High School Sports

‘He checks every single box’: Columbia’s Christian Miller ready for NFL Draft moment

He said, she said: Panthers draft possibilities

Charlotte Observer Panthers beat reporters Jourdan Rodrigue and Joe Person discuss the various draft options available to the Carolina Panthers with their number 24 NFL draft pick on Thursday, April 26, 2018.
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Charlotte Observer Panthers beat reporters Jourdan Rodrigue and Joe Person discuss the various draft options available to the Carolina Panthers with their number 24 NFL draft pick on Thursday, April 26, 2018.

Corey Miller went through the NFL Draft process as a player. Almost 30 years later, Miller is going through it again as a father.

Miller’s son Christian, a former Spring Valley High School standout who played at Alabama, will hear his name called this weekend during the NFL Draft. The three-day event begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

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The elder Miller was a sixth-round pick by the New York Giants in the 1991 NFL Draft and played nine seasons in the league.

“There is a lot more with social media and draft analysts, but it still comes down to if you can play, blocking and tackling,” Corey Miller said. “Spent 10 weeks going back to the Senior Bowl and combine. It gave me a chance to reflect when I coached him in Pop Warner and senior year at Spring Valley. He is a great kid and been a blessing to spend quality time with him.”

Corey is in Alabama to be with his son to watch the draft with friends and family. Christian signed with Element Sports, which also represents former Gamecocks A.J. Cann and Marcus Lattimore.

Corey — a South Carolina alum, former WACH Fox sports anchor and radio personality in Columbia — spent plenty of time in Tuscaloosa where Christian trained for the combine and Alabama’s pro day. He was out there with other coaches helping Crimson Tide players in their drills.

Watching Christian go through drills brought back memories of when he coached him as a youngster, Corey said. He remembers a story of Christian when he was 4 or 5 years old and having trouble tackling older kids in Pop Warner football. He took Christian out of the game and asked him if he wanted to sit out for a bit.

“He said, ‘No, daddy, put me back in there,’ ” Corey recalls. “That represents who he is. He has had a great career, trials and tribulations, was a captain at Alabama. He works hard and has had great character, got his master’s in four years. He checks every single box, with his ability on and off the field.”

Christian said it has been fun having his dad go through the process with him and remembers the advice his father has given him throughout his career.

“He taught me to keep my effort level high. No matter the circumstances, play the game with 110 percent effort,” Christian Miller told USA Today. “Always flip that switch when it’s time to take the field. I like to get the crowd fired up. I’m a good guy off the field, but my dad always taught me to be a dog when it’s time to take the field. It’s a battle out there and you have to take things to another level.”

Christian was the No. 1 recruit in South Carolina coming out of Spring Valley in 2014 and chose the Crimson Tide.

After missing most of his junior season with an injury, he 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.

Back to 100 percent, Christian took part in drills at the NFL Combine and then at his pro day. At the combine, his wingspan measured 82 1/4, sixth-best among defensive linemen and linebackers, and had a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump. He benched 225 pounds 18 times at his pro day.

Christian had visits with the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears. The Washington Redskins visited with him in Alabama and his father, who said 12 to 15 teams are showing interest.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah projects Miller as a third- or fourth-round pick and likes his skill set.

“Miller does have some love around the league. I like him, too. I think he’s a good player. When he’s been healthy, he really had an impact on that group, on that front,” Jeremiah told reporters. “Again, I have him kind of in that fourth-round range. Maybe he can sneak into the third. ... Really good with his hands, really strong at the point of attack.”

His father had even higher praise and thinks his son is “the best outside linebacker in this draft” because of his versatility, coming off the edge or at defensive end. As for Christian, he just is ready to make an impact on the team wherever he goes.

“I wanna do everything I can to make sure that translates to the next level. I’m not used to losing and I don’t plan on getting used to it anytime soon,” Christian said. “My skill set is gonna translate very well to the next level. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of my ability. I’m excited to get started. My best ball is ahead of me.”

NFL Draft TV schedule

Thursday, 8 p.m., Round 1: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes

Friday, 7 p.m., Rounds 2-3: ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes

Saturday, noon, Rounds 4-7: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The State and Island Packet. He has covered high school sports in South Carolina for 16 years and is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.