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View from the East
Monday, April 28, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Miller keeping magic toe primed for NFL opening

©2003 Bonesville.net

Kevin Miller said he watched some of the first three rounds of the NFL draft as a fan on Saturday. That was after playing three rounds — of golf — in the Conference USA Tournament earlier in the week.

Miller had a little more personal interest for the last four rounds of the NFL draft on Sunday. A kicker who became ECU’s career scoring leader as a senior, he thought he might have a chance at being chosen in the late rounds.

While Mars Hill, Grand Valley State and Gustavus Adolphus had players taken, the Pirates were shut out for the third time in four years. A number of ECU players should be signing free agent contracts over the next several days, a route to the NFL that worked for defensive lineman Devone Claybrooks, who finished playing for the Pirates in 2000.

Claybrooks earned a Super Bowl championship ring this past season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Miller, who finished with 287 points as a Pirate, came to ECU on a golf scholarship. He returned to the links for the Pirates this spring, shooting 78, 75, 73 in the Conference USA Tournament last week.

Miller, 23, majored in communications and was president of ECU’s student-athlete advisory council. Though he was born in San Diego, he eventually signed a grant with the Pirates out of Salem High in Virginia Beach.

Miller talked former ECU coach Steve Logan into letting him come out for kicker on the football team as a freshman in 1998. As a redshirt freshman in 1999, he hit 11 of 15 field goals but missed four games with a pulled muscle. He was C-USA player of the week after hitting 3-of-3 field goal attempts against West Virginia in a 30-23 win in Charlotte.

He won the league’s weekly honor again that year after making a 52-yard field goal and a 48-yarder at Army — a 33-14 win that improved the Pirates to 5-0 that season.

As a sophomore in 2000, Miller punted and placekicked. He averaged 40.4 yards per punt. In ECU’s 40-27 win over Texas Tech in the Gallery Furniture Bowl in Houston, Miller kicked three field goals. In 2001, Miller didn’t miss on any of his 13 field goal attempts from 41 yards or closer.

“Playing football at East Carolina definitely helped me mature,” Miller said. “There were a lot of highs and a couple of lows. I dealt with the highs and lows and the reason I don’t worry about making it in the NFL is that I met so many great people in the area. I feel like I can get a job and stay in this area.”

Miller is represented by Fayetteville-based sports agent Ralph Vitolo, who also represents Claybrooks. Vitolo lined up workouts for Miller prior to the draft with the Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants.

“I saw him kick and he performed well,” said Giants scout Steve Verdarosa. “He showed accuracy and leg strength, which had been an issue with him. One question with kickers is depth and height on kickoffs.

"Some guys can line drive it deep but that doesn’t allow the coverage team to get downfield and stop the return. Guys who just kick it high but not deep surrender field position.

“Kevin seemed to be able to kick under adverse conditions. The thing about kickers is that teams seldom spend a draft choice on them. It’s the lowest-paid position on the team and there’s only one of them. It’s not like drafting a receiver or offensive lineman that could play several spots. Kickers almost have to be cut before their careers take hold. It’s almost like a rite of passage.”

Miller worked out for Mark Michaels, assistant special teams coach for the Seahawks, and thought his best shot at being drafted was with Seattle, which didn’t have a kicker on its roster. Seattle took a kicker in the seventh and final round but it was Josh Brown of Nebraska.

“I knew my hopes of getting drafted were kind of shot then,” Miller said.

Miller is hoping Vitolo can get him signed as a free agent.

“In a best case scenario you get into camp and compete for the job with another kicker,” Miller said. “There’s also some value into getting into a camp with a veteran guy. You can learn under him and, in effect, audition for 31 other teams. ... You look at Jeff Reid from (North) Carolina. He got the right opportunity with Pittsburgh the last half of the season last year and had a great end of the season.

“We’ll just have to look at teams that would be a good fit. All I can control is working out and staying in shape. I’ll just let Ralph do his job. A kicker has to be patient. It can take two or three years to make it and I don’t know how long I’m going to give it.”

Andrew Bayes, who led the nation in punting average in 1999, pursued an NFL career for several years. Bayes, incidently, will marry Allison Barrow at the First Presbyterian Church in Dunn on May 3, a ceremony that Miller and a number of Bayes’ former teammates plan to attend.

Miller hit 17 of 22 field goals last season and 34 of 36 extra points.

Miller put his golf career on hold while kicking at ECU. His score in the C-USA golf tournament counted in ECU’s team total the last two days, on Tuesday and Wednesday at Lake Jovita, a resort community about 45 minutes north of Tampa, Fla.

“It was a nice week of playing team golf,” Miller said. “After shooting 78 the first day, I wasn’t too worried about the individual competition. It felt good to contribute to the team score the last two days.”

Cameron Broadwell and Chris Baglio are competing to take over the kicking duties Miller has performed for most of the last four seasons.

“I think people are going to have to be patient with those guys,” Miller said. “It’s sort of like when Paul Troth stepped into David Garrard’s shoes. Some people weren’t as patient as maybe they should have been.

"Spring was important for them to adjust to a new holder. That’s something I had to do. I think I had a new holder each year at ECU.

“There was always a period of adjustment and I was always a little concerned coming out of spring ball. But there was always a lot of time to learn to work together in preseason practice.”

Miller said he was home most of the day on Saturday — watching the draft and occasionally switching over to the Houston Open golf tournament, which was won by Fred Couples. Miller didn’t see his name called on ESPN but he enjoyed Couples’ first tour win in several years.

“I was rooting for him,” Miller said. “I like to see stories like that.”

ECU fans will be rooting for Miller to make it in the NFL. Pirates fans like to see stories like that, too.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/22/2007 11:53:45 PM
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