SWAC to the PACK

Former Southern star Miller took circuitous route to Green Bay

GREEN Bay, Wis. — There are ways to becoming a member of the Green Bay Packers other than being a star at UCLA, Ohio State or Iowa.

Still, almost no one takes a path like Jordan Miller.

He played six games of football — total — in high school, went to a junior college and missed another year of football before transferring to Southern University as a walk-on. He then played football well basically for two years in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

You could say the 6-foot-1, 316-pound defensive lineman almost came out of nowhere, but he has emerged as one of the top backup prospects for the Green Bay Packers at nose tackle.

“I leave all that up to the coaches, where they want to put me,” said Miller, said as the team wrapped up its final offseason practice a few weeks ago. “All I’m worrying about right now is working hard and improving.”

It was good that Miller made the switch from basketball to football in high school, but it was too late to draw the attention of the major football programs.

“I’m 6-1 and I wasn’t getting any taller, so I thought I would switch,” Miller said. “But there weren’t a bunch of schools jumping up to sign me.”

In 2007, he went to Prince George’s Community College in Maryland and missed a year of football. In 2008, Miller wanted to give the game another shot. He picked Southern because his parents went there.

He walked on to the football team that year.

From there, Miller worked his way up from third-string player to starter and a scholarship in 2009 and ’10. In 31 games total, he had 90 tackles, 18 sacks and 30 tackles for loss.

But maybe what put him on the scouts’ radar was his bench press. Miller knows one of the top Google searches of his name will show an pretty impressive video of Miller him benching pressing the standard 225 pounds a whopping 37 times at his pro day. The video, with more than 150,000 views, shows him cranking out the reps steadily.

“It was all right,” Miller said, grinning. “I remember the day very vividly. I trained very hard for that day. I put up pretty good numbers. That alone boosted my confidence.”

But it didn’t solidify his future. He knows a weight room warrior doesn’t guarantee anything on a football field. After hearing so many conflicting reports — that he would be drafted, that he wouldn’t — Miller kept pushing to catch up with his peers.

“There was still a process that I had to go through,” Miller said. “I learned not to expect certain things.”

He wasn’t drafted, but the Chicago Bears put him on their practice squad for almost the entire 2011 season. The one person who really looked out for him was Chicago defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who took Miller under his wing and gave detailed explanations and expectations that changed his approach to football.

“He made sure every step counted. Every move of the hands counted,” Miller said.

Miller spent the preseason with the Bears in 2012 but was released Aug. 31. Then the Packers called in last October for a workout.

“I jumped for joy. No question,” Miller said.

In December, the Packers activated Miller for Week 15. Otherwise, he was a practice player with the team, always looking forward. He’s still so new to the team, the picture of him on the Packers’ website shows him in a Bears uniform. But he doesn’t care.

“As long as you’re in the door, you’ve got an opportunity,” Miller said. “As long as you’re here, you have eyes on you.”

One of his mentors is none other than the veteran Ryan Pickett, and the job of backing up the 33-year-old, 13-year veteran this season could be crucial to Green Bay’s defensive needs.

“Between jokes and being friends, he’s always there giving advice,” Miller said. “I never have to hound him down or be made to crack the code or anything. Anytime I ask him anything, he’s always open. He’s pretty cool.”

Miller, 25, fits in with this defensive line group socially with an easygoing personality. But this little break until training camp begins July 26 is no break for Miller. He’s training in Atlanta at Competitive Edge Sports — teammate C.J. Wilson has done the same — to keep pushing for the season ahead.

He is not in any way thinking of how far he’s already come since that modest six-game debut in high school.

“I try not to pay too much attention to any of that,” Miller said. “I see myself like everybody else.”