"When we first got him out there and were watching the tape after practice — with his effort and intensity — it was great to see," coach Randy Edsall said. "It helps our other guys because they see how hard he's going. It's just great having a guy like that around."

'Whatever he's got to do'

Miles isn't the only Army veteran playing Division I football. Clemson wide receiver and special teams player Daniel Rodriguez served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Their backgrounds set them apart from their teammates. For example, Miles says "I don't get nervous or anything like that" playing football because his perspective has changed.

Miles' experience in Afghanistan was chronicled by a New York Daily News reporter who joined the soldier on a night watch in 2010.

"Up on a hastily nailed together wooden guard tower called 'the deer stand,' Army Spec. Tehuti Miles, 19, of Newark and Hammonton, N.J., had the first watch as the sun fell across open farmland sprawled out below," the Daily News account said. "Using binoculars, night-vision goggles and a thermal imaging scope that detects warm things like people and animals, Miles protected his tiny 26-man unit as they slept or played dominos."

The account reported on homemade bombs exploding and platoon members being wounded or killed.

Miles doesn't talk about those things much. Asked whether he had lost many friends in Afghanistan, he replied simply: "One is a lot."

Miles' immediate goal is to win playing time next season.

"He's going to do whatever he's got to do to try to get on the field next year, be it as a running back or a special teams guy," Edsall said. "We've got some pretty good players at running back, so we'll have to see. I would think right now the best opportunity heading into next fall would probably be more of a special teams guy. But that's why we have spring practice, because we'll have a chance to evaluate him more."

Miles' ambition is to play in the NFL. But after shifting gears once — from the military to college football — he is prepared to do so again, if necessary.

"I'm going to school for theater. I've always been in acting and stuff like that," he said. "That could be a Plan B."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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