FULTON – The life of former Itawamba AHS standout Maikhail Miller was celebrated with tears, music and laughter on Saturday afternoon.
A funeral service for Miller, 23, who died in an auto accident last weekend in Marshall County, was held in the IAHS gym. A crowd of several hundred – black and white, young and old – was in attendance.
“What this young man did in life touched so many lives,” Rev. Andy Black told the crowd. “I see Maikhail as one of the most loving and caring men I’ve ever met,” said Bro. Scott Nicholson.
“We’re honoring a legend today,” said TCPS football coach Shaune Holiday, a former IAHS assistant. “Today is not a sad day, we’re here to celebrate that we were blessed to know him.”
Holiday recalled, to knowing laughter, that he began calling Miller “Big Mike” when no one was sure how to spell the young man’s first name.
“After that, he was Big Mike,” Holiday said.
Miller’s exploits in football, basketball and baseball were recounted by several speakers, including Holiday and former Indians football coach Jamie Mitchell.
“Big Mike played from the snap to the whistle,” an emotional Mitchell said. “On the field or off, there was always a special calmness about him.”
Miller went on to play football at Ole Miss and Murray State. His last season at Murray was in 2014.
In a dramatic moment, Mitchell asked those who had played with or coached Miller to stand at the front of the gym. More than three dozen rose up in response.
“A special brotherhood of guys,” Mitchell said.
Pastor Kenneth McKinney delivered the eulogy near the end of a 90-minute service.
Members of Levee Break, a country rock band that included Miller as a member, played twice during the service.
The drum kit, often played by Miller, sat empty in his honor.