TE Zach Miller scores on an 86-yard pass play in the Raiders win over the Phildelphia Eagles in 2009. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
When The Oakland Raiders selected TE Zach Miller in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft, they knew they were getting a tough, smart football player. In just three seasons, Miller has proven to be much more and his commitment to his craft and his reliability has the Raider Nation buzzing about Miller's exploits.
During his collegiate career at Arizona State, Miller caught more passes than any other tight end in school history. He also grabbed more touchdown catches than any other tight end in ASU history.
He also had the unique opportunity of playing college football with his older brother Brent. He credits his brother and his family for much of his success.
"They come to as many games as they can, they're big supporters," told Raiders.com's Jeanette Thompson during a Behind the Shield: Online interview. "[Brent] watches as many games as he can, I'll talk to him quite a bit during the year, he'll tell me what he sees and that kind of thing. It was fun getting to play together at ASU, we both played tight end, we played a two-tight end offense. We got a chance to play college football together and that was pretty special."
The 6'5", 255-pound native of Phoenix is well on his way to carving out a place in the pantheon of Raiders tight ends.
Throughout the years, many NFL quarterbacks have looked to their tight end as the player they go to when the chips are down and a first down is needed. Tight ends are also valuable as red zone targets – big bodies with good hands that cause match-up problems around the goal line. Miller is that reliable target for Raiders quarterbacks.
"The past couple of years I have earned that respect, guys trust me, especially the quarterbacks, to make the catch to move the chains or the big play when they need it," Miller said.
Miller has proved to be a downfield threat in the passing game logging touchdown receptions of 63 and 86 yards the past two seasons respectively. The 63-yarder came on a seam route and a long pass against San Diego in 2008, and the 86-yarder was a spectacular catch and run that featured two blocks from WR Louis Murphy against Philadelphia in 2009.
In 2009, Miller had a catch of at least 25 yards in five games, and he led the team in receiving with 66 catches for 805 yards. He is averaging 12.2 yards per reception so far in his career.
"It's exciting every time (making the big play), I always want to go out there and try earn the respect of the team we're playing and earn the respect of my teammates so that they know I'm there to play every week," Miller said.
Miller certainly has come to play every week, missing just one game. He has played in 47 games with 46 starts. According to Miller, he is ready to take the next step in his career.
"I just want to keep progressing in all aspects, now that I've had some success I want to go the next level where you're known as a Pro Bowler," Miller said. "I'm focusing on having a season where I can really break through and make the Pro Bowl and play at that level consistently."
Miller earned a share of the coveted Commitment to Excellence Award due to his outstanding play and character. He was also named a 2010 Pro Bowl alternate. In no time at all, Zach Miller's name will be mentioned in the same breath as Dave Casper, Raymond Chester and Todd Christensen. He is truly a player On the Rise.