Panthers draft Christian Miller, Columbia native and Alabama alum

Christian Miller is coming back to the Carolinas.

The Carolina Panthers selected the former Spring Valley High School and Alabama linebacker Saturday in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. The Panthers were one of the teams Miller had a top-30 visit with during the pre-draft process.

Miller said Saturday he believed he was a first-round talent but injuries have held him back.

“It’s not where you get picked, it’s what you do when you get there,” Miller said on a conference call with reporters after the draft. “I’m just glad I ended up in the right place.”

Miller will be the second member of his family to play in the NFL. His father, Corey Miller, was a standout at South Carolina before being taken in the sixth round of the 1991 NFL Draft and went on to play nine seasons in the league. Corey Miller said this week he had a dream that his son was taken by the Panthers.

Miller is the 15th former Spring Valley player to play in the NFL Draft and first since Andre Roberts in the third round in 2010. Roberts was selected to the Pro Bowl last season.

Miller was a four-star recruit coming out of Spring Valley and played in 45 games for the Crimson Tide. He is versatile and can play outside linebacker and edge rusher.

After missing most of his junior season with an injury, Miller had a solid senior year with career-high 8½ sacks and 11½ tackles for loss. The outside linebacker injured his hamstring in the national semifinal against Oklahoma and missed the national championship game against Clemson.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay and Mel Kiper raved about Miller’s ability and makeup on the draft telecast Saturday.

“He is an old soul and loves the game,” McShay said. “His dad raised him to play football. Everything about his life is football. I never forget sitting in those Alabama offices talking to him. It was like I was talking to a coach.”

Off the field, Miller earned his master’s degree and was captain for the Crimson Tide this season.

Miller had a strong NFL Combine and Pro Day. At the NFL Combine, his wingspan measured 82 1/4, six best among defensive lineman and linebackers. He also had a 38 1/2 vertical jump and benched 225 pounds 18 times.

Three Midlands products sign free-agent deals

Former Midlands standouts Matt Colburn (Dutch Fork), Cannon Smith (Hammond) and Brad Lemmons (Dreher) signed free-agent deals with NFL teams Saturday evening.

Colburn, a former Mr. Football in South Carolina, signed with the Los Angeles Rams. The running back rushed for 775 yards and five touchdowns this season at Wake Forest. For his career, he finished with 2,550 yards and 15 TDs.

Smith, who played at Clemson, signed with the Oakland Raiders. The tight end was a part of two national title teams with the Tigers and caught eight passes for 83 yards and a TD in his career.

Lemmons, who played at Furman, signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. The defensive back started college career at receiver before moving to defensive back before his junior year. He had 15 tackles and five pass break-ups this year.