IOWA CITY - Growing up in south-central Nebraska as the son and nephew of former Nebraska football players, Tanner Miller recalls that his room resembled a Cornhusker memorabilia shop.

Pennants, helmets, pictures, replica jerseys, t-shirts, sweatshirts and caps, he had them all.

"I was like any other kid in small-town Nebraska. I wanted to grow up and be a Husker," said Miller, who now starts in the defensive backfield for Iowa.

"I went to games at Memorial Stadium with my family, pretended to be Nebraska players when I was playing football in the backyard, all that kid stuff."

Miller's father, Brian, was a walk-on who lettered as a linebacker at Nebraska in 1988. His uncle, Kevin Miller, lettered as a walk-on defensive tackle in 1989.

"Our family had ties to the program because of that so we all were big fans. That's the way it was," Miller said.

Until he was in eighth grade, Miller's family lived in Superior, Neb., a town of around 2,500 that sits just north of the Nebraska-Kansas border south of Hastings and about 110 miles southwest of the stadium where Miller dreamed of one day playing football.

"I just never thought I would be running out of the visitor's tunnel," Miller said.

That will be the situation Miller finds himself in Friday when the sophomore free safety and the Hawkeyes visit the Cornhuskers at 11 a.m.

It will be the 10th start of the season for Miller, who ranks fourth on Iowa's tackle charts with 63 stops and shares the team lead with three interceptions.

Two of his picks came last weekend during the Hawkeyes' 31-21 win at Purdue.

"The game is really starting to slow down for me," Miller said. "I'm settling into my role and starting to see things that I need to see. I'm still learning every week, but I am starting to feel comfortable out there."

Miller is feeling comfortable as a Hawkeye as well.

His family moved to Kalona, Iowa, when Miller began eighth grade and going to junior high and high school less than 20 minutes south of Iowa City, his allegiance began to change.

"Being that close, I was always watching the Hawkeyes. It's the state college, it was close to home and over time, I became a fan watching the way Iowa plays the game," Miller said.

Just as he envisioned himself in a Nebraska uniform as a youngster, he started to think about how he could fit into an Iowa jersey as his career progressed at Mid-Prairie High School in Wellman, Iowa.

He rushed for 4,100 yards in high school, playing both running back and defensive back and earning first-team all-state recognition twice. A state hurdles champion as a high school junior for the Golden Hawks, Miller received a chance to play for Iowa two days before signing day in 2010.

The scholarship offer came during a cellphone call Miller received on a school bus while traveling with the Mid-Prairie basketball team to a game against Fairfield.

"It was great feeling, something I hoped might happen and it worked out,'' Miller said. "All I wanted was a chance."

Miller has made the most of it.

"Tanner has made steady progress and he's growing into his position," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He's still a young player, but he's making strides."

Those strides lead him to Lincoln, Neb., on Friday, where Miller's family will return to familiar surroundings for a reunion of sorts.

"I have a bunch of family members who still live in Nebraska. They'll all be there, friends and family," Miller said. "It's going to be a special day and I hope we can go over there and play well."

His parents won't be part of the sea of red at Memorial Stadium. Nearly all of their Cornhuskers' gear and memorabilia has been packed in boxes, out of sight, out of mind.

"I'm sure dad probably has a sweatshirt or two still around somewhere, but I haven't seen any in a long time," Miller said. "They're all Hawkeyes now."

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