Who is Brit Miller?

Who is Brit Miller and what's he doing scoring both of San Francisco's touchdowns in the 49ers' 17-16 victory over the Denver Broncos in Friday night's exhibition season opener at Candlestick Park? Miller just joined the 49ers a few weeks ago and has spent even less time at the fullback position, but he came up big with his opportunities during his NFL debut.

Miller, one of the nation's leading tacklers last year as a linebacker at the University of Illinois, is being converted to fullback by the 49ers. He sure looked like a natural Friday, taking both of his receptions into the end zone to become the only 49er to hit paydirt so far in the preseason.

"Well, you know, I've only been playing this position for about 12 days now," Miller told SFI after the game. "So I just tried to capitalize. I pride myself as an athlete to make plays for my team. But you definitely think as a fullback that you're not going to end up in the open field twice and scoring."

But there Miller was, slipping free near the left sideline to catch a short pass from Alex Smith and lunge over the goal line to complete a 3-yard scoring play that gave the 49ers a 9-0 lead in the second quarter.

But it was Miller's second touchdown that had everybody buzzing afterward. It was the play that gave the 49ers the victory after they fell behind 10-9 early in the fourth quarter.

Miller slipped free in the right flat to catch a short pass from quarterback Damon Huard, then turned to see open field in front of him. The stocky 243-pounder turned on the after-burners, streaking down the sideline untouched to out-run the Broncos to the end zone.

When he got near the goal line, Miller had a choice to run over quickly-closing Denver cornerback Jack Williams, who had a shot at him near the 5-yard line. But Miller put a nifty move on Williams, cutting back inside at the 3 to stroll into the end zone untouched as Williams went flying by him.

"My mentality is definitely to go at him, but I decided to play it safe," Miller said. "Getting the touchdown was the most important thing. He had the angle on me, but I was able to out-run him."

Miller scored a touchdown last year for Illinois on a fumble recovery and return, but the last time he scored a touchdown on offense was when he played running back in high school.

That's when he played on both sides of the ball. He's been a linebacker ever since. That is, until the 49ers had other plans for him. Despite his productive college career at linebacker, the 49ers felt Miller's best chance to help them was as a fullback. They picked him up off waivers from the Carolina Panthers shortly before training camp began at the end of July.

"It's an amazing feeling to score a touchdown in the NFL," Miller said. "To turn and see nothing but green grass (on his 40-yard score), that's a great thing. That run actually seemed a lot longer than it really was. If someone would have told me before the game that would happen, I would have laughed at them. But I would have thanked them for believing in me."

Miller made some believers with his performance Friday, and his chances of sticking around with the 49ers improved after starting fullback Zak Keasey suffered a fractured forearm during the first quarter. Keasey, starting in place of Moran Norris, is out indefinitely.

"You know what, he's just a guy that's going to give you all he has," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said of Miller. "He's still learning how to be a pro, he's still to learning how to run routes and those little things. But he's an interesting young man who just really continues to work his tail off."

The throws to Miller and other passes that went to San Francisco tight ends indicated that both positions will be integral targets in offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye's passing game this season.

Singletary said that was a product of San Francisco quarterbacks still getting comfortable with the offense, hence the shorter throws on shorter patterns to fullbacks and tight ends.

But eight of San Francisco's 14 completions Friday went to running backs and tight ends, including the team's first two completions that went to tight end Vernon Davis, who turned them into gains of 23 and 18 yards.

Davis, in particular, looks like he'll be a featured target in San Francisco's passing game this year.

"Jimmy Raye's thing is you have to get the playmakers involved," Davis. "He said I better be ready to catch some balls. And that's what I did tonight when my number was called. Raye is known for utilizing tight ends. That's what you'll get out of him. You see what you'll get out of me."

And also what the 49ers can get out of Brit Miller, something nobody thought they'd be seeing Friday to begin the preseason.


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