When a particular region of the United States can be described with a hashtag, and athletes who live in that region instantly raise their intensity levels, you know it's more than just a social media publicity stunt.
For those who live in East Texas, "#bEASTtexas" is a lifestyle. And for 4-star wide receiver and University of Texas commit Damion Miller, that lifestyle is a movement that needs to go national, perhaps even global.
"#bEASTtexas, baby," Miller repeated after his team, John Tyler High School, defeated New Orleans' Warren Easton High School in the fourth game of the six-game Battle on the Border showcase last Saturday in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"These boys just don't know. These boys don't know about those #bEASTtexas boys."
Who would have thought a hashtag would radiate so much moxie, so much machismo, so much confidence? For Miller, who lives in the East Texas town of Tyler, that hashtag has helped to fuel his drive in becoming college football's next big thing.
It also fuels his fire to become the next in the line of great athletes to come from East Texas. That lineage includes NFLers Adrian Peterson, Aaron Ross, Matt Flynn, Josh McCown, Luke McCown and arguably the greatest name in East Texas football, Earl Campbell.
"First, I've got to do it in D-1 [FBS], and then, I'm trying to be a star in the NFL," Miller said. "Hopefully, I'm the next one from here to make it big. That's what I want."
Ready for the Longhorns
Miller committed to Texas on June 25, 2015, choosing the Longhorns over Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and a few other programs. Recruited by Jeff Traylor, another East Texas guy, Miller was the first 2017 pledge for the Longhorns and head coach Charlie Strong.
"I got on the phone with Coach Strong, and I told him that I was committing," Miller told 247Sports' E.J. Holland following his verbal. "He was really excited. He told me that I was the player he really wanted. He's even going to let me keep my jersey number and everything."
Traylor, Texas' tight ends coach, is a former high school head coach in East Texas, something that originally caught Miller's attention.
"He's from East Texas, so he knows a lot about how we do things," Miller said of Traylor. "He knows we have some big-time players who have been overlooked.
"The school's perfect for me. I know I can get a good education there. I like the new offensive coordinator [Sterlin Gilbert] and how they've switched to a true spread offense. I went to the Notre Dame game, and I liked how they threw the ball. They'll always run the ball, but I like how they're throwing it now."
Miller was the first of what is now eight commitments in Texas' 2017 class. He is currently the only wide receiver pledge of the class, but if the Longhorns fail to land any more receivers, they have a keystone get in Miller, who is ranked as a top-20 receiver nationally.
At 6'1" and 193 pounds, Miller runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. He's talented enough to beat defensive backs with his speed and power. Against Warren Easton, Miller caught a 76-yard touchdown pass, showing his athleticism and his ability to outmuscle defenders.
"The football player they're getting is a guy whose ceiling hasn't been met yet," said Ricklan Holmes, John Tyler's head coach. "Who they're going to get, they're going to be happy with for the next four years. He's going to bring a mentality to that receiving core where once he steps out that locker room and goes to the practice field, guys will understand why he's there. There won't be a question."
What Holmes also likes about Miller is that as good as he is, he approaches the game with humility. There's an innocence in Miller in that he understands being a playmaker but doesn't relish the responsibility.
"As a grown man playing the game, he's still a kid inside," Holmes said of Miller. "He's a fun-loving guy who's always laughing and always joking. It's not that he doesn't care, he just doesn't take it as seriously as most people would think he should. A lot of stuff he does, he does it naturally.
"And there's not very much he can't do."
More than a hashtag
Around the East Texas area, the stories of the origin of #bEASTtexas are treated like those of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the chupacabra. Every story has its folklore value, and every story is entertaining.
Believed to originate on Twitter around 2012, the hashtag began catching fire when athletes like quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (now at Houston) wide receiver Fred Ross (Mississippi State), wide receiver K.D. Cannon (Baylor) and wide receiver Dylan Cantrell (Texas Tech) were shining on gridirons as high school seniors. Miller first joined Twitter in June of 2013, the summer entering his freshman year.
"There are a lot of players in East Texas who are beasts," Miller said. "That's why the nickname fits us. When someone comes here, they should know how i is."
"#bEASTtexas...it's where it's at."
Miller began noticing the hashtag early in his high school career, and he hoped one day the hashtag would complement the work he did on the field. He hasn't disappointed as John Tyler's go-to receiving option, catching 67 passes for 1,526 yards and 17 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons combined.
This year, Miller has seven completions in three games. Of the seven, four have gone for touchdowns.
"Damion is a raw athlete. You see him on the football field, and it's like he's not even trying," said Clint Buckley, managing editor for East Texas Sports Network. "He does everything smoothly; it comes naturally to him.
"I think once he gets into a program like Texas and refines his skills, the tools of the trade, I think the sky's the limit for him. If you match fine-tuning the craft with what he already has to work with, he's going to be a great player at the next level."
Miller is sold on adding his name to the legacy of outstanding East Texas athletes, and he believes that playing at a program with Texas' tradition can only enhance that opportunity. He's been compared to John Burt, who currently is one of the Longhorns' go-to, deep-threat options.
"We've got speed, and we're both kind of big," Miller said of the comparisons to Burt. "We can get past our defenders real easily, and the ball is right there for us. But I know I've got to work hard. Nothing's coming to me for free."
Buckley said Miller falls into the category of the typical East Texas football player, an athlete who "plays with a chip on his shoulder." Metropolitan areas like Dallas and Houston receive the majority of publicity when discussing Texas high school football, and many East Texas athletes feel overlooked, which, Miller said, leads to a feeling of disrespect.
"They feel like they have to work harder than the rest of the state to get noticed and get to where they want to be, which is playing college football," Buckley said. "There are a lot of good players. They just want to be looked at like some of the others around the state. The talent has been great for more than 50 years, and it's going to be great for 50 more."
With the proper tutelage, Miller will be next in line. In fact, Holmes expects greatness.
After all, #bEASTtexas is more than a hashtag to everyone in the region.
"Knowing what we do down here, this is football country. This is where we eat, live and breathe football," Holmes said. "Damion has that beast within. There's a dog mentality in him to where he can take over a game at any given time."
"I hear a lot out here. They say I'm the next big one out of here," Miller added. "People are saying they can't wait for me to get to Texas. Coming straight out of high school and going to the next level, it's like living a dream. Doing it for #bEASTtexas, it just makes it even more exciting."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles