Anthony Miller is trying really hard to follow advice given to him at the NFL combine.
Slow down, just enough to stay focused and avoid making a mistake simply because the wide receiver is moving too fast.
That’s easier said than done for the man who had no offers from any FBS college coming out of high school and chose to walk on at Memphis. Miller is in a hurry to prove he’s the best wide receiver in the 2018 NFL draft.
“There’s not anything in my game that somebody can say that I don’t have,” Miller said. “I feel like I bring a lot to the table, and I feel like I deserve a chance. That’s really all I need is a chance. Say I go first round or third round, if I get that chance I’m going to remain on that team. They’re going to love what I bring to the table.”
Miller comes by that self-confidence naturally. That’s why he ignored a couple of offers from Football Championship Subdivision schools in order to walk on at his hometown university. And he left with a handful of receiving records: 238 catches for 3,590 yards and 37 touchdowns for his career. He topped his own single-season marks with 96 receptions for 1,462 yards, helping Memphis rank No. 25 in the final Associated Press poll.
“It’s just fun to me,” Miller said of playing football. “I feel like a person shouldn’t do anything if they don’t enjoy doing it. Whenever I step on that field, I see it as fun. I’m blessed to have this talent that I have, and every time I step on that field I’m just going to give it my all because it’s created so many opportunities for me as well.”
Kevin Locastro has seen Miller’s love of football. Locastro first met Miller when the receiver was in the seventh grade and headed to Christian Brothers High School. Miller came in as a freshman, undersized and maybe 105 pounds, but always the first player on the field for practice and the last to leave. He saw someone who enjoyed football so much that Miller’s work ethic was infectious, even in the sticky heat of summer weight workouts.
“You don’t see much of his humility when he’s playing, to be honest with you,” said Locastro, now athletic director at Lausanne Collegiate School. “Not that he’s an in-your-face, trash-talking type kid all the time. He plays with a certain level of confidence, and he wants to compete with the best. As soon as he steps off the field, he’s just a really good young man. He’s a yes sir, no sir kid. Very polite.”
Miller had one edge, even as a high school freshman: big hands. Locastro says it seems Miller’s hands are still growing, and Miller had some of the largest hands measured at this year’s combine at 10 inches.
“The other day I visited my grandma, and we put our hands up next to each other. I saw that her hands were pretty big as well,” Miller said of his mother’s mother. “She’s like, ‘That’s where you got your hands from.’ I said, ‘maybe so.’ But my dad has big hands as well. So do my uncles. I guess it runs in the family a little bit.”
Miller also lifted 225 pounds 22 times at the combine. Memphis coach Mike Norvell, who calls Miller one of the greatest wide receivers he’s been around, said that combination allows Miller to do so many things.
“When he gets those mitts on you, it’s a challenge for most defensive backs,” Norvell said. “But then some of the catches that you see him have, the one-handed catches, the reaction catches where he’s only able to get one hand up, having the size hands that he has and the strength that he has in them really allows him to do some special things catching the football.”
Miller answered one question about himself on April 3. He broke his right foot in the Liberty Bowl when Memphis lost 21-20 to Iowa State , but Miller ran the 40-yard dash at Memphis’ pro day , where he was told scouts clocked him at 4.46 and 4.52 seconds.
That has kept him very busy visiting with teams. The Minnesota Vikings showed interest, as did Carolina and Atlanta. He grew up rooting for the Cowboys like his father, but Miller only wants to be drafted.
“Like I said,” he repeated, “I just need an opportunity.”
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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker