Kolton Miller didn’t know what to expect for his football future during his days at Roseville High School.
“At Roseville, I had no idea where I would end up going to college,” Miller said Monday at the Raiders’ training facility in Alameda. “But I worked hard every day and I tried to get better ... so it’s helped me get to this point.”
“This point” for the rookie is being named the starting left tackle for the Raiders, who open their season at home against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.
Miller, who was selected 15th overall out of UCLA by the Raiders in April’s NFL draft, will be able to stay close to his family for at least one season, which could be the Raiders’ last in Oakland.
“I just feel so blessed to be where I am right now,” Miller said.
Miller’s family will get to see him in a prominent position. He’ll protect the blind side of quarterback Derek Carr, who looks to regain his form from 2016, when he was an MVP candidate before breaking his leg late in the season.
Taking over for a Pro Bowl veteran
Miller takes over a spot once held by three-time Pro Bowl selection Donald Penn, a 12-year NFL veteran moving to right tackle this season. Why would Penn make the move?
“They asked me,” he told media Aug. 14. “I told them I’m all for it. We have a young kid over there (at left tackle). He’s doing a lot of things.”
Penn has been “very impressed” with how Miller has performed so far, he said.
“When I went to Gruden’s offense my rookie year, it was very hard for me to learn the offense,” Penn said. “Kolton, he’s been playing good ball. ... He’s way further along than I was as a rookie.”
Miller can improve on speaking up, Penn said.
“I’m trying to help him as much as I can,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll be telling him, ‘Kolton, talk to me.’ He’s so quiet of a guy. I’ll be like, ‘Talk to me, ask me a question. I shouldn’t have to tell you everything.’ He’s just a quiet, humble guy.”
Miller is grateful to have an experienced player show him the ropes.
“It says volumes about Donald Penn being a great teammate and accepting that,” Miller said. “He’s helped me before and he’s still helping me, so that just pays tribute to how good of a teammate he is.”
Miller has experience at each tackle position. He played in both spots at UCLA, where the redshirt junior earned second-team All-Pacific-12 Conference honors last season. Before joining the Bruins, he played offensive and defensive line at Roseville High and was a first-team Sacramento Bee All-Metro selection for the 2013 season.
Miller’s father, Dan, will only have to travel about 45 miles from his Santa Clara home to see games at the Coliseum.
Dan Miller, who told The Bee he grew up a 49ers fan and now lives close to Levi’s Stadium, has no problem sharing alliances.
“I’ve got Raider blood in me now,” he said. “I’m going to support my son. I’m glad he’s in our backyard.”
He’s not the only family member who is excited to see Kolton in silver and black.
“My cousin is a diehard Raiders fan,” Dan said. “Literally after the draft, 2 o’clock in the morning, he’s elbowing me, ‘Dan, can you believe it? He’s a Raider, man!’ He must have done it about 15 times. It was like he died and went to heaven.”
Kolton Miller’s draft stock received a boost at the scouting combine in February. Miller, who was listed at 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds at the annual showcase for draft prospects, showed off his athleticism by setting a record for offensive linemen with a broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch.
Dan Miller said Kolton’s athleticism, as well as his football IQ, will be an asset over his career.
“He’s the type of guy who if you do something to him one time, you aren’t going to get him twice with it,” the elder Miller said.
He says he watches every play of Kolton’s games and he’s impressed with how much he’s improved this offseason.
“He seems 25 percent faster on the field,” Miller said, adding that the coaching he’s received from the Raiders staff, most notably offensive-line coach Tom Cable, has been invaluable.
Welcome to Raider Nation
Dan Miller, who attended several of the team’s training sessions in Napa, spoke highly of members of the team — including Carr, coach Jon Gruden, defensive lineman Arden Key and Kolton’s offensive-line mates — and how all of them had nothing but positive things to say about his son.
“Getting to go to practices in Napa and meeting Carr, who looks you straight in the eye, and just how grateful he was that Kolton is on the team ... I love this guy,” Dan Miller said.
There’s only one player Dad wishes his son could have gotten some experience against in camp.
“I was kinda disappointed about Khalil Mack (being traded to the Chicago Bears),” Miller said. “I wish Kolton would have had a chance to go against him, because that would have helped him be better prepared (for other players in the league).”
Kolton Miller expects to have a large family following at the Coliseum on Monday. His father estimated about 25 people will attend and at least another 50 or so will watch on television for the second of the opening week’s “Monday Night Football” games.
Just don’t ask Kolton for tickets.
“Any requests for tickets, I have my parents deal with that,” he said.
“I can get them a discounted price, but I’m not paying for those tickets!” he added with a laugh.
Dan Miller said Kolton has two loves: football and family — and he’s humble about both.
“He never brags about anything; I have to hear it from other people,” he said. “He’s a class act, he really is. He doesn’t want special treatment or any of that stuff.”
He won’t get any special treatment from a Rams defense that was fourth in the league in sacks last season and forced 28 turnovers. It also boasts Aaron Donald, who has been a first-team All-Pro in three of his four NFL seasons. Donald is the second-highest-paid defensive player in the league behind Mack. Both recently signed huge contracts.
Miller expects a lot of backing from his family.
“If they weren’t a Raiders fan before, they are a Raiders fan now,” Dan Miller said. “I do have some diehard 49ers fans (in my family), but they’ll show the love to support Kolton.”