college football. That’s a special thing,” King said. “I remember when he went over there. On his way back, he called me and said, ‘Hey, [Alabama head coach Nick] Saban just offered me.’ We knew he was going to camp and I don’t know that he didn’t expect it, but once it actually happened, there was some shock and awe there.
“It’s great for him and his family, and it’s really, really good for this community and this program to have a Cartersville kid playing for the University of Alabama.”
Forristall went on to record 902 receiving yards on 57 catches with 11 touchdowns his senior year. He scored the lone touchdown in the state championship game. He also had 117 yards receiving and two touchdowns against Cass, had 123 receiving yards and a touchdown against North Paulding, put up 123 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Northwest Whitfield and recorded 90 yards and two touchdowns in the state semifinals against Bainbridge.
In addition to his football prowess on the field, Forristall emerged as one of the primary leaders for the Canes.
“I had heard of how big of a leader he could be coming into this deal two year ago,” King said of Forristall’s leadership ability. “As a quarterback, I didn’t really see that because he would do really well in some things, but he would be so frustrated with himself at times as a quarterback. It’s hard to lead when you’re not as confident in yourself. Once we changed positions, he started developing that confidence and believing in himself. Once his confidence was there, his leadership was amplified. It took off from there.
“His work ethic has always been really, really high, and everybody looked up to and respected him for that. Once his confidence went up, too, whatever he said was worth following.”
Forristall finished his high school career with 18 Division I scholarship offers and committed to Alabama June 9.
“The process that they preach,” Forristall said of why he chose Alabama. “‘We’re going to take you and make you the best you that you can be.’ And the coaching staff is bar none, the best, same as the facilities. So I thought this was the place I could become the best me.”
California Berkeley also was in the running for Forristall, and he took an official visit to the school, but stuck with the Tide in the end.
“Not a whole lot,” Forristall said of whether he had second thoughts after committing. “Earlier in the process, I thought about it a little bit, but in the end, it was all Alabama.”
Forristall went on to be named to the Class 4A all-state first team by both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Georgia Sports Writers Association as a senior, and he was named to the USA Today all-state team across all classifications while helping the Canes to the program’s third state championship.
Of course, all the scholarships, accolades and the state title came after Forristall made the move to tight end.
“When we were trying to figure out quarterback, receiver, tight end, we knew he was a special athlete, had a lot of size and a lot of good things, his work ethic,” King said of moving Forristall to tight end. “When you couple the work ethic with his God-given size and ability, there’s a really high ceiling there. You just have to figure out exactly where it is. Based on the skill set that we saw, we saw it at another position. He bought into what we were telling him and it worked out pretty well for him.”
“You have to sit down, pray and trust God with what you do. It all worked out for the best, but obviously, you have no idea how it’s going to go,” he said. “It couldn’t have worked out any better. You just have to trust God’s plan and that’s how it works.”
Moving forward, Forristall said he will not redshirt and will work hard to earn some playing time with the Crimson Tide. He will have some stiff competition for snaps, though. Current starter, O.J. Howard, who had 208 receiving yards and scored two touchdowns in the national title game, has not announced a decision on whether he will turn pro. And, of course, Alabama has plenty of talent on the depth chart at tight end. Alabama also has signed another four-star tight end in Brendan Scales.
“I’m really good friends with him actually,” Forristall said of Scales. “He’s coming this weekend on his official visit and I’ll be hosting it. So we’re all just going to see how it plays out. I’m just going to do what I do, work hard and the rest will pan out like it’s supposed to.”
Forristall will be majoring in business and communications, and hopes to earn a masters in 3 1/2 years. On the field, he hopes to help bring another national championship to Alabama.
“Obviously, win the national championship is definitely one,” Forristall said of his goals in college. “[Alabama Director of Strength and Conditioning Scott Cochran] wants you to write down a couple of things. I said, ‘I want to win the John Mackey Award [presented to the nation’s most outstanding tight end] my senior year and win a national championship.”