CFLs went shopping for Miller

August 25, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

This is how thorough/ far reaching/ lucky the Baltimore CFLs were when they were putting their expansion team together last winter:

Personnel director Jim Popp found his deep snapper at a sporting goods store in Charlotte, N.C.

Scott Miller was not a blue-light special, though, and neither did he come three to a box.

True story.

"I was living in Charlotte at the time," said Miller, who played offensive and defensive line for the Charlotte Rage in the Arena League. "I went to The Sports Authority, and this guy comes up to me and asks if I'm Scott Miller.

"I go, 'Yeah, who wants to know?' He told me he was Jim Popp and he was in Saskatchewan at that time. He asked if I'd want to play [in the CFL]."

Miller, a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, was dressed in an all-star bowl game jacket that day. That was the give away to Popp, who was visiting his family in Mooresville, N.C., and happened to be on the lookout for a lineman who could play offense or defense.

"I knew there was a possibility we'd be in Baltimore," Popp said. "I told him if things happened right, I'd give him a call. It was a shot in the dark. He said he never thought he'd hear from me again."

Miller chuckled at what might have been. "You can call it fate," he said. "I think I'd still be down in Charlotte playing Arena ball if I hadn't been there that day."

He turned out to be a true bargain. He not only won the job as long snapper, but capably filled the role of swing man on the team -- a reserve offensive lineman who could play defense in a pinch.

Until this week, Miller's exposure to defense was limited. But the signing last week of John Earle as an alternative deep snapper allowed the team to move Miller to defense.

"We didn't want him to play on defense because he was our only long snapper," coach Don Matthews said.

Popp calls him a "slippery player -- he has a knack of making people miss him."

Said defensive line coach Marty Long: "He's quick off the ball and very active with his hands and feet. And he's smart. That's why he was a pretty good offensive lineman."

Miller still dresses beside the offensive linemen in the locker room, and said he had taken to his new position.

"Playing defense is a totally different game," he said. "I'm in shape, offensive line-wise, not defensive-line shape. All you do is run on defense. I'll try to re-tune my body."

Versatility always has been an attribute of Miller's, he said. He was a state champion in the shot put and discus at Rutgers,

where he played outside linebacker, nose guard, defensive end and tight end on the football team. "I was more of a blocking tight end there," he said. "I once dropped a touchdown pass."

In 1988 as a junior, he blew out his left knee in a game at Penn State. He carries a long, jagged scar as a reminder.

Miller had two brief flings in the NFL in 1991 with the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs. In 1992, he played in the World League with the London Monarchs. Last year, he played with the Rage, where he also spent time working with abused children.

In the last year, he learned tae kwon do and hired his mother, Patricia Giantomenico, to work as his agent. His previous agent released him, Miller said, because he wasn't making enough money.

His mother took over last August, and faxed information to teams in the NFL and CFL.

"She's my best fan, and my best critic," Miller said. "She knows football, and she knows when I mess up."

NOTES: Tracy Ham quarterbacked one of the team's no-huddle series yesterday, and Matthews said there's a "very good chance" he'll play Saturday at Hamilton. Ham will get more reps today. John Congemi took all of the first-team reps yesterday. . . . Robert Clark will start at wide-out this week ahead of Joe Washington. Reggie Brown, competing for the backup spot with Washington, missed practice yesterday with a family problem. . . . The CFLs will start John Earle at center, replacing Nick Subis, who goes to the practice roster. . . . Also dropped to the practice squad was middle linebacker Melendez Byrd to make room for rush end Elfrid Payton. . . . Yesterday's practice was punctuated by a high number of dropped passes. "It bothers me if they do it in a game," Matthews said. "I know they can catch in a game."

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