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It Doesn't Take Long for Anthony Miller to Kick In : Chargers: Speedy receiver returns kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown to spark comeback victory over Raiders.

November 13, 1989|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Anthony Miller had to be coaxed into entering the NFL's fastest man competition last spring.

Without training for the event, the San Diego Charger receiver finished second in the competition behind cornerback Darrell Green of the Washington Redskins.

"I didn't know if I was going to run in it, so I didn't work out," Miller said. "Were were in minicamp and I figured I was in pretty good shape."

The Raiders discovered that Miller is just as fast on a football field as he is on a track when he returned a kickoff 91 yards to spark the Chargers to a 14-12 victory Sunday night at Jack Murphy Stadium.

After Jeff Jaeger made a 32-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 12-0 lead, Miller took the kick at the nine-yard line and started up the middle. Feeling pressure, he cut to the outside and raced down the sideline and into the end zone.

"At first I was just thinking about catching the ball," Miller said as he described his kickoff return over and over to a cluster of reporters in the Chargers' locker room. "It was a middle return and it was kind of clogged up, so I cut it to the outside."

Jaeger had a chance to catch Miller, but Charger wide receiver Jamie Holland screened Jaeger out of the play and Miller sprinted into the end zone.

Did Miller think he could beat Jaeger?

"I felt if I got past the kicker I could get to the end zone," Miller said. "But Jamie made a good block to spring me."

In addition to his block, Holland also helped to direct traffic for Miller.

"When I saw that they were coming so hard up the middle, I told Anthony to follow me outside," Holland said. "I don't care who's returning the kickoff, there's one thing about me and Anthony Miller, we block for each other."

Joe Madden, the Chargers' special teams coach, refused to take any of the credit for Miller's kickoff return.

"The players are the one who deserve the credit," Madden said. "It wasn't anything I designed. Anthony came in and gave us the spark. