The Woodstock High School product, who now plays fullback for the San Francisco 49ers, will join his teammates on the field against the Atlanta Falcons in today’s NFC championship game at the Georgia Dome.
For Miller, it has been an interesting journey. It’s one that has him sitting one step short of what all NFL players dream of — playing in the Super Bowl.
Former Woodstock coach Mike O’Brien recalls Miller starting his career as a wide receiver, though he moved to linebacker and tight end on occasion.
“Nobody gave him anything,” O’Brien said. “He worked hard to get where he is.”
Miller agreed that it took a lot of work on his part, but said that it helped to have supportive coaches along the way, such as O’Brien at Woodstock and George O’Leary at the University of Central Florida.
“To have someone like coach O’Brien as your football coach is something,” Miller said. “He is a motivator. Just always pushing guys to their limits so they can be successful. That’s where it started. He put that hope, that dream, in there.”
Miller was recruited by Central Florida out of high school, but the Knights wanted him to switch positions from linebacker to defensive end. Miller agreed, and he redshirted his freshman season to get acclimated, but by his second season with the Bulls, he was excelling. He was named to the All-Conference USA second team and earned a spot on the all-freshman team as well.
The accolades continued his sophomore year, when he led the team in sacks (17), tackles for loss (7), quarterback hurries (11) and forced fumbles (2). He was named to the preseason all-conference team and voted onto the All-Conference USA second team by the coaches.
As a junior in 2009, he was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. He ranked fifth in the nation in sacks (13) and 18th in tackles for a loss (18) — topping the conference in both categories.
That’s when Miller began to show an interest in the draft. But he was surprised with the response he received when he was contacted by the 49ers — who wanted to see what he could do for their offense.
“I was a little bit worried,” Miller said, “I hadn’t played offense since high school and that was in a completely different role. I was a little bit nervous about it. I just put the blinders on and when to work on it 100 percent every day. We were able to make it work.”
To the surprise of some of his college teammates, Miller began training as a fullback.
“As good as he was on defense, I think he’s even better on offense,” said Derrick Hallman, who served as a defensive captain with Miller during their final season at UCF and attended Saturday’s welcome home party for Miller at a downtown Atlanta sports bar. “I never would have saw him playing fullback. During our pro day in 2011, he was doing offensive drills, and I was like, ‘What the heck is Bruce doing?’ But he worked out. It’s nice to see him succeeding.
“Regardless of what he does, he has the work ethic to be good. No matter how hard anyone else works, Bruce is working harder.”
Miller was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, and when he received the call and told his mother, she was a bit worried.
“I knew this was his dream and I just knew that he had so much on his plate trying to learn everything after the lockout (in 2011), but he did it,” Lisa Miller said. “He impressed them. He loves the game so much that he wants to be on the field no matter where they put him.”
Miller said he has found a brotherhood in San Francisco.
“We have a common goal,” he said. “The camaraderie that we have in the locker room is a big part of why we are still playing football. It’s fun to look back and see that you put in all that work and now you’re playing in the NFC championship game with the 49ers.”
Miller started 13 of 16 regular-season games this season, his second with the 49ers. He has five carries for 18 yards and 12 receptions for 84 yards.
Miller said he has worked out and trained at the Georgia Dome, but today’s game will be the first for him.
He has a 10 a.m. team meeting, followed by a pre-game meal.
“At 1:30, we head to the stadium,” Miller said. “It’s back to business. It’s my first on the turf. I know it’s going to be awesome.”