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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Akin native brings story of Rich Herrin to national audience this week

  • A hometown boy is honoring a local legend on a national stage Thursday evening.
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  • A hometown boy is honoring a local legend on a national stage Thursday evening.
    Rich Herrin, head basketball coach at Morthland College, will be featured on "Small Town, Big Deal" on the RFD network at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The show is co-produced and co-hosted by Akin native Rodney Miller.
    "We like to honor people who have lived a great life," said Miller, who still owns farm land in Franklin County. "I have great respect for Coach Herrin."
    Miller's ties with Herrin go back to his childhood, when he attended Akin Grade School and later Benton High School, where Herrin built a sterling reputation as a high school basketball coach. As a young man, Miller coached Akin Grade School to a junior high state championship in 1984.
    About that time, Herrin moved on to a storied college coaching career, leading Southern Illinois University to several Missouri Valley Conference titles and postseason tournaments.
    Miller also rose to the top — not in coaching, but in the agricultural industry. He served as the CEO of McCormick International, USA, in Duluth, Ga., until May 2010. McCormick International builds and distributes agricultural tractors for both the full-time and rural lifestyle farmer. He had previously been CEO of Montana Tractors, a nationwide distributor of compact tractors and equipment, located in Springdale, Ark. Miller led a team that took Montana Tractors from $2 million in annual revenue to over $80 million in annual revenue in just three years.
    Through all his success, his heart remained in the small town of his childhood. In 2005 he had an idea for a TV show to bring the stories of rural America to the world. Seven years later, his brainchild took the air and quickly became one of RFD’s Top 15 shows.
    To get comfortable in front of the camera, Miller worked with Harrison Ford’s acting coach. Over time he assembled a talented team of broadcast professionals to work on "Small Town, Big Deal."
    "She saw my first episode and reached out to me," Miller said of Carl, who now serves as his co-host. "She owns half the show with me."
    Carl accompanied Miller to West Frankfort to meet Herrin and his Morthland squad.
    "Jann just loved meeting him," Miller said. "Now she feels like she's known him her whole life."
    The coach said he enjoyed his time with the TV crew.
    "They had a big crew, probably six people," Herrin said. "They're nice people."
    Thursday's episode will have a segment on the coach, some background on Miller's life growing up in Franklin County and a segment on a tractor run in Benton. The episode will end with a tribute to Herrin, who has come out of retirement twice to return to the bench — once to coach Marion High School's program and now to coach the small-college team at Morthland.
    Page 2 of 2 - The RFD network is available to DirecTV subscribers and some Dish Network subscribers. Although Mediacom doesn't carry the network locally, the shows are posted online three to five days after airing at the Web site: http://www.smalltownbigdeal.com
    Miller is working to bring his show to an even bigger stage.
    "RFD reaches 40 million homes. That's about 35 percent of the homes with TVs in the country," Miller said. He and Carl have an upcoming meeting with the wider-reaching Hallmark Channel and other possible opportunities in the works.
    "Thursday's episode will actually introduce a new format for us," he said. "The bigger networks like reality shows to have the OTF (On The Fly) confessionals, like those used on 'American Pickers' and 'Duck Dynasty.' It's where they'll show a scene and then cut to another location where the subject is standing somewhere else talking about the scene.
    "Some of the bigger networks wanted us to go to that format."
    While he's still learning what the network big-wigs want in a show, Miller knows what small-town people want to see. This Thursday's season premiere was a no-brainer, he said.
    "Basketball in small towns is a big deal. What better guy to focus on than Coach Herrin?"
    Coming up Thursday following the airing of the season premiere of "Small Town, Big Deal," hosts Rodney and Jann will be on Facebook for 30 minutes after the show to answer questions. The show airs from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. central time and at 9 p.m. viewers can log on to Facebook for a live chat with the hosts. During that time you can post a question or comment for Rodney and Jann: https://www.facebook.com/smalltownbigdeal
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