When Horace Miller was a standout at Dunbar as an all-state pass rusher for a state championship team, former Dunbar star and NFL linebacker Tommy Polley visited the Poets in the school cafeteria and delivered a telling message.
Polley, who played for the Ravens, St. Louis Rams and New Orleans Saints, asked all of the players with college and NFL aspirations to raise their hands. Every member of the team enthusiastically did so. Then, Polley instructed Dunbar star Tavon Austin, who became the eighth overall pick of the draft last year with the Rams, to stand up.
"Tommy Polley said that was to show us the likelihood of multiple guys making it from one school," Miller told The Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. "That's always stuck with me. I was determined to make sure that's not the case. I'm a big believer. I just want my opportunity and I'll take it from there."
Now, Miller is making his bid for a shot at the NFL. The Texas-El Paso outside linebacker is hoping to become a late-round draft pick today during the final day of the NFL draft. If he's not drafted, Miller figures to be a priority free agent who'll sign with an NFL team.
Miller participated in the Ravens' local prospects day where he met with inside linebackers coach Don "Wink" Martindale and he also was invited to the NFL super regional combine at the Detroit Lions' Ford Field. Miller said the Ravens have remained in contact with him since the workout.
"They've been in touch," Miller said. "It was great working out for them. I did real well. The coaches liked me. After the workout was over, coach Martindale called me and [Colorado State linebacker] Shaquil Barrett up to his office to talk.
"My agent is feeling really confident from the body of work I put in. I'm really hoping for a late-round draft pick. If worse comes to worse, priority free agent. I just want to get my opportunity. Once you get into camp, everybody is on the same playing field."
Miller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds at his campus Pro Day workout where he also registered a 37.5-inch vertical leap, a 10-10 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times with a 6.99 three-cone drill.
"Speed helps you a lot in any position as far as football goes," Miller said. "It's more than just speed. It's my ability. I can adapt and I'm able to make an impact. Maybe not a drastic immediate impact, but an impact where a team would be satisfied.
"I can put my hand in the dirt still and, of course, I can play in space and help in coverage. I'm not one-dimensional. I would love to play on special teams and help the team to win any way I can."
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The 6-foot-1 240-pounder was an All-Conference USA honorable-mention selection as a junior when he recorded six sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses and blocked a field goal against Oklahoma and two sacks against Wisconsin. He had 53 tackles last season as a senior.
Miller also led the Miners with five sacks as a sophomore in 2011 after sitting out the 2010 season when he transferred from Louisville.
Miller recorded 29 sacks as a senior at Dunbar after recording 17 sacks as a junior while splitting time between defensive end and linebacker. He was named the Metro Defensive Player of the Year as a senior when he had 133 tackles and forced six fumbles before signing with Louisville.
Miller played in 11 games as a true freshman for Louisville before deciding to transfer.
"It was pretty much just immaturity," Miller said. "I played as a true freshman and then they had a new coaching staff. I was recruited by the old coaching staff and I just didn't feel as comfortable there. At the end of the day, it was just immaturity for me to leave, but it worked out. I'm just ready to get my shot at the NFL and I will make the most out of it."