Three years ago, Bruce Miller was an undersize defensive end at Central Florida who wondered if he would be drafted.
On the eve of the draft, he got a call from 49ers assistant coach Tom Rathman. The good news: The 49ers were interested in selecting him. The odd news: They also were interested in switching him to fullback.
“I didn’t care if it was offense, defense, special teams or any of that,” said Miller, who was taken in the seventh round. “It was exciting to know that I was on their radar and that I had the possibility of moving out to California and being a Niner.”
That open-minded attitude has served him well since, and on Thursday he was rewarded with a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season. Few teams in the pass-heavy NFL use a fullback as much as the 49ers, and Miller will be among the highest paid at his position with his new deal.
Miller also is the latest member of the 49ers’ successful 2011 draft class to receive an extension. The team previously extended the deal of offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, a fifth-round pick that year, and is working on a longer contract for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a second-rounder in 2011. Kaepernick’s contract is expected to be the highest on the team and one of the most lucrative in the NFL.
“Bruce is a hard-working, dedicated young player that has done an outstanding job for us, both on and off the field,” general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “He is one of those players that contributes a lot more to the team and to the community than he gets credit for yet wouldn’t have it any other way. We are pleased that Bruce has chosen to extend his stay with the 49ers.”
Miller, 26, has played in 45 games (34 starts) and has 48 receptions for 410 yards and one touchdown and 16 carries for 39 yards. In 2013, Miller set career highs in receptions (25) and receiving yards (243) despite breaking his scapula in a Dec. 15 game at Tampa Bay and missing the last two regular-season games and postseason.
Miller said he has recovered from the injury and will be full go for the team’s offseason strength and conditioning program that begins April 21.
Et cetera – Backup safety and kick-coverage specialist C.J. Spillman has a cast on his right hand, the result of a broken bone suffered in the team’s playoff win in Green Bay. He said he recently had a pin inserted into the hand to aid the healing.
• The 49ers recently had a private workout with Old Dominion kicker Jarod Brown, whose 54-yard field goal against Pitt last year is the longest – in college and the NFL – at Heinz Field. If Brown lands with the 49ers, he would serve as an offseason backup behind Phil Dawson.
• The 49ers had a scout at Stanford’s pro day, where safety Ed Reynolds and defensive end/outside linebacker Ben Gardner stood out.
• The NFL Players Association announced that wide receiver Anquan Boldin is the first 49er to win the Byron “Whizzer” White Award. Annually presented since 1967, the award is named for the late Supreme Court Justice who played halfback for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and Detroit Lions. Boldin won for his Q81 Foundation that sets up charities in Phoenix, Baltimore, the Bay Area and his hometown of Pahokee, Fla. Boldin also has been involved in other organizations, including Oxfam America, Wounded Warriors and the United Way.