A clean bill of health is something Whiteland outside linebacker Tanner Milam can’t take for granted.
Milam, a two-year starter for the Warriors’ defense, experienced enough misfortune early in his football career to make him appreciate every minute he’s on the field.
“It seemed like it was one thing after another,” said Milam, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior who made the switch to linebacker after playing cornerback last season. “Everything since my sophomore season has been so far, so good.”
Prior to that, not so much.
In September 2012, Milam, then a seventh-grader, was at home when he began vomiting a green fluid consistent with an appendicitis. His appendix ruptured and Milam was immediately taken to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Milam suffered a torn meniscus in his left leg during a football practice the following month. Wanting to play basketball, he had to wait until February to have surgery.
He again tore his left meniscus along with blowing out his ACL in the same leg during a July football practice before his eighth-grade season. He didn’t play football or basketball.
The ACL surgery was performed with a hamstring graft so not to damage Milam’s growth plates.
“His whole eighth-grade year was nothing but rehabilitation,” said Milam’s father, Scott.
Rehabilitation lasted approximately seven months. Tanner Milam gradually gained strength in his left leg, working his way up from 5 pounds on the leg press machine to 150 pounds by the end of his rehabilitation.
A broken left foot suffered in June 2014 sidelined Milam for the opening two games of his freshman football season.
Given all of the adversity, Milam could have easily felt he wasn’t meant to play football — or sports, in general.
He took the opposite approach.
“Tanner always liked playing football, but I don’t think he loved it. Once he got hurt and it was taken away from him it made him love the game,” Scott Milam said. “These injuries were a blessing in disguise. It drove him to push harder. His drive now is unbelievable.”
This is true on and off the football field.
Tanner Milam officiates Whiteland Bantam League football games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and then drives to Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville, where he is employed as an attendant.
Milam is there until 2 a.m. on Sunday mornings and 11 p.m. on Sunday nights.
Every Monday morning, Milam, who has 21 tackles this season going into Friday’s game at Mooresville, starts anew.
“Tanner is a very intelligent player,” Whiteland coach Darrin Fisher said. “He studies film better than most and uncovered tendencies and tips that have given us an edge at times. He enjoys every part of being a football player and is a positive leader.”
THE MILAM FILE
Name: Tanner Milam
Parents Scott and Dana; brother Grason, 13
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite movie: “Varsity Blues”
Favorite athlete: Ray Lewis
Favorite team: Baltimore Ravens