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'Big Money' Miller Aims to Make His Mark

Heath Miller's nickname is "Big Money." He isn't sure how he got it, but he knows it is not a good fit.

"Big Money" is for someone much bolder and brasher than the former University of Virginia tight end. Miller is a humble man who prefers to let his actions speak louder than his words.

So how did he get such a high-profile nickname?

"I think it might have been a joke my freshman year from the scout team," Miller said. "It kind of stuck around, and I'm not sure why because it's the opposite of my personality. It wasn't the coaches (who gave him the nickname); it was one of the players. He's graduated since then."

Miller might not be comfortable with anything that suggests he merits special recognition, but there is no avoiding the fact that he is widely regarded as the top-rated tight end in the 2005 NFL Draft.

He is an exceptionally talented receiver. He also shows superb instincts when running pass routes and has a great feel for finding vacancies in zone coverage. Although the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Miller isn't overpowering as a blocker, he does make the most of every ounce of his strength by consistently getting into good position and battling to the whistle.

Not bad for someone who began his collegiate career at a different position. Miller arrived at Virginia as a quarterback, where he was a high school standout. But he found himself sharing the spot with a half-dozen others. To get more action in practice, Miller began filling in at tight end on the scout team. It wasn't long before the move became permanent.

"When I got to college and saw the type of pressure that's placed on the quarterback, I kind of enjoyed the switch to tight end," Miller said. "It's more of a low-keyed position."

However, even Miller would have to admit that tight end has its share of glamour in the NFL. For those who play it well enough, there is plenty of "big money" to be earned. Just ask Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs, or recent first-round picks Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants and Todd Heap of the Baltimore Ravens.

"I think there are a number of talented tight ends in the league, and it's really opened the door for the guys on the college level to be able to contribute to a team in a number of different ways," Miller said. "They're used in a lot of different ways; they're not just blockers anymore.

"The obvious ones that stand out are Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey, Todd Heap and Antonio Gates from San Diego. All of those are productive tight ends at this level. I hope to be able to be as productive as they are."

Miller's readiness for the NFL is enhanced by the fact his coach at Virginia, Al Groh, coached in the NFL.

"I think it's definitely a benefit," he said. "I've been in a program that's operated on a pro-style basis the past four years of my career."

Still, Miller realizes there will be many adjustments for him to make climbing to a higher level of competition. In the NFL, every opponent is bigger, stronger and faster. Especially faster.

"I think the speed of the game is going to get even faster," Miller said. "I think the blocking is going to be tough. I think it's going to be tougher to get open.

"Overall, it's going to be tougher to prepare myself, mentally and physically, for the change."

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