There is usually something inspiring about an undrafted free agent signing with a team. Although the player wasn’t selected in seven rounds of the draft, a team decided he was good enough to warrant an opportunity to compete for a roster spot. The Falcons signed Durrant Miles last month to help bolster the defensive line. While some remember him making plays for Boise State, Miles was making a difference long before playing college football.
After graduating high school, Miles didn’t go the standard route of immediately jumping into college football. He decided to spend two years away from football to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s something that has been ingrained into his family. Miles always knew he was going to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. This decision was ultimately going to make him a stronger, wiser person.
“I went on a LDS mission straight out of high school to Bolivia for two years,” Miles said. “I had never really been away from home prior to the trip. This was a life-changing mission for me based on experiencing something completely different from my typical day-to-day routine growing up. To be part of a new culture and environment was eye-opening.”
“I studied Spanish almost every day. I didn’t know Spanish before I went. I learned the language and became fluent in two years. The most important thing about the mission was preaching the word of God to anybody and everybody. That’s what an LDS mission entails. It was an amazing experience.”
The opportunity to do something influential in another country doesn’t happen often. Despite having to put his football aspirations on hold, Miles knew his primary focus was to spread the word about God. It didn’t matter where he was going. He was excited to inspire others by bringing them closer to church. Bolivia just so happened to be the place where he was going to fulfill his obligation.
“One of the misconceptions about this mission is us having the option of choosing where we go,” Miles stated. “We are actually assigned a specific location to the mission that we go to. My grandfather got assigned to New Zealand. My father got assigned to North Carolina. I got assigned to Bolivia. When you receive your call, you have no idea where you are going. As soon as you open it, that’s when you know where you are going to live the next two years of your life.”
“I remember opening my mission call and wondering where is Santa Cruz, Bolivia (laughs). I thought it was possibly in Europe. I had no idea. After doing my research and seeing what language they speak, I was super stoked to get down there. Everything that happened down there afterwards was incredible. It changed my life forever.”
Miles credits this two-year experience in helping him prepare for the demands of college. It essentially made him into a grown man. To be away from your parents for two years at such a young age can only help you become more mature. The added responsibility of being involved with something so powerful in a different environment made Miles stronger.
“To be on your own in a foreign country without your parents matures you, especially when you have to stick to a disciplined schedule,” Miles said. “It makes you more accountable to yourself and the companion you are with. When I was down there, I had multiple companions that I would be with and preaching with. I think that helped me grow up and fast-forward that high school to college process. When I got to college, I had a strong mentality based on living away from parents already. I knew how to be accountable to myself and live by a disciplined schedule.”
“That experience helped me get a foot forward on the competition at Boise State. I believe it’s carried over into the present day as well. There are a lot of kids coming out of high school or college who have relied on coaches or academic advisors to help them through the way. I understand the fact of being responsible for myself and handling other major responsibilities as an overall person.”
When Miles returned to the United States in 2015, he knew how difficult the challenges were going to be at Boise. There is no such thing as a smooth transition back into doing something so demanding on the body, after two years of being away from the sport. The versatile defensive playmaker endured some growing pains during his freshman season. It took months for him to regain his niche on the field.
“Coming back was a real hard adjustment,” Miles said. “When I got back, I didn’t feel like I had my feet underneath me. It felt like learning how to walk again. The first month was super hard. With the help of my coaches, I was eventually able to get back into the groove of playing football. I ended up playing a lot of special teams during my freshman year. Eventually, I managed to get a good amount of reps on defense at the end of the season.”
Miles was fortunate to play in an unbelievable environment at Boise State. Boise is known for having a passionate fan base. They are also known for having one of the coolest fields in college football. There are plenty of other things Miles has savored from his four years there. None of those memories are bigger than going to battle with his teammates.
“Boise is an amazing city,” Miles said. “The outdoors encompasses everything about what makes Boise so great. What I’ll forever carry with me is how much I enjoyed playing with my teammates. My teammates are my brothers. I made some lifelong friendships in the four years I played at Boise State. That’s the number one thing I’ll always remember about Boise.”
Similar to most edge rushers in today’s game, Miles is somewhat of a hybrid player. He didn’t always consider himself to be an edge rusher. There were times he rotated between being an outside linebacker and edge rusher. The Boise State standout was utilized as a pure defensive end at times as well. To be that versatile will garner recognition from a plethora of teams. Miles put himself in a good position to contribute with his experience handling multiple roles for a notable program.
“In high school, I was actually more of an outside linebacker,” Miles revealed. “I also rushed the passer a bit as well. In college, I transitioned into being a four-tech defensive end. Since I’ve been in Atlanta, I have gone back into playing a similar role I had in high school as an outside linebacker and edge rusher. The biggest thing for me is to be able to fill a void that the coaches see and being able to compete at the highest level. My mentality is to accept the role they put me in and perform to the best of my ability.”
Miles has only been in Atlanta for about three weeks. It didn’t take long for him to realize he finds himself playing for an excellent organization. How the Falcons operate makes young players immediately feel welcomed. They value competition, unity, and hard work as the core essentials for success. Miles has embraced the team’s culture, along with the players he anticipates lining up next to in the future.
“Being here in Atlanta is incredible,” Miles stated. “Learning from guys like Adrian (Clayborn) and Takk (McKinley) has been huge for me. There is so much talent on this team. It really is a dream come true, as far as being a rookie that is trying to learn and pick up on new things. I am becoming more detail-oriented in my game. I have tried to be a sponge working with these guys. It’s important for me to soak everything up when learning from elite talent.”
“To be here in this situation is unbelievable. I’ve loved everything about it so far. The entire organization has done a great job of taking care of the rookies and having experienced players help guide them. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for teaching me how to be a true pro.”
While Miles continues to learn from his teammates, he is starting to familiarize himself with the coaching staff. Miles has interacted with Dan Quinn on several occasions during his short time in Atlanta. Given Quinn’s background comes from being a defensive line coach, along with Quinn’s new focus as the team’s de facto defensive coordinator, the rookie pass rusher is able to work more extensively with Quinn. He is even using popular Quinn terms such as “grit” to describe his biggest attributes.
“If you ever talked to Dan Quinn or know anything about him, you know he’s a defensive mastermind,” Miles said. “He knows the game so well. He does an even better job of teaching it to his players. He gives us all the resources we could possibly ever need. It’s been awesome working with him.”
“The competitive nature that I bring to the table is something I pride myself on. You got to have that grit. I think we are like that as an overall team. I’ve already gotten that kind of vibe. I truly believe this team wants to succeed and compete their butts off every day. We are going to stay on the grind and see where it takes us.”
On a defense looking to rebound following a disastrous season, the opportunity is there for Miles to make his mark. The Falcons are in desperate need to improve on their underwhelming pass rush. They will also need to improve against the run, particularly on the outside with Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby no longer on the team. Whatever the coaching staff asks Miles to do, he is prepared to prove his worth and earn his spot in the rotation.
“I’ve always been about pouring my heart into everything I’m involved in,” Miles said. “The thing I’m most focused on is being an Atlanta Falcon and doing whatever it takes to get to the next level. I want to prove to my teammates and coaches that I can be trusted. I want to prove I can go out there and make big plays for us. I’m really excited about continuing to grow and compete with this team.”