Rontez Miles: Hammer Of The Gods
While other schools selected animals, colors, or historical figures as nicknames and mascots for their sporting teams, California University of PA aligned itself with Vulcan, the Roman blacksmith of the gods, who created armor for various deities and heroes, and constructed the thunderbolts of Jupiter. And, perhaps no Cal player better exemplifies the strength, toughness, and steely resolve of Vulcan more than safety Rontez Miles. Although Miles will enter the NFL draft as one of the most decorated players in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference history, as a four-time All PSAC-West selection, back to back Defensive Player Of The Year, and two-time Division II All American, his journey has been laced with struggle, disappointment, and challenge. However, while he refuses to be defined by his past, he also recognizes how it has shaped his character, stating “where I’m from made me who I am today.” Refusing to be the nail, Miles, like Vulcan before him, steeled his resolve in fire and decided to become the hammer.
Miles hits like a freight train, that’s undeniable; but, uniquely, his track to the NFL didn’t follow a predictable route. Abandoned by his father, and raised by a mother who struggled with addiction, Miles found solace and purpose in football, and in the unwavering friendship of his step-brother, Vondre Griffin. Although Miles was recruited by SEC schools, and heavily pursued by Iowa and Arizona State, he enrolled at Kent State, so he and his brother could fulfill their dream of playing college football together. However, Miles left the Kent State program, in support of Griffin, who had been dismissed from the team over allegations of marijuana possession and driving without a license, allegations of which he was eventually cleared. After working for a year in a freight warehouse, while taking classes at a community college, Miles enrolled at Cal, where, in 2009, despite not playing a down for nearly two years, he didn’t miss a beat, being named PSAC Freshman Of The Year.
Showcasing an NFL-ready body, Miles is a fluid athlete, who displays solid range and the ability to make plays at all levels of the field. Playing with a linebacker mentality, he’s an aggressive downhill attacker, with plus closing speed and the eagerness to thump a ballcarrier at every opportunity. Cal employs a 4-2-5 scheme, with Miles in single-high and two-deep looks. Although he doesn’t have the man coverage skills to stick with a receiver through an entire route, he has the size, speed, and lateral agility to match up with any tight end, and most running backs. At times, Miles is slow recognizing route combinations, making him a step late providing help in the deep third. And, teams have taken advantage of his aggressiveness, getting him to bite hard on play action, not staying deeper than the deepest receiver. Still, he’s a terminator in the open field, looking to separate an opponent’s limbs from his body. He flashes excellent anticipation, timing, and acceleration as an “A” gap blitzer, and is effective coming off the corner. Miles is a genuine playmaker in all phases of the game; this season, versus Slippery Rock, he made two tackles as a punt coverage gunner, changed the game’s momentum with a blocked punt, and scooped up a fumble and raced 30 yards for a score. Ultimately, although Miles may lack the instincts & discipline to be a ballhawking centerfielder, his athleticism, physicality, and playmaking skills will allow him to thrive in a two-deep scheme, where he’s also utilized as an in-the-box defender and impactful blitzer. He’s a solid late round prospect, who, with coaching and experience, should develop into a long term NFL starter.
After three seasons of exceptional production, Miles was forced to play 2012 with a heavy heart, with his brother being held in an Allegheny County jail, after being charged with criminal homicide in connection with an incident in which Griffin insisted he was defending himself. Realizing the precious and fleeting natures of life, Miles passionately played every game in 2012 to not let his brother and family down. As he states, “every tackle is life or death for me.” He finished the year as the Vulcans’ leading tackler and interceptor (both for the second year in a row), and sits poised to fulfill the dream to play in the NFL that he and his brother shared long ago. But, he approaches this next odyssey with modesty and perspective, noting “if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be a hard working man.” Like the legendary blacksmith, Rontez Miles just keeps pounding away. Day after day, with strength, grit, and purpose, this Vulcan is Cal of PA’s Hammer of the Gods.