Miller Adjusting to West Coast Life

CUTigers.com catches up with the former Tiger after one of his recent games for the Oakland Raiders.

What an interesting few years it has been for former Clemson defensive back Justin Miller.

A second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2005, Miller quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous kick returners in the NFL by averaging 26.3 yards per return and scoring one touchdown as a rookie.

The following year, he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl for his prowess in the return game with 46 kick returns for 1304 yards and two touchdowns.

Miller then missed the entire 2007 season with a knee injury and after recovering fully, the Jets cut him in November 2008. He quickly landed in Oakland and showed his worth early on for the Silver and Black, taking a pair of returns to the end zone this year. Here's more from this ex-Tiger in another Q&A with CUTigers:

Justin first off, talk a little bit about what you remember most from your time at Clemson.
Miller: I think those were some of the greatest years of my life. I had a lot of fun there, especially playing football, I great core group of guys on offense, defense and special teams. It was just a great experience for me.

What was your favorite memory overall?
Miller: It definitely had to be running down that hill. Every time I see the rock or Clemson running down the hill, I kind of get flashbacks. I think that was really exciting. That's the most exciting 25 seconds in college football. I don't think that anyone who has ever played at Clemson or gone there will ever forget that.

How do you feel about Coach Bowden leaving?
Miller: I think at the end of the day, it's a business decision and that's neither my decision or yours, it's just something the program felt like they needed to change. They wanted to take a step in another direction. I can say the same when Coach (John) Lovett left when I was there. He was there with me and that had an effect on me. It's kind of like a business and like it is in the NFL these days. You've got to be productive. I think he is a good coach and will find a job somewhere else if he still wants to coach. Coach Swinney will do a good job- he's an energetic coach that the players will respond to.

What kind of impact did Coach Bowden have on you?
Miller: I think he was a good coach. He gave me an opportunity to play at Clemson and allowed me to display my talents. I appreciate everything he did for me there.

How is your health these days?
Miller: I don't think I've had a health concern since I had my knee surgery. The best thing out of that was to push forward. It built up a lot of will and determination in me. I think sometimes in life, we get a little relaxed and tend to fade and go on sure talent. That helped me see a lot of different things and made me a stronger person.

What's it been like for you in the Bay Area?
Miller: It's nice. I have a great group of guys out here that make me feel comfortable and make me enjoy playing with them.

Do you feel like you have something to prove after the Jets cut you or are you just glad to still be playing?
Miller: I guess it could be a little bit of both. At the end of the day, I just wanted to play football. I don't think any of this would have been possible without the guys who are out there with me. Every time we step on the field, they lay it on the line and have trust in me and I have trust in them that they're going to do their job. That's all you can ask for. To some aspect, I felt like I had something to prove because I felt like I was still a dominant force in this league and I think that has definitely been shown over the last couple of weeks.

"I think at the end of the day, it's a business decision and that's neither my decision or yours, it's just something the program felt like they needed to change. They wanted to take a step in another direction." - Justin Miller on Tommy Bowden resigning on Oct. 13.
Are the Raider fans as crazy as advertised?
Miller: The Black Hole is crazy but it's definitely great to have them on your side. Growing up my whole life, I grew up playing Pop Warner and played for the Raiders. So I was a Raider fan. It was kind of exciting to actually put on the uniform and to go out there and play.

How tough was it for you to leave fellow ex-Tiger and close friend Chansi Stucky behind in the Big Apple?
Miller: It was tough, not only to leave him but the team in general. I had been there four years and had a lot of relationships. I came in with a lot of guys and we had become close friends. It's tough sometimes when you leave an organization that you've been with for so long, but it's not by your choice. I wish all of them all the best. I still watch every game of theirs that I can because there's nothing toward the players because they didn't make that decision. I don't have anything against those guys.

What is the one quality that every successful return man needs?
Miller: [Every successful return man needs] vision and heart. I just think those are the biggest determining factors for any return man. If you have vision, then you can see anything. I know some of the guys joke with me all the time when I come off the field and Coach will ask me what happened and I will tell him that this happened and that happened. They laugh and think how I saw that but I tell them I just see everything sometimes. You've also got to have trust in your guys and play with all of your heart.

It you had it to do all over again, would you still skip your senior year at Clemson for the NFL?
Miller: Yes, given the same circumstances and everything, I would definitely make the same decision. I've never looked back on my decision since I made it. It was very tough. At the time, Coach Bowden had released Coach Lovett and I had been there with him for three years. With not knowing who was coming in next year to coach me, not knowing the situation or what was really going on, that's kind of tough on any player who has the potential to go to the NFL or stay. I think if you wanted to stay, at the end of the day, you might not be comfortable or play as you're capable of playing.

Do you have plans to finish your degree?
Miller: I definitely want to do that but I haven't had the chance yet. My first year was spent getting acclimated to the league. My second year, I was in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and my last year was spent recovering from knee surgery. Hopefully I will get to it this year. I definitely want to get to it.

What is the biggest misconception that the average fan has about the life of an NFL player?
Miller: I guess everybody thinks that everyone has millions of dollars when at the end of the day, it's really not like that. There are definitely some people who get paid great salaries but I think everybody is not as fortunate as others but you have to be conscious of everything that you do.

How do you feel about being part of the fraternity of Clemson products in the NFL?
Miller: It's definitely an honor. Clemson is a great university, a great school and I appreciate everything that they have done for us. I think a lot of us appreciate that and still have memories of that. I know we all laugh and joke all the time-me, Tye Hill, Leroy (Hill) and even some of the other guys, we joke about Clemson and the times we had there. We all have good memories about it.

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