In rinks and arenas around the NAHL, Nate Milam (pronounced MY-lum) has heard his name mispronounced more often than not. Now, he’s made a name for himself as the latest RoadRunner to commit to a Division I college hockey program, this week accepting an offer to skate for the Ferris State Bulldogs. “It doesn’t bother me when they say my name wrong”, Milam responded when asked about the frequent butchering of his seemingly phonetic name. “I figure if I score enough points, eventually they’ll get it right.”
Milam found his love for the game early in life, starting on roller skates at the age of 2 and graduating to ice skates the following year. “Just watching the game on TV, and seeing my Dad and brother play really got me excited about it.” The biggest change in Milam’s playing career came in his junior year of high school when he approached his coach about moving up to forward. “I bugged him enough and he finally let me do it.” Flashing his trademark smile, he adds, “I scored two goals and he started letting me play forward more often.” Milam had a brief shot with the NAHL’s Marquette Rangers but it didn’t work out. “I was the first one cut”, he recalls. “At the time it almost made me quit playing. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.” He instead played Midget Majors for the reputed Belle Tire program and caught the eye of RoadRunners head coach Scott Langer while playing in a showcase tournament. “I had a game where I exploded for 4 goals in one period. I’d never done anything like that before but next thing I know I was signing a tender to play for Topeka. It’s been an amazing journey.”
For Nate Milam, the opportunity to play Division I hockey in his home state of Michigan is more than a dream come true. “Playing in Topeka has been absolutely phenomenal”, he said. “But I have to admit, heading back to the mitten (Michigan) and playing near friends and family is priceless. I’m looking forward to wearing the Bulldog but always representing the RoadRunners.” For Topeka head coach Scott Langer, seeing Milam commit to Ferris State is particularly gratifying. “Nate has always been one of those first on, last off type of players. He is consistently working on his game.” Langer went on to say, “There's a reason he had 14 goals in his rookie season and has followed it up with 47 points and counting. This young man does not stop working. Nate is a threat every shift and has been one of the most determined RoadRunners night in and night out. Ferris State has made a very good decision on a very solid young man.” Though Milam has yet to settle on a major, he has a plan. “I’m going to go in and start knocking off basic classes and get in the groove as I settle in on a career path.”
Milam participated in the 2011 Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor and scored a goal in each of the three games. He’s scored 20 goals to date this season and has tied a franchise record for short-handed goals in a single season (5), now shared with Matt Hartmann (currently at Bemidji State). Like his teammates before him with their college deals in hand, Milam focuses his full attention on the immediate task at hand: The Robertson Cup. “We’re focusing on staying sharp, sound in mind and in body. We believe in one another, and that makes a huge difference.” He offers the following advice to prospective and future RoadRunners: “Believe in your coaches. Buy into the system and you’ll go far.” He notes his appreciation to his parents, brother Jody and sister Karie, and also his billets in Topeka, Mike and Karen Cline. “I have been fortunate to be surrounded by quality people. I’m very grateful.” He added, "The owners (Don and Barb Stone) along with the coaches have created an amazing culture here. They've proven they truly care about not just winning as a franchise, but the personal success of every player. There's no better place to play juniors."
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)