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By: Ed Kosmicki
Former CU O-lineman Ryan Miller and coach Jon Embree share a postgame hug after the Buffs defeated Utah.
Brooks: Browns Make Call That Counts To Ryan Miller
Release: April 28, 2012
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor
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BOULDER - As two days of tension escalated to the knuckle-gnawing stage for Ryan Miller, his immediate family and a core group of friends early Saturday afternoon, the telephone finally rang.

Hope was calling, for at that point here's where the 2012 NFL Draft stood: The Pittsburgh Steelers had the 24th selection in the fifth round, and after not fielding a telephone call during the draft's two previous days the Miller gathering believed this was the one.

It wasn't Pittsburgh; it was a pizza delivery guy.

"If he would have shown up at the door right then, I might have broken his back," the 6-7, 321-pound Miller said later, laughing.

He could laugh, because only minutes later the call he and his entourage had been waiting on since Thursday night did come. It was placed by Cleveland, which drafted him in at the fifth round's No. 25 spot, making him the 160th player taken overall.

"I'm thankful for it . . . I'm a Brown now and I couldn't be happier," the former Colorado offensive lineman said. "It's a dream come true; every kid whoever puts on a helmet wants to play in the NFL."

At day's end, Miller was one of two former CU players drafted. In the seventh round, Pittsburgh - not a pizza delivery guy - did call receiver Toney Clemons. He was the round's 24th pick and the 231st player selected overall.

Clemons was more of an unknown for the draft, but Miller was expected to be selected. And that made for 21/2 days of anxiety. Chances of him being taken on Thursday night in the draft's first round were predictably slim, but a call during Friday's second and third rounds appeared more feasible. A watch party was organized, but ultimately there was little of local interest to watch.

"That was a little tough," Miller conceded. "But I was just so humbled and loved by so many people who came. It felt wonderful. Then everyone else who might have been working (on Friday) came on Saturday. It was just awesome."

Miller's first look from the Browns will come at right tackle, then on the left side, then possibly at either guard. He reports to Cleveland on May 10 for rookie orientation, then minicamp.

"I'm an offensive lineman," Miller said. "l'll play wherever I need to play, wherever they need me." 

Miller was the second offensive linemen drafted by the Browns, who finished 4-12-0 last season (fourth in the AFC North). In the second round, they picked up former California offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who will be reunited with former Cal center Alex Mack - a fourth-year pro who has started all 16 games in each of his first three years in the league.

Prior to selecting Schwartz, Cleveland selected running back Trent Richardson (Alabama) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) with its pair of first-round picks. In the third round, the Browns got defensive tackle John Hughes (Cincinnati), and in the fourth round they selected receiver Benjamin Travis (Miami) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (Nevada).

The opportunity to clear a path for Richardson, an All-American and the No. 3 finisher in last season's Heisman Trophy balloting, appeals to Miller. "It looks like I'll have a chance to go in and block for the 'Bama guy," he said. "I'll do my best to make it the best offensive line I can."

The Browns have a relatively young O-line. Last season, injuries forced the switch of rookie Jason Pinkston from tackle to left guard, while second-year pro Shaun Lauvao started all 16 games at right guard. The 2011 left tackle was Joe Thomas, a Pro Bowl selection for all five of his NFL seasons, while fourth-year pro Oniel Cousins started at right tackle.

Through the years, the Browns have looked favorably on former Buffaloes. One of Cleveland's best all-time offensive linemen was John Wooten, who followed Frank Clarke as CU's second Afro-American football player. Wooten played for nine seasons in Cleveland after an All-America career at CU from 1956-58.

He was an All-Pro guard for the Browns and currently is being considered by the Honors Court of the National Football Foundation for inclusion into the College Football Hall of Fame. Selections will be announced on May 15.

Two decades (1976) after Wooten left CU, the Browns drafted former Buffs receiver Dave Logan, who spent eight seasons in Cleveland and left his mark in the franchise's record books.

More recently, Cleveland drafted fullback Lawrence Vickers (2006, five seasons with the Browns) and guard Brad Bedell (2000, two seasons). Ironically, Miller lists Bedell, who was an offensive technical intern at CU and now coaches O-linemen at New Mexico State, as a mentor and a major influence in his development.

Miller was a Parade magazine All-America selection at Columbine High School and was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year in his senior season. His signing with CU in February 2007 gave the Buffs the state's top recruit in that year's class.

