Miller, a former Woodstock High School standout-turned-starting fullback for the San Francisco 49ers, was sprinting up the field, lobbing passes and trying to knock down balls while defending the end zone — along with three dozen fifth- through eighth-graders in a youth football camp hosted by Woodstock football coach Brent Budde.
The smile on Miller’s face was a big as any of the kids when his team scored in a battle of “shirts” and “skins.”
“I always have that much fun,” said Miller, who was part of the shirted team. “They were a blast. Everyone was excited to be here, get work in and then have a little fun.”
But even if Miller was playing like one of the boys, the boys around him were well aware of his stature as a pro football player.
“Hey big Bruce,” the kids yelled when the Miller was getting ready to pass. They followed him like a pack when he walked down the field, and when trivia questions were asked to win some of Miller’s gear, hands shot into the air before the questions were even asked.
The boys knew the mascot at Miller’s alma mater (the Knights of Central Florida). They knew in what round of the draft he was selected in 2011 (seventh) and even what statistical category he led Central Florida over his four college seasons (sacks).
Miller said it was awesome to return to his high school and see how much the young players look up to him.
“It was amazing how excited they were,” said Miller, who gave autographed photos to each of the campers. “That is what it is all about. Being able to come back and see your friends and family and hometown. With as much fun as we were having out there, you couldn’t ask for a better week.”
Miller wrapped up minicamp and organized training activities with the 49ers a few days ago, but isn’t taking much time off from football. He will return to the West Coast this weekend to undergo Lasik eye surgery and then begin training for the upcoming season.
“I’m headed back to start getting ready to camp, treatment, rehab, working out,” Miller said. “(July 24) is our reporting date, so I’m going to start this weekend getting ready.”
After winning the NFC championship — against his hometown Atlanta Falcons, and at the Georgia Dome, no less — but falling to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31 in the Super Bowl, Miller said the 49ers were left wanting more.
“We were disappointed, and that feeling that we had will probably stick with us,” he said. “Leaving that game with the ribbons coming down on us that weren’t for us, that was not good. So we are excited about our potential. I know all we are going to do is work hard and hopefully end up in the same spot.”
San Francisco added several veteran players during the offseason, including receiver Anquan Boldin, tackle Glenn Dorsey, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Add solid draft selections like LSU safety Eric Reid, and the 49ers may return to the Super Bowl.
“Everybody is working hard,” he said. “We have some good players coming in, so it’s going to be a fun year and another exciting season for us, I believe.”
After going through offseason training activities with the incoming players, Miller said he’s had reason to be excited.
“Everyone showed up and the skill level is just as high, if not higher, this year,” he said. “It’s exciting to think about some someone like Anquan Boldin is going to do. He just thrives in our offense.
“A lot of things have to line up right for us to get back to the Super Bowl, but that is our goal, so we are going to strive for that one.”