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The unlikely rise and unfathomable fall of Alan Miller


Alan Miller, an attorney who earned his law degree in the offseason while playing fullback for the AFL's Boston Patriots and NFL's Oakland Raiders, represents three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and other well-known drivers.

Miller's resume also includes representing companies and teams involved in motor racing. They include Nextel -- in its negotiations with NASCAR to become title sponsor of what is now the Sprint Cup Series. Also, in the middle of 2007, Miller put together the deal that made Rob Kauffman an equal partner in Michael Waltrip Racing, bringing a cash infusion that likely saved the Waltrip team from drastic cutbacks.

The client list clearly points to a lawyer who brings great legal and negotiating skill and respect to the table. In fact, everything about Miller's life, which includes academic and athletic awards at the highest levels, is impressive.

Last October, Miller's successful run in his professional life took a drastic turn. He was indicted along with Castroneves and the driver's sister -- and business manager -- Kati Castroneves for tax evasion. They've pleaded not guilty. Opening statements in their trial in federal court in Miami were made on Tuesday. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Johnson, Roger Penske and former U.S. Congressman and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp are among those on Miller's witness list.

This isn't the place to argue the case. That's for the attorneys in Miami to do, and for a 12-person jury to decide. The consequences of a guilty verdict are severe. Miller and Helio and Kati Castroneves duo face the threat of prison and big fines for what the government charges was an attempt to not pay taxes on more than $5 million earned by Helio Castroneves. Miller would also face disbarment, perhaps ending his legal career.

Federal prosecutors allege that Miller and the Castroneveses "did willfully attempt to evade and defeat income tax due and owing by Helio Castroneves" by filing false income tax returns. It's more complicated than that, but the bottom line is the government says Miller lied to help Castroneves cheat on his taxes.

In his 44-year career as a lawyer, Miller has never been accused of any wrongdoing or ethics violations. He has a glowing reputation for honesty and integrity, which is why he's attracted the kind of clients he has. It would be completely out of character for Miller to have intentionally violated any law.

Miller has been called an "agent" by some, a characterization that usually represents taking a percentage of the client's income. Miller never has done that. He works for clients under the typical attorney-client standard of a retainer and hourly billing. Understanding that, the question that comes to mind is this: Why would Miller advise Castroneves to commit tax evasion when he wouldn't make a dime from it? There's no financial motive for Miller, and what other motive would there be?

Miller always works in the best interest of his clients -- I know many of them and how they feel about him -- and he would never put Castroneves in the position of breaking the law. That's just not the Miller I've known for 15 years.

He's a good friend. We've eaten sushi together in three countries.

Look at the way he's conducted his life. Miller was a three-year, two-way starter (at halfback and defensive back) at Boston College. He was voted to the All-East team as a senior in 1959, played in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and was drafted in the 19th round, 219th overall, by Philadelphia.

The Eagles put him at cornerback. "It wasn't my position, but I was a good tackler," Miller said. He played the entire preseason and was released in the final cut.

Miller had not only played football for four years at BC (where he is in the Athletic Hall of Fame), but also managed to graduate with a degree in finance. He had a chance to play pro football in Canada, but decided to attend law school and enrolled at Boston University in the fall of 1959.

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The American Football League (now the AFC) started in 1960 and Miller tried out for and made the Patriots as a 6-foot, 210-pound fullback. He gained 416 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry and also caught 29 passes. The Patriots traded him to Oakland for quarterback Babe Parelli prior to the 1961 season.

Miller played for Oakland from 1961 to '63, took 1964 to complete law school and returned in 1965. He was a starter all four seasons and played in the 1961 AFL All-Star game. The New York Daily News named him second team All-AFL in 1961.

Raiders' boss Al Davis once called Miller "pound for pound, the toughest player in the league." Famed Oakland center Jim Otto wrote in his book "The Pain of Glory" that "Alan might have been the Raiders' most intelligent player ever...he used his intelligence on the football field. He had different ways of blocking people and also getting open on pass routes."

Miller never missed a game in five AFL seasons. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry and 10.5 yards per reception, solid numbers. But his primary role in Oakland was to block for Clem Daniels, one of the league's top rushers.

"I was considered to be the best blocker in the league," Miller said.

Miller retired following the 1965 season, at 28. After graduating No. 2 in his law class at Boston University, he joined a prominent firm in Milwaukee. He also had a disabled daughter who needed more of his attention.

"My daughter needed more care and I was under pressure from my law firm to come to work full time," Miller said. "I walked away after the best year I ever had. It was the biggest mistake I ever made."

Kemp, a quarterback with the Buffalo Bills, recruited Miller to be General Counsel to the AFL Players Association. When the AFL/NFL merger was completed following the 1970 season, the two Players Associations had to be merged too. They couldn't come to a consensus picking between the two associations' leaders, the Rams' Eddie Meador and Kemp. Colts' tight end John Mackey was selected as a compromise under the condition that Miller would be General Counsel. Miller accepted and remained in the position until 1972.

Miller has never solicited clients. He began representing athletes in the mid-1970s. They ranged from Dan Dierdorf to Rusty Staub. The late IndyCar driver Scott Brayton was his first racing client and NASCAR driver Ward Burton the second.

Miller, who had a successful amateur racing career as a driver, personally represents Herb Fishel, the retired former head of General Motors racing programs. Fishel had spotted Jimmie Johnson when he was racing in the Mickey Thompson Off-Road stadium series in California as a teenager and signed him to a GM contract.

Fishel asked Miller to guide Johnson's career.

"Herb introduced me to Jimmie at an off-road truck race and within a year or two, Jimmie had become like a son to me," Miller said. "Jimmie was living in Milwaukee. He wanted to get to pavement racing. He'd met the Herzog Brothers in off-road and they wanted to get to pavement racing. I went to Milwaukee, negotiated and bought an ASA [stock car] team for them."

With the Herzogs, Johnson advanced to NASCAR's Nationwide Series and into Cup in 2002. Miller has negotiated all of Johnson's contracts and they remain close.

When Miller was indicted last fall, Johnson was stunned.

"It's certainly shocking," Johnson said. "Alan has been my attorney since I was 15. He's been a great friend and has helped me with a lot of different things. I have an outside tax group that I use, so he really is my attorney. He has respected my thoughts and me as a driver as though he was a parent of some sort. He has really done a phenomenal job for me. I've never seen anything out of character from him."

Johnson could be speaking for all of Miller's clients and friends. It is up to a jury to decide, but everyone who knows or has worked with Alan Miller understands that breaking the law would be completely out of character.