by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
For those football players not invited to the NFL combine, one pro day can change everything. Two pro days? Even better. On separate days in March, Jeromy Miles altered his status for the better.
The UMass safety wowed scouts with a 4.45-second 40 and a 10-foot-10 broad jump. He spoke with PD about his success at UMass, his popular teammate, and his journey from a New Jersey town to Annapolis to Amherst.
Let’s start out talking about your pro day. It seemed successful. How do you feel about it?
Oh, I feel like I did pretty good. I think it helped me out a lot. I think I ran a lot faster than people thought I was.
How about your other drills? How about your bench press, and your quickness?
I think they had me at like a 6.72 on my three-cone, and the short (20-yard) shuttle anywhere from a 4.2 to a 4.0, so I showed a lot more agility than people thought I had.
What kind of effect do you think that had on NFL teams trying to contact you?
I think it probably boosted me, showing more versatility. When teams look at me, they probably look at me more like as somebody that can do a lot of different things.
Now, at UMass, were you a free safety, or was there a big difference between a free and a strong safety?
At UMass, I actually played free safety. But in our system, the free safety – I did a lot. I kind of played a little strong safety my junior year; they put me in the box a lot more. So I played more in the box, I would say, my junior year; my senior year, I played more traditional free safety, you know, back reading the quarterback.
Yeah, I was going to ask about that, because it seemed like you had many more tackles your junior year (104) than your senior year (62). Was that a switch in the defense, or more a switch of your position?
Oh, I think it was just a combination of respect by teams. I think I got a lot more respect my senior year. I didn’t get too much action, especially when teams threw the ball. They (stopped) throwing the ball in my direction. In the run game, I think my junior year the scheme kind of – I want to say I was around the ball more. One of my strengths is when I’m around the ball, I guess. I can obviously do more, and take the opportunity to make more plays.
And what – you had a change of coaches – what were some of the differences in defenses the last couple years?
Oh, I think Coach (Don) Brown was more of a (man-to-man defense) coach, so when I first transferred I had to really adjust to playing a lot more man coverage. I think Coach (Kevin) Morris this year is more of a cover two guy, so I was back in cover two on the hash a lot more than when I played with Coach Brown, where, like I said, I played more in zero man and man free.
Was Coach Brown a really fired-up kind of guy?
Yeah, Coach Brown was real intense, real aggressive. (Laughs.) That’s how he approached practice, how he approached the game. He wouldn’t sit back for anybody. Like, we would always just come and blitz. He’d just say, hit ’em on the mouth, pretty much.
Do you think he paid a little more attention to the defense than the offense?
Oh, I mean obviously, he was our head coach, but he was the defensive coordinator and DB coach, so yeah, I would say he put more emphasis on the defensive end. I mean, as a whole, he cared about everybody the same… As players, he cared about every single player the same.
And what was the transition like this year?
The head coach was there, so I think he took a lot of what Coach Brown passed on to him when he was there, so it wasn’t too much. The biggest difference was, like I said, playing cover two more than playing man. So, sitting back and being more patient and having to wait and see if he’s going to throw in my direction instead of going up and covering somebody. Every play I knew I was going to be covering, like, a receiver in the slot.
In your meetings with NFL teams, have you been able to show them what you know about defense?
Yeah, I have. I actually – I met with the Falcons (last) Tuesday, and I actually got a chance to show them, to get up on the board and show them, that I have a lot of knowledge. I mean, that’s one of my strengths. I understand the game. I take a lot of time out and really look at the defense, breaking down coverages and just, pretty much always knowing how to regulate the field, putting everybody in the right positions and everything like that.
Have they said or have any other teams said where they see you in their defenses?
No. Talking to the Falcons, they were more saying that they feel they could do a lot with me. I mean, I’ve been saying pretty much the same thing. After running as good as I ran, it gives teams more versatility and the opportunity to use me in a lot of different positions. And I’m one of those guys, I feel as though there’s nothing on the field that I can’t do, so I mean, I’ll do whatever.
What brought you to UMass? You started out at Navy and actually played against UMass your freshman year. But what attracted you to Amherst?
Actually, Coach Brown was in the area, scouting at my high school, one of the players at my high school… So when he caught wind – it’s funny: the day that I left the Naval Academy, the day I officially got released from the Naval Academy, he was already at my high school. And he called me, first thing, and told me he wanted to come into my house for a meeting. So he came to my house, showed me all these exotic blitzes and everything that I would be doing at safety, and pretty much told me that I would be the quarterback of his defense. I just fell in love with it, and I came right over.
Did he say that he had noticed you when they had played (Navy)?
Oh, yeah, yeah. See, because he knew I was a freshman. Actually, when I played them, that was the first time I really started playing free safety. I got in the second half… and I started the rest of my career at Navy. That was actually the first game where I made my first impression on the UMass coaches and on my Navy coaches.
And what didn’t work for you at the Naval Academy?
What didn’t work?
Well, what worked for me (was), I feel like, at the Naval Academy I took away just the discipline and just hard work. You know, that stuck to me. I feel as though you apply that to life and everything that you do. So, when I left the Naval Academy, I really saw it as, when you go out here, or whatever you do, you’ve just got to approach it with that tenacious mentality, and pretty much, you won’t get denied. That’s how I approach football.
Was there any particular reason why you left Annapolis?
For me, I had a close relationship with all the coaches and all the staff; I just didn’t like the military thing. And that’s what I told my coaches. I was like, if you all were at any other school or any other college, I would definitely stay. But I just, the military thing, I didn’t want to do five more years after I graduated. I knew the service wasn’t for me, and they eventually accepted the fact that that’s the decision I wanted to make for my life.
What has your schedule been like? I know you didn’t get invited to the combine. Did you go to two pro days?
Yeah, so I didn’t get invited to the combine. I didn’t get invited to the all-star game. First, I worked out at TEST Sports in Martinsville, New Jersey, for about a month and a half. Then I came back to school, because I’m actually finishing my degree. I’m taking 12 credits at this time. So I came back to school, worked out – I’ve been working out at school and working on my class, finishing my degree. I went to Boston College’s pro day first, ran my 40, did all my drills. Did pretty good there. Then I went to UMass, and I just did my position drills, did the short shuttle, three-cone, and went through agility drills again. That was about it.
Do you think it’s been helpful to have a guy like Vladimir Ducasse at your school, or do you think he takes most of the limelight?
Oh, no, no, no. I think that was great, man. I think that’s just God, that God put Vlad at the school with me. Because not only does he attract a lot of attention, Vlad is a very hard worker. We’re similar when it comes to just working. He’ll put you through the grind, you know what I’m saying? Me and Vlad stayed up here three summers up at school, and pretty much stayed during the winter together. We just push each other. I’m just happy that I’ve had the opportunity to work with Vlad, man. He’s a great dude.
All right. What’s on the schedule for the next couple weeks?
I’m just going to be sitting, waiting – I’m actually waiting today to see if I’m going to get any more phone calls to see if I’m going to have any more meetings with teams in the next couple weeks… Pretty much I’m going to be waiting for phone calls, and waiting to see what the next obstacle in my life will be.
Well, okay, last question: I saw that you’re from New Jersey.
My wife is from New Jersey, and the Garden State has been getting a bad rap. So how about wrapping us up with promoting your home state?
I think Jersey is the greatest place in America to me, man. I grew up there. I feel as though we produce athletes, great athletes, every year. I feel like we produce great citizens, man. Obviously, if you look at last year’s draft, one of the successful backs last year that came out and went to the New York Jets was Shonn Greene. He actually went to my high school. This year, if I do real good, you know, I’ll be another Jersey guy. And Knowshon Moreno – you can just go down the list of guys. Jersey always produces athletes and great character guys.
All right. I think that’s perfect. I appreciate it, Jeromy. Good luck to you.
I appreciate it. Thank you for your time.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note – Miles was named by Rick Gosselin as the third-best pass defending safety in the country in his ranking of safety prospects for the NFL draft. Pretty impressive for a guy who didn’t get a lot of attention while playing at UMass.