Overcoming a pair of injuries (broken fibula, arm) during his college career, Miller was versatile enough to play tackle and guard at CU, manning the right guard position as a senior and starting 13 games. The Walter Camp Football Foundation named him to its second All-America team to go with a third-team selection by the Associated Press in 2011.

After leading the Buffs with 40 "great effort blocks" as designated by the offensive staff, Miller played in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. His senior season also saw him flagged for only two penalties while allowing one quarterback sack and one pressure. He was the only senior in a CU class of 28 invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February, and he believed his showing there opened the eyes of some of NFL scouts.

Among Miller's best games at CU was his performance as a sophomore in 2009 against Nebraska All-American Ndamukong Suh. Miller graded out at a season-high 89 percent against Suh, the second player selected (Detroit) in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Clemons' size (6-2, 210) and the way he closed out his CU career make him an intriguing NFL prospect. After transferring to CU from Michigan in 2009, he finished his Buffs career with 86 receptions (25 games) for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns.

But he ended his senior season with a flourish, making 25 receptions in the final give games for 476 yards (19 yards per catch) and five TDs. CU's coaches named him the team's co-most outstanding offensive player with quarterback Tyler Hansen.

Clemons, a Pittsburgh native, grew up "loving the Steelers" and called being drafted by them "a complete shock . . . this is such a blessing." He was told Pittsburgh was contemplating taking him in the fifth round, but selected another player. Then, without a sixth round pick, the Steelers came back to him in round seven.

He said the final month and a half of his college career opened Saturday's door: "It didn't matter what I tested, what my measurables were . . . making plays against the teams I did, that was huge for me. (Pittsburgh) said, 'Let's put tape on him against great competition' - and I had that run of six of seven games. And then coach (Jon) Embree, coach (Eric) Bieniemy and coach (Rip) Scherer took a stand for me. I wouldn't be in this position without them."

Clemons said he plans to "go in with the same positive attitude and get on as many (special) teams as I can . . . they've got a lot of great guys there. But I plan on working and doing whatever I can to stay."

CU had two players selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft - offensive tackle Nate Solder by New England and cornerback Jimmy Smith by Baltimore. Additionally, corner Jalil Brown was taken in the fourth round by Kansas City and receiver Scotty McKnight was selected by the New York Jets in the seventh round.

Shortly after the draft was over, free agency hit and more Buffs were officially in the NFL. First, DT Conrad Obi signed with the Arizona Cardinals, followed shortly by QB Tyler Hansen signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, and then TB Rodney Stewart confirmed he's joining Hansen in Cincinnati.  More players are expected to sign in the coming hours and days. 

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

RYAN MILLER CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT - 4/28/12

(On being a taller guard and how that comes into play) - "I think I've got a lot more power in the legs, then I can bend and really extend that leverage out on guys on the inside. With that height I also bring long arms."

(On if the Browns told him where he would play) - "They took me as an o-lineman. I'll play guard or tackle. One of my better suits is that I'm versatile."

(On injuries in college and how his health is now) - "Early on sophomore year I got hit with a few injuries, but you learn from them. You learn not everything is going to go smooth and you adapt. That's what happened and I've been injury free for a while and it's been great. Now I just got some new body jewelry, if you will."

(On if he has pictured himself in the NFL) - "I have. I know the speed of the game is much, much faster than college but there is two ways to play football, run the ball and pass the ball. Each team has similarities whether it be NFL, college, high school - power is power and zone is zone and deep ball is the deep ball."

(On playing one of his best games against Ndamukong Suh and when he realized he could play in the NFL) - "The game against Suh was one of my better games. I figured early on I would be in the NFL. Actually my junior year in high school, it was my high school coach who really kind of laid the path down and gave me the tools and unlocked it to really work."

(On how he plays football) - "I really try to play aggressive. I try to play nasty, I try to play vicious and I try to play until the whistle blows. I might not be the most technically sound, but I'll give you my all and I'll bleed, bight, crawl and scratch to get the job done."

(On where his nasty streak comes from) - "I think it came from high school when we ran the ball every play. It's just kind of a country boy mentality of nothing in life is easy and you get what you work for and it's always just kind of been do or die for me and really most days of my life."

(On if he was a basketball player) - "Basketball? I played in middle school. I didn't really touch much basketball. I wrestled in high school and that is where some of the nastiness came from, being matched up one-on-one against a guy knowing that it was my will against his."

Courtesy of ClevelandBrowns.com

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