Jarvis Miller earned his black belt in karate at age 13. Now, he’s drawing on those martial arts skills as he acclimates to a new position.
The Suffield, Conn., native transitioned from safety to outside linebacker last season following the Minnesota game, but was used primarily on special teams as a redshirt freshman.
Miller kicked Penn State’s 2015 recruiting class into gear on Feb. 15, 2014 while visiting campus for one of the staff’s junior days. As soon as the Nittany Lions handed him his first offer, he pounced on it. Miller would receive a scholarship tender from Michigan State in late April, but by that point he was already sold on State College as his future home.
Connecticut isn’t exactly a hotbed for Division I talent, but two other prospects from Miller’s cycle are making their presence felt in the Power Five.
Clemson barely beat out the Nittany Lions for five-star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins’ signature, while highly touted tight end Chris Clark is penciled in to start for Pitt after transferring from UCLA. He and Miller could potentially go head-to-head when the Panthers travel to Beaver Stadium on Sept. 9.
Not only did Miller thrive as a ball hawk at safety in high school, but he was also quite an accomplished running back, rushing for over 3,300 yards and 38 career touchdowns to go along with 161 tackles and seven interceptions on defense.
Miller, who once placed second out of 700 entrants in his age group at the Irish Open, discussed the benefits of his karate background in terms of learning the intricacies of Penn State’s hybrid “Sam” linebacker at media day. His father, Marvin, and sister, Andrea, are also black belts.
“I’d say definitely being physical, just hitting,” Miller said. “I’ve been doing that since I was 4, so coming and playing football really wasn’t that hard for me. I already was adjusted to it.”
The 6-foot-2 Miller added roughly 25 pounds to his frame since arriving on campus two summers ago, as he currently checks in at 222. Koa Farmer, who’s projected to start at Sam this fall, has served as Miller’s mentor.
What’s the main thing Farmer told him to focus on now that he has to deal with linemen in the trenches?
“Getting off blocks and just learning how to be a linebacker,” Miller said. “I’m [just]honing in on all my linebacker skills and trying to be the best I can be. That’s the best advice he gave to me.”
— Jarvis Miller (@Jarvis_9) December 4, 2016
Miller made sure to snap a photo with the Big Ten championship trophy in the locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium following Penn State’s emphatic 38-31 victory over Wisconsin last December. Of course, he had to rep Connecticut’s 860 area code too.
The criminology major and noted Drake fan will likely be running with the second or third-team defense come September. Though Farmer, Jason Cabinda, and Manny Bowen are all but assured of starting jobs, Miller should rotate in every so often alongside Cam Brown, Brandon Smith, and Jake Cooper. He’ll also probably see time on special teams again.
“My biggest strength, I’d say, is reading and reacting to the ball and being physical when I get there,” Miller said.