Joshua Miles is the type of player everyone will root for this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
He is a Randallstown native who played at Western Tech High in Baltimore County and later at Morgan State. He has great size at 6 feet 6 and 315 pounds, and a heart as big as his body.
His soft-spoken and easy-going demeanor suggest a lack of confidence, but that would be the wrong interpretation. Miles, an offensive tackle, is considered a long shot to make an NFL roster this summer, but he wants to show a different story this week when team officials huddle to test and interview prospects.
“I would say there is a 100 percent chance of me making a roster,” Miles said. “You have to have that discipline; that focus on your goal. I know about my capabilities and that I have the intangibles. It’s not a matter of me making a squad but if I’m going to start right away.”
The combine is where dreamers come to dream. All the big-name schools have players there, such as Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State. A lot of their players have been scouted and analyzed in person and on film.
Miles played well enough last season for all 32 NFL teams to send a representative to watch him practice, and a couple attended some of his games, but he clearly isn’t rated among the top 10 left tackles in the draft.
But Miles does have some history on his side. Some NFL Hall of Fame players, such as guards Larry Little and Gene Upshaw and tackle Art Shell, have played at small historically black colleges. Two of the best to ever play for the Ravens were center Wally Williams (Florida A&M) and late offensive tackle Orlando Brown Sr. (South Carolina State).
It’s Miles’ turn to dream.
“I’ve been a big football fan ever since I was on the 8-to-10 team in Randallstown. I had the Ray Lewis dance down coming out of the tunnel,” said Miles, laughing. “This is a process that has been taking place for years.
“I’ve been watching and observing [the combine] for the last four or five years because I thought my time would come and now it is so amazing to be in this position. Whichever team believes in me is going to get a 200 percent return on their investment.”
Miles has put a lot of time in preparing for the combine already. In early January, he moved to Indianapolis so he could work out at Pro X, a camp designed for the tests that is run by former Indianapolis Colts players Daniel Muir, Robert Mathis and Dylan Gandy.
He has changed his diet and added supplements that allowed him to add 15 pounds of muscle. Miles would like to run the 40-yard dash in a 5 seconds flat and hopes to bench press 225 pounds, the standard weight, more than 20 times.
NFL team officials aren’t just focused on studying the physical attributes of a prospect, but the mental acumen, too. Miles is prepared for the head games.
“You prepare for the drills but you also have to prepare for the interviews with head coaches, the position coaches, the general managers,” said Miles, a business administration major. “They’ll talk about a lot of things, life stuff, to feel you out and I look forward to meeting with them.”
Miles got a taste of that at the East-West Shrine Game last month in St. Petersburg, Fla. He played the entire third quarter and two possessions into the fourth. Miles got a chance to be coached by top NFL assistant coaches and a chance to practice daily against some of the best college players in the country.
“Auburn, Georgia, Oregon, a lot of the big-time programs had players there,” said Miles. “It was just an air of professionalism. I thought I played well and was told that by several coaches. Now, it has to carry over into the combine.”
The combine is just another obstacle in fulfilling the dream. Miles had to sit out his junior year at Morgan because he hadn’t made enough progress toward obtaining a degree. According to Miles, it was more of a mistake committed by his adviser than poor grades.
But he remembers going to training camp, practices and attending home games, and dreaded not being able to play. He doesn’t want to be out of the game again, especially not so soon.
If he makes an NFL roster, he already has some plans. He wants to give back to his community in some way Lewis and former Raven Ed Reed do with their foundations. Miles likes to read, he has an open mind when it comes to science and he stays up with all the new advances in technology as far as coding and web design.
His mom, Nancy, as well as uncles Bev and Lewis Myles, have been strong influences on his life, and the core of that support is still in place even though Bev Miles died recently.
“My mom instilled a lot of love in me, certainly a lot of God in me, that’s for sure,” Miles said. “I’ve always had a curious mind and been blessed to play football and basketball. If I make it, I want to boost the interest in our youth in Baltimore. They say talent is distributed equally but opportunity isn’t. I want to help give that opportunity.”
But first Miles has to capitalize on his own opportunity, and that starts this week at the combine. The odds of him making an NFL roster aren’t high, but you like his chances based on his size, attitude and character.
At this time of year, you root for guys like Miles.