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NFL Combine

Morgan State’s Joshua Miles is emerging as a surprise NFL prospect

His work has been impressive in both the weight room and the classroom

Update: Joshua Miles was selected as the 34th pick of the seventh round by the Arizona Cardinals.

Former Morgan State offensive lineman Joshua Miles is one of 338 eligible athletes attending the 2019 NFL combine in Indianapolis this week. His size, drive and support from his family helped him get there.

With a 6-foot-6, 300-plus-pound frame, Miles has the size and potential to play at the next level. His play last season led to an invitation to the combine, which is largely seen as a prospect’s last chance to impress NFL teams before the draft. For Miles, it’s just another opportunity to silence his doubters.

“I spent the summer attacking weights and familiarizing myself with the offense, and I always expect greatness from myself, so I was glad to see the fruits of my labor,” said Miles.

Even with a rising draft stock, Miles said, he hasn’t always been considered an elite player.

In a Instagram post from 2014, his Morgan State roster photo caption was filled with negative comments about his performances. Miles said they came from former high school coaches, although no names were attributed. He attended Western School of Technology and Environmental Science for high school, located about 13 miles away from Morgan State in Catonsville, Maryland.

Western Tech is a public magnet school that is far from being considered a farm for NFL talent. However, it has produced two NFL players, former Buffalo Bills tight end Khari Lee and former NFL cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who is now with The Undefeated.

Alan Lagon coached Miles during his time at Western Tech and played him all over the field, from offensive lineman to linebacker and even Wildcat running back.

Lagon saw the same potential in Miles that he saw in Foxworth and Lee during their time at Western. The difference, according to Lagon, was Miles’ maturity and youth.

“You could see the potential in terms of the physical abilities. The question was whether or not he realized that potential and some of that had to do with maturity and regular teenage stuff,” said Lagon.

As for Miles’ Instagram post, Lagon said, he didn’t recall exactly what was said to Miles during his time at Western Tech. He did say that everything the coaches at Western did for Miles was only to push him to become better.

“When you see some of these kids, they have so much potential and you try different things to light a fire underneath them, and, yeah, I probably was negative toward Josh because he had so much potential. I’m just glad he fulfilled it,” said Lagon.

When he enrolled at Morgan State, Miles turned the potential that Logan alluded to into action. During his senior season, Miles earned the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Offensive Lineman of the Week award three times. He gave up only one sack in his final collegiate season, so to say Miles unlocked his potential might be an understatement.

The motivation for the special season stemmed from the left tackle’s time off the field — when he was ruled academically ineligible the previous season. That suspension was not linked to a low GPA; it was an issue of classroom credits.

According to NCAA rules, student-athletes must meet credit benchmarks every year toward their degree. In 2017, Miles fell short of those benchmarks by three credits.

“It was really a rough year for me, especially since my guys were losing and there wasn’t much I could do from the sidelines. So I spent every day working extremely hard to get back on the field,” said Miles.

Miles had not been ineligible before 2017. Nancy Miles, Josh’s mother, said grades had never been a problem for him growing up. Still, she knew the suspension affected her son. And she wasn’t sure how to help him.

“I just took on the role of what God would have me to do, which is to talk and pray with him through it,” she said.

Joshua said he always thought of himself as NFL material but needed an extra-special season to make up for time lost. During his suspension, Miles took roughly 40 credits and earned a 3.3 GPA each semester, leaving no doubt about the status for his senior season.

“During his year off, Josh’s commitment level in the classroom, weight room and practice field was at an elite level. You would have never known he was ineligible. You would have just thought he was the dominant player that he was,” said Andrew Magee, who is in his third year as director of academics for Morgan State football.

Miles was determined to push himself in the weight room, and that offseason will be part of his legacy at the school. He set several school records there, ranging from power clean lifts (360 pounds) to the vertical jump (31 inches) and broad jump (9 feet, 4 inches).

Morgan State assistant strength coach Tommy King believes the athleticism and determination Miles showed in 2017 will set him apart from the competition at the combine.

“I think that the combine is actually his strength,” said King. “When we tested him about two years ago, he had a vertical jump of 31 inches, which is pretty good for an offensive lineman.”

Miles’ combination of size and athletic ability is a rarity at most historically black college and university programs. His coaches even questioned why he wasn’t at a bigger program.

“My first impression of him was he looks like a guy that could be playing left tackle for the University of Maryland,” said Travis Manger, who was Morgan State’s offensive line coach before becoming the offensive coordinator.

According to Manger, Miles was a late bloomer. Still, there was no doubt Miles was a special player, mentally and physically. Size can help you succeed in the combine, but smarts are just as important as physical prowess. Manger said Miles had enough of both to compensate for struggling teammates.

“When it comes to the combine, it’s not just performing in tights on the field. You’re going to go in a room and there’s going to be scouts, coaches and front-office people, and they’re going to say, ‘Draw me your favorite protection, take us through it, what are the adjustments?’ So I’m very optimistic for Josh in those meetings because of the things I saw from him as a freshman and sophomore,” Manger said.

Miles earned an All-MEAC selection last season, but he punched his ticket to the combine after a stellar performance in the East-West Shrine Game. He was the first player from Morgan State to play in the game and was seen as one of the players who raised his draft stock.

East-West Shrine Game executive director Harold Richardson picks the players and said he tries to pick about a half-dozen small-school prospects every year. Richardson knows everybody he picks isn’t going to the league but says Miles has an actual shot at the next level.

“Just looking at his film, I could see him getting drafted or signed as a priority free agent,” said Richardson, who was the Atlanta Falcons’ general manager from 1998 to 2001. “Seeing him at the practices and game among the bigger competition, he looked comfortable and he deserved to be there.”

A good combine performance could bring a bevy of scouts to Morgan State’s pro day on March 26, and it could also propel Miles to become the first Morgan State player to be drafted since Visanthe Shiancoe in 2003.

Isaiah George is a senior multimedia journalism major from Temple Hills, Maryland. He's a reporter for BearTV at Morgan and is a fan of all the major Washington, D.C., sports teams.