Illinois has had two outstanding middle linebackers in a row who earned post season honors but are not highly rated by the pro scouts. J Leman was cut by the Minnesota Vikings last year and is looking for a second chance this season. And Brit Miller is struggling to get attention from the NFL prior to this year's draft.
One thing he is not struggling to do is get attention from the media. Brit is a breath of fresh air with a microphone in front of him. His first comments when confronted by media after his pro tryout at the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility demonstrate that.
"Back again. Well, well, well. You guys have been lost without me around."
How true. Whenever a good quote is needed, search out Brit Miller. He has the gift of humor and much to share.
Miller was not invited to the NFL Combine, probably because he is only 6'-0" tall and has a chubby build. But in every other way, Brit has the athletic ability and skills to help any NFL team. He used the Combine snub as extra motivation Wednesday.
"I felt real sore not being invited. That just gave me a little extra time to prepare, and I tried to use it to my advantage."
Overall, Miller was pleased with his performance. He had consecutive 40 yard dash times at 4.56, which is exceptional for a 240 pounder. And he bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times. It wasn't his best, but he'll take it.
"Today, I set some pretty high goals for myself. I was a little short in the bench just because I was a little antsy. I could have done more. That's one I wish I had back a little bit.
"This was a big day for me. It was good having guys like Will Davis, Vontae (Davis) around. It kind of calmed me down because it was just like practice again, competing on a day to day basis like you do in practice."
Miller also performed well in individual drills. He showed good coverage skills with a quick change of direction on backpedals. And he caught balls from the fullback spot. To impress the pros, you have to demonstrate versatility and an ability to play multiple positions.
"We got out and ran fast. I got to do some running back drills, just trying to prove I can be an athlete in the league and a commodity for a team. I think I did better in all the drills, just trying to perform at the top of my ability.
"Anytime you can prove yourself to be a commodity to a team. The league rosters are so skinny, I think about 53 guys make it through. You've got to be able to do a lot of things for a team.
"In my position, I'll be a special teamer for sure coming out, and I was just trying to prove a little bit to them and do as much as I can out here.
"We're always open for some workouts. Today was our big day. This is what we put our money on. To come out here and do well, I think it's gonna stimulate a little conversation. I answered some questions."
Of course, he still lacks the ideal height for linebacker, and Brit understands that.
"Being a little chubby guy brings up some questions. We set goals to be in the top 10 of what the combine guys did. I think I reached those goals and performed to that level."
Miller knows better than to sit nervously in front of the television on draft day.
"I'm gonna be with my dad, grandpas, and my brother. We're just gonna try to escape everything. There's a lot ot tension and pressure on that day. You might see some guys taken ahead of you that you don't feel are better than you. So we're just gonna try to stay away from that.
"If we get a call, great. If not, we'll find out where we go right after the draft. I'm sure we'll be invited to some camp. The object and goal is to be on a team come September 15th and have that opportunity to play in the NFL. Drafted or not is no big deal. I prefer to be drafted, it's an honor to be drafted. But if that's not the case, we'll move on and move into somebody's camp."
In the meantime, the Decatur Eisenhower product is hoping his performance Wednesday will lead to workouts with one or more teams. He's also available for commercials. His sparking personality would serve him well. He teased during the 2008 season he wanted to do a car commercial to match J Leman. That hasn't happened yet, but is always a possibility.
"Not yet. I'm related to enough people, one of them's bound to be a car salesman."
Miller does have one other thing planned so far.
"I want to give something back. The community's helped me out a lot. I'm doing a Red Cross spot next Wednesday. If anyone wants to come out and see me at the Decatur Conference Center March 25, 2009, I'll be there and it's for a good cause."
Media who report on Illinois football will miss Brit Miller. But our loss is someone else's gain. Brit will be a special teams demon and earn playing time on a pro team. It is just a matter of time.