Football

'Not a secret anymore': Meet the area's next NFL draft darling, a 'redwood' in cleats

UCLA offensive lineman Kolton Miller runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on March 2, 2018.
UCLA offensive lineman Kolton Miller runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on March 2, 2018. AP

In this sport, people tend to exaggerate size and ability.

Too many fathers pump up their sons as the second coming of gridiron greatness.

Jon Osterhout is familiar with these far-fetched fables, and the American River College coach groans almost every time. But Kolton Miller was no fairy tale.

Six years ago, Osterhout heard about a big kid with ambition to match. This was long before Miller landed on the national recruiting radar while at Roseville High School, before his dominant junior season at UCLA at left tackle last fall, before his stunning performance at the NFL scouting combine, before his meteoric rise that has some projecting him as a first-round draft pick on April 26.

"I hear this stuff all the time, 'He's 6-foot-6, 6-7, easy, a monster,' " said Osterhout, founder and director of the Linemen Win Games camp at ARC. "Then Kolton walks in, and he's a straight redwood. Holy moly! Truth teller, the real deal. Legitimate height and body, a prototypical left tackle. He checked out, and then he got better and better.

"Bottom line: This is a big man, and it's a big man's game, and four-year colleges love big men, and he's a big man in every regard: head, hands, forearms. Just one big, big human being."

At 6-8 and 310 pounds, Miller not only looks the part, he plays the part. He ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in 4.95 seconds, remarkable for a redwood in cleats. His vertical jump of 31 1/2 inches was almost a foot better than the historical average at his position. And he set a combine record for offensive linemen with a broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch.

Upon landing, the entire NFL caught notice, and Miller's head still hasn't stopped spinning.

"I am now used to talking to NFL coaches, GMs and line coaches," Miller said with a laugh by phone. He was between stops during a whirlwind of visits to prospective employers across the country. "I have had 23 formal interviews. I've done a lot of visits, a lot of workouts, a lot of back-and-forth across the country. I've seen a lot of NFL facilities, met a lot of people. I'm racking up the mileage points!"

Miller said he has not come this far alone. He credits his father, Dan, his mother, Karrie, and the inspiration from his kid brother, Chad. Miller has invited each of them to join him in the green room in Dallas on draft day.

He also invited his Roseville High coach, Larry Cunha, and Osterhout. One for all, all for one.

"I'm trying to give back some love," Miller said.

Miller is especially excited for Chad, a 16-year-old special-needs student at Roseville and "Kolton's No. 1 fan," Dan Miller said. Chad was born premature and has Moebius syndrome, a rare neurological condition that affects facial muscles and eye movement.

"Chad means everything to me. He's been with me through all of this, through the recruiting process with UCLA and now. He went to all the UCLA home games. He'll be with me at the draft table. That's special," Miller said. "He plays vicariously through me. Just him seeing me inspires us both. He's in our locker rooms high-fiving everyone, just like at Roseville. He's a motivation factor for me."

Said Cunha, Miller's prep coach, "That bond between the brothers is real life. That's reality, that's family. Very inspiring."

The Miller clan is hoping to witness something rare for this region.

Only one offensive tackle from the Sacramento area has been drafted in the first round, when Gordon King of Bella Vista and Stanford was selected 10th overall by the New York Giants in 1978. The area's only other offensive lineman to go in the first round was Trevor Matich in 1985 to the Patriots out of BYU and Rio Americano.

"I'm proud and excited," said Miller, who is set to become Roseville's highest NFL draft pick since Patriots Pro Bowl linebacker Tedy Bruschi (third round, 1996). "I've worked hard. Work is something my dad instilled into me, and I'm competitive already. I want to be the best, and I push myself. I want to get at least 1 percent better every day."

Miller's father was born to a working-class household in Antioch, and he was the first of the family to attend college, at Sacramento State.

"Kolton has naturally been driven his entire life, so we never had to push him," Dan Miller said.

Always the largest lad in class, Kolton went by "Tiny" as a seventh-grade wrestler. For years, his age matched his shoe size – 10 at age 10, 13 at 13, and so forth – so sneaker shopping was a summer tradition.

"He's also grown a lot, personal growth when he was with us and at UCLA," said Cunha, Miller's Roseville coach. "He was a gentle giant here, then grew into his body. When he first got here, his dad pushed for him to be a tight end. He was 6-5, 6-6ish, and he soon outgrew that, and he's still growing. He ducks his head when he comes into my office now. Just wow."

Wow is what Angus McClure said upon his first Miller encounter. Then the UCLA recruiting director and now the assistant head coach at Nevada, McClure recalled watching Miller glide through drills in the weight room, his feet humming below his massive frame.

"Wow, this kid can move!" McClure recalled thinking. "I was expecting a big stiff guy, but he looked like the real deal. It took him awhile before he really figured it out, and he started to dominate by his senior year. You heard good things through Linemen Win Games, and then I started looking over my shoulder wondering where all the other recruiters were."

Said Osterhout of Linemen Win Games, "In coaching, recruiters come by and want to know who the next big one is. Now there's all this Kolton Miller talk. Now it's, 'Who's the next Miller?' I see greatness in him. He's a bona fide no-brainer. I'd be shocked if he doesn't go in the top 15 picks. The NFL guys talk, and it spreads like wildfire. He's not a secret any more. The guy is going to be a sure-fire, 10-year staple in the NFL."

Rare company

The Sacramento region has had 12 first-round picks in the NFL draft.

  • 2015: DE Arik Armstead, Pleasant Grove, 49ers, 17th

  • 2015: LB Shaq Thompson, Grant, Panthers, 25th

  • 2002: WR Donte Stallworth, Grant, Saints, 13th

  • 1997: WR Rae Carruth, Valley, Panthers, 27th

  • 1987: DT Reggie Rogers, Norte Del Rio, Lions, 7th

  • 1985: C Trevor Matich, Rio Americano, Patriots, 28th

  • 1984: CB Don Rogers, Norte Del Rio, Browns, 18th

  • 1983: QB Tony Eason, Delta, Patriots, 15th

  • 1983: QB Ken O'Brien, Jesuit, Jets, 24th

  • 1982: RB Gerald Willhite, Cordova, Broncos, 21st

  • 1978: T Gordon King, Bella Vista, Giants, 10th

  • 1978: LB Dan Bunz, Oakmont, 49ers, 24th

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