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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Justin Miller

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Clemson

Defensive back/kick returner Justin Miller during the Jets 41-0 loss to the Jaguars. With the loss, New York moved to 2-3. October 8, 2006, Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, FL. millerjax1

Whether it came from an opposing team's quarterback or their kicker, Justin Miller and the football seemed to find each other and have great results during his three seasons at Clemson.

As a Freshman All-American in 2002, he averaged 35.1 yards on 13 kick returns and scored a touchdown, to go along with having eight interceptions. Two years later, he had three more interceptions and set a school record against Florida State by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and had an NCAA-record 282 return yards in the game.

Forgoing his senior season to enter the 2005 NFL Draft, the cornerback/kick returner was chosen by the Jets in the second round.

"I was excited to make it to the next level," Miller said. "And just do some things that I grew up dreaming that I was in a position that I could change the rest of my life."

At 21-years-old, Miller was in a position to learn from his new coaches and teammates, including an 11-year veteran All-Pro and future Hall of Famer who shared the same position.

"Ty Law, of course, I kind of followed him around a little bit my rookie year," Miller said. "Shaun Ellis was one of my mentors, and John Abraham, Jonathan Vilma. You know, guys like that on my team made us a good unit."

Miller contributed to the unit's success by doing what he did at Clemson – make plays on defense and special teams. "Returning kicks, it just kind of flowed and worked its way into what we were doing system-wise and defensively," he said.

The rookie, who had eight starts at right cornerback, accounted for 60 of the team's 71 kick returns, one which he returned at 95 yards for a fourth quarter game-winner against Buffalo in the season finale at Giants Stadium.

What does he remember most about his first NFL touchdown?

"Obviously, it was a moment in time for us, to win the game and close it out, things like that," Miller said. "But it was more exciting being able to celebrate the touchdown with my teammates."

They had a couple of other opportunities for end zone celebrations the following season. Week 4 against Indianapolis, Miller returned a Martin Gramatica kick for a then-team record 103 yards with 2:20 left in the game. With the extra point, the Jets went up on the undefeated Colts, 28-24. Indy, however, would avoid its first loss when Peyton Manning scored on a 1-yard run with less than a minute left on the clock.

Four games later in Cleveland, Miller returned another kick, 99 yards, to paydirt in New York's 20-13 loss to the Browns.   

"You take a snapshot of what the field looks like before the ball's kicked," Miller said. "You take one last peek before you receive the ball, and then one more peek as you go up the field. And then from there, you make one cut and go.

"You put your foot in the ground and you may be exhausted, but you do what you've always done your whole life – be an athlete.

"I think the one in Indy was more memorable just because of the fact where we were in the game. I was tired. We just played the whole drive on defense. We were talking and I thought it was going to go to the other side, and he ended up kicking it to me. And they said, 'Oh, man, and you still took it back!' That one kind of sticks out more to me, but the other one in Cleveland, I remember us being able to split the field and put the kicker in a bind. It was exciting."

Miller's two touchdowns led the league, and earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. Where he also had the best time in the 40-yard dash and won the NFL's Fastest Man Competition at the Skills Challenge.

With the Jets for five seasons, 2005-08, '09, what are among Miller's fondest memories from his time in New York?

"I think either my Pro Bowl or I would have to say us making it to the playoffs," he said. "I think that was fun and the most exciting things. One of those two. Obviously, the Pro Bowl was an individual award, but the playoffs, us making that and kind of just turning the team around from the year before, that as a goal was one of the biggest things that I was excited about with the team."

The father of two daughters, Amiya and Ayla, Miller makes his home in Atlanta, GA, where he is the CEO and founder of Pro-Fit Performance. Its vision is to combine fitness principles with athletics to create an environment that is safe and functional for professional, collegiate and high school levels.

"Everybody, just seeing their walks of life and how do they get to their ultimate goal, that's one of the things that has a great kind of parallel to sports," Miller said. "Everybody has goals and wants to achieve them. So being able to help them and guide them on that journey to their ultimate goal is the biggest achievement for me."

Miller is also achieving as a football coach. After spending five seasons on Clemson teammate and former Patriots linebacker Chris Slade's staff at Pace Academy, he is going into his third year on Ben Reaves' staff as the Defensive Run Game Coordinator/Outside Linebackers Coach/JV Defensive Coordinator at Milton High School.

Last fall, the Eagles won the 7A Georgia State Championship.

"I think that the kids bought into what we were teaching them and they had a good understanding of what they wanted to do as a team," Miller said. "Their common goal was being a state champion. They put in the work. They took the steps to be successful. And then they accomplished that ultimate team goal, winning the state championship.

"I think that it gives you a rush, seeing them put to work the things that you talked about and you explained to them. I enjoy just seeing they're successful. Things they want for themselves, you're able to see it come through when they make plays. So seeing them succeed and achieve their goals, I think, is the biggest prize for me as a coach."