Florham Park, NJ– Every year undrafted free-agents face an uphill battle. 32 teams passed on them through seven different rounds, they get only a few months, at most, to learn the play-book and make enough of an impression on the coaching staff to prove they are deserving of one of those last precious roster spots.
62 players participated in the Jets rookie camp and by the time training camp is over at least 50 of those players will either be on another team or out of the NFL completely. The Jets have already made in investment in seven of these players by drafting them and even if the undrafted rookie survives the first-round of final cuts they also have to prove to the coaching staff that they are a better option than all the players that’ll get cut from other teams.
It’s not an easy road and the odds are stacked against them, but every year more and more undrafted rookies are finding their ways onto rosters and safety Rontez Miles, California (PA), plans to be one of this year’s undrafted rookie success stories.
“I definitely feel like I have a good shot (at making the roster), the biggest thing is just getting the plays down and getting comfortable. It’s hard to just go out there and be yourself when you’re still learning so I feel like if I get comfortable and learn the plays and everything starts clicking my true talents will show. At this point I’m going to try my best to be a special teams player, learn the plays and do whatever I can to help the team win.”
He sounds confident, but he’s not getting ahead of himself, he knows his roster spot is far from certain.
“Oh, everyday could be your last. Like they say everyday in the meetings, somebody might not be here tomorrow so I stay up all night.” Miles said, “Me and my roommate Mike Edwards stay up all night in the play-books, we just don’t want to take anything for granted and if I do mess up or things don’t go my way, which I don’t want to think that way or feel that way, I’ll know that I gave my all regardless of what happens, so I’m excited.”
That extra study time certainly helped and it showed on the practice field today. Miles earned the praise of some of his coaches in today’s practice and he seemed to bounce around with energy and confidence as he helped encourage and instruct his teammates at times. The way he carried himself on the field made him stand out amongst the other defenders and according to Miles this is just the first tiny little scratch on the surface, the more comfortable he gets the more he expects his talent to shine.
“Oh, of course. I just can’t wait to unleash it. Like I said, my true abilities won’t shine as fast as (I’d like) because I have a lot of learning to do.” Miles said, “Once I’m comfortable and get in a position to learn everything and be comfortable I feel like it’s going to show very fast. So I’m just waiting for that day.”
Yesterday Miles blended in with the rest of the crowd on defense but today he stood out and Miles said that’s because he’s already feeling more comfortable.
“Compared to yesterday? Way more comfortable (laughing). Yesterday was the fastest day of my life and it felt like first practice at college or first day of high school football all over again so it was just getting comfortable.” Miles said, “But today went a lot smoother and it seemed like when we get around team (drills), when we get into the full motion of everything, instead of just walkthroughs, it clicks more because it’s like a game situation. So I try to treat it all like a game situation.”
Miles said if he has to compare himself to a specific safety, he’d pick Ryan Clark.
“I used to say a lot of people, but I feel like now that I’ve stepped back and see how it really goes I like Ryan Clark for the fact that he was somebody who wasn’t looked at and he got overlooked and once he gets comfortable he plays with a chip everyday.” Miles said, “No matter what the problem is, I’m probably a little bigger than him but, he plays like he’s the biggest man on the field and you can see how he attacks the ball, he thinks he’s going to make every tackle. He’s flying around all the time and he plays mad and I feel like I play the same way as that.”
Rex Ryan was impressed with Miles as soon as he put on the tape, but he said he’s also encouraged from what he’s seen from Miles in practice so far.
“Well, yeah, I mean he’s spinning like crazy out there. The communication has to come a million miles for him, so to speak I just threw that one out there (laughing), but it really does.” Ryan said, “But the one thing you can’t take away from him is, this dude is aggressive and when you see it, it’ll show up more in special teams than it will anything else, it’s like ‘son we’re not hitting each other right now’ so we got to make sure we really slow him down that way, but I love his mentality and I love his aggressiveness.”
But there is one thing Ryan doesn’t like about him though, his tattoo. It’s a Pittsburgh Steelers tattoo (he’s from Braddock, PA).
“I don’t like his tattoo, he’s got like a Pittsburgh Steelers tattoo, you know obviously it could be worse, it could be a Patriot tattoo. But he does have a Steeler one, we’re going to have to fix that, but I think mentally, if he gets it down mentally and when he gets it down mentally that’s going to let his physical talents standout, which he has obviously a great deal of. But he is a hitter, there’s no question, that’s what we know on film and it’ll be interesting to see how quick he can pick things up.”
Interestingly enough Miles and Ryan gave similar scouting reports on the rookie safety. When Miles was asked what he thinks he’s best attributes are as a safety Miles said, “I guess my high motor, run to the ball, never, never stopping until the ball is down. Still trying to get better as far as the plays, it’s a lot that you got to do in two days as far as all the formations and checks. The thing is just to be more hustle in my attitude, I take everyday head on. It is hard, it’s never going to be easy, I just love it. But that’s my attitude about everything and enjoying it while it’s here.”
An aggressive defensive coach and an aggressive safety, sounds like a perfect match right? Well Miles certainly agrees, in fact he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Oh yeah, he’s (Ryan) by far becoming one of my favorite coaches of all-time just in two days.” Miles said, “His intensity matches mine, mine matches his, he’s aggressive, he’s straight to the point and he loves defense, so what better coach to play for than a head coach that loves defense? You can’t beat that.”