Miller Fond of His Days in Tigertown

by - Correspondent -
Miller is Clemson's career leader in kick returns for touchdowns with five and in terms of kickoff return average.
Miller is Clemson's career leader in kick returns for touchdowns with five and in terms of kickoff return average.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

CLEMSON -- Justin Miller's fondest memory of Clemson University wasn't his bone-jarring tackle on Maryland's Chris Downs in 2002 or his Atlantic Coast Conference best eight interceptions that same year. It wasn't even his NCAA record of 282 kick return yards and two touchdowns at Florida State this past season.

The Owensboro, Ky., native's fondest memory didn't even occur on the football field. In fact, it was an incident that got a laugh from everyone who attended Miller's press conference Wednesday.

"The water gun fights," he said smiling. "That was fun. Myself, Gerald McCloud, Anthony Waters and a couple of others went around campus getting guys with our water guns.

"That went on for a few weeks before we got caught. It was funny when they got us. I remember sitting in study hall and getting totally soaked.

"It was fun."

And that's how many Tiger fans will remember watching Justin Miller ­ a fun-loving guy who made every fan stand up whenever he got his hands on the football. The All-American corner announced those times at Clemson are now over as he will forgo his senior season to enter the 2005 NFL Draft.

"I want to thank all the Clemson coaches, especially Coach (Tommy) Bowden, all the fans and everyone associated with Clemson who allowed me to have a great college experience the last three years," said Miller. "I will miss Clemson, this was a tough decision." Miller is projected to go as high as No. 14 overall in football''s mock draft to No. 30 in In all, Miller is listed to go in the first round in at least 10 mock drafts.

"Clemson gave me the opportunity to reach a goal I have had since I was kid.

I have always wanted to play in the (NFL) and Clemson gave me that chance." Miller leaves Clemson with many records and top 10 school rankings. He had

13 interceptions for his three seasons, third in Clemson history behind College Football Hall of Fame Inductee Terry Kinard and Fred Knoebel.

Miller also ranks fourth in Clemson history in career passes defended with 44, including 31 passes broken up. He is the school's career leader in kick returns for touchdowns with five and in terms of kickoff return average.

His 30.68 career average on 50 returns is the best in ACC history and the fourth best in NCAA history.

"I wish Justin all the best," said Bowden. "He went about this decision process in an organized, professional manner. He and his mother sought advice from the right people, and communicated with us every step of the way.

"I look forward to following his career at the next level. He made a great contribution to our program as a defensive back and as the best kick returner I have ever coached. Some of his records will be hard to break." Miller hopes to play corner in the NFL despite being known as kick return specialist.

"I still plan on playing corner," he said. "If the opportunity arises for me to return kicks, then I will do the best I can when that time comes.

"But I want to be a cornerback. I have told (the media) this all year, I still believe I'm the best cornerback in the country, and when draft day comes I will be the first cornerback taken off the board." Though Miller's football career at Clemson has come to an end, his mother, Donna Toomer, said his academic career is in full swing.

"I wouldn't be able to enter (the draft) without promising my mother that I would get my degree," Miller said.

Miller plans on continuing his courses for the spring semester online. He plans on leaving for New Orleans next week, where he will train with All-Pro corners Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson until the combines begin.

Toomer said Justin's decision to leave school a year early was a tough one not just for her son, but for herself as well.

"I struggled with it," she said. "I wanted to make sure this was the right thing for Justin to do. I did a lot of research myself and asked a lot of questions." Toomer said the toughest thing was finding an agent to represent her son.

"I lot of them send you a lot of fluff," she said. "When we first inquired about it, a lot of them sent us a lot of stuff. I then sent them a list of questions and when they came to interview, I asked them even more questions.

"I made a lot of phone calls myself and I wanted to make sure we chose the best person to represent Justin." That person is Eugene Parker, who has a proven track record as a trusted agent. He currently represents Sanders, Woodson, Ray Lewis, Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith and more than 40 other NFL clients. Parker was No. 45 in Sports Illustrated's Most Influential Minorities in sports, which was released in 2003.

"Justin wanted someone who would fit his personality, but I knew that wouldn't be the right thing for him," said Toomer. "I wanted someone who wasn't always telling Justin he is the greatest, but would tell him the truth even when he doesn't want to hear it, and Eugene is a guy Justin knows he can trust." Miller said his decision to turn pro was not a quick one. He said he and his mother spent countless hours over the holidays to make sure entering the draft was the right thing to do.

"After taking a long look at my options professionally, I feel it is the

(right) time to enter the NFL draft," he said. "I have not made a quick decision. I did not make a final decision until this week. I have gone about this the right way and feel I am ready to play in the NFL."

Now Miller will be trusted to build even more lasting memories in the NFL.

"I have some good memories here, now it's time for me to build some more at the next level where I will do my best to do Clemson proud," he said.

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