Miller Adjusting Well to Life in the NFL

Ex-Sun Devil tight end Zach Miller hasn't had too many days off since being drafted last April by the Oakland Raiders with the 38th overall selection. Consequently, he'll enjoy just a few days back at his Ahwatukee home before reporting to camp on the 25th of this month. Not only is Miller taking all this in stride, but he's been pleased with his performance thus far in the silver and black.

Shortly after the NFL draft, Zach Miller got to experience his first spring mini-camp at the professional level. "It was a lot fun. Everything was brand new, and I was trying to figure things out," he said. "They threw the playbook at you pretty fast, and each day they're installing an incredible amount of information and you have to try and pick it up as quickly as you can. You find out right away that playing football in the NFL is very different than college."

Miller has no complaints either about the city of Oakland and its surroundings. "It's a nice area and the weather is a lot nicer here these days than Phoenix," he commented. "It really helps when you go to practice in this kind of weather." One thing that is growing old for Miller is living at a Hilton hotel with the rest of the team's newcomers, thus buying a house in the near future is definitely in the tight end's plans.

Having a new coach, Lane Kiffin, certainly aids rookies such as Miller. It levels the playing field across veterans and newcomers, as everyone is trying to prove themselves to the new staff. "It's cool to know that you're one of the first players the new coaches wanted to bring in because they thought you could help the team," said Miller. "Things are new to the coaches, like they are new to you, and we had more practices so everyone could get used to the new system. Everyone is kinda starting at the same level."

Specifically concerning Kiffin, a former USC assistant coach, Miller admitted that it helps to have a head coach that's so familiar with him and his skills. "He recruited me to USC when I was in high school, and when the Raiders drafted me; he told me 'I finally got you.' So it's cool to have a coach that values you so much."

It may be that confidence vibe he's feeling from Kiffin that has helped Miller put on a good display thus far in the team's practices. "Catching the ball was always been a strength of mine and I made a lot of plays in the spring," he said. "I did well in blocking too, but we never went full go because we weren't in full pads. But we were very aggressive and I got to go up against some pretty darn impressive guys."

OK, not everything can be that easy for Miller in practice. What about the rites of passage first-year players go through, also known as rookie hazing? "It hasn't been too bad so far," claimed Miller. "Just carrying the veterans' pads and playbooks, stuff like that…I know the real stuff is gonna happen in training camp." There are some veterans that are lending Miller a hand, something he greatly appreciates. "Fred Wakefield, who was an offensive lineman with the Arizona Cardinals, has really helped me," Miller noted. "He used to be a lineman with the Cardinals and now is a tight end with the Raiders. He taught me a lot about blocking."

Another veteran that has naturally been interacting quite a bit with Miller on and off the field is his former Arizona State teammate Andrew Walter. "It was pretty cool to reunite with him and catch that first pass from him in the spring mini-camp," said Miller. "It was just like old times. It's really nice to play again with an ex-teammate." Walter was injured in the spring and he was sidelined fro many practices. Nonetheless, according to Miller the former ASU signal caller should be ready to go come training camp.

When Zach Miller decided to forgo his senior year at ASU, that decision was in part so older brother Brent will be the featured tight end in Tempe. The younger Miller acknowledged that it's weird suddenly playing without Brent beside him, but he's pleased about what he's hearing from Brent and the rest of the Sun Devils. "He told me how well things are going there, and how much the players like Coach Erickson and everything else," said Miller. "I heard nothing but good things and I think they'll have a good season. I look forward to watching them play in the fall." Unfortunately Miller will be on the road, when ASU plays at nearby Palo Alto against Stanford, but he's contemplating going to the road game against Washington State during the Raiders' bye week.

At ASU, Zach Miller was a three-year starter who was awarded All-Conference honors every season since his freshman campaign. He ranks first among all ASU tight ends in career receptions (144) and touchdown catches (14) and second only to All-Pro Todd Heap with 1,512 receiving yards. Miller has enjoyed much success both at the high school and college level, but is modest in his predictions for himself and the chance to achieve prosperity in the NFL.

"My first goal is to contribute to the team," he commented. "Even if it's not starting, I just want to do whatever I can do on the field. Of course I want to be the starter, but that may not happen right away." The Raiders' scheme calls mainly for a fullback and a single tight end – something that can limit his snaps on game day. However, he claimed that they're definitely some two and even three-tight end sets in the team's arsenal that could obviously help him see the filed more often.

The dream Miller had of being in the NFL has materialized, and life has stopped being surreal for the tight end once he arrived at Oakland for the very first time and stepped on the practice field. "I'm getting used to everything and seeing myself as a professional football player," he said. "Some things may still shock you a little bit, but overall I've been adjusting well."

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