INDIANAPOLIS — At 6 feet 5 and 314 pounds, Joshua Miles doesn’t have to try hard to be the biggest guy in most rooms. Growing up in Randallstown, the Morgan State offensive lineman also didn’t have to look far to find someone even bigger.
“Jonathan Ogden, man,” Miles said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “That was my role model.”
He grew up, as he put it, “watching the greats.” There was Ogden, the Ravens’ behemoth Hall of Fame tackle. There was linebacker Ray Lewis, whose squirrel dance he imitated as a Randallstown Panthers youth football standout. He once got to meet Ed Reed, another living legend.
They once stood where he has found himself this week in Indianapolis, inching toward a professional football career, on the verge of the next level. But Miles, for all his potential, does not have what those Ravens did when they were only prospects. He lacks a certain pedigree.
Ogden went to UCLA, Lewis and Reed to Miami. Miles played in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a Football Championship Subdivision member rarely seen on ESPN. The Bears last had a winning season in 2014. They were swathed in the spotlight. He was named MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Week three times during the season, allowed one sack and still received only third-team all-league honors. That frustrated him. Still, he understands the broader picture.
"Honestly, HBCU football has so much talent,” he said, referring to historically black colleges and universities. “And the MEAC, I feel, is a hotbed for that. We've pumped out in the last few years several big-name athletes: [Indianapolis Colts linebacker] Darius Leonard, All-Pro. [Chicago Bears running back] Tarik Cohen, All-Pro, Pro Bowl guy this year. [Oakland offensive tackle] Brandon Parker, soon-to-be All Pro guy for the Raiders. Just really talented guys.
“So there's a lot of pride playing black college football. Morgan State, however, has the most Hall of Famers of any HBCU. So, you know, maybe you're looking at a future one here."
He smiled. It has been a busy week, meeting with “virtually every other team” besides the four he was set to meet later Thursday, but he found moments of levity in the 15 minutes he sat with reporters.
Miles talked about how hard it was to avoid potato wedges as he strove to eat "clean" before the combine. He listed the many sports he played as a kid — baseball, swimming and diving, wrestling — and even one he didn't. ("I should've played lacrosse back in the day.") He joked about his length, saying he could tie his shoes standing up. He praised Morgan State's improved academic support after a problem with academic credits cost him his eligibility in 2017, what should've been his senior year.
Miles handled himself like a pro, an accomplishment for a Bears program that hasn’t had a player drafted since 2003. He seemed to understand his long-shot odds. He also wanted to make clear his potential mattered more than his program.
"You're getting a hard worker,” he said. “You're getting an athletic guy. You're getting somebody who's going to put in 110 percent every day. I mean, man, when you draft me, you're going to get a 200 percent return on your investment, guaranteed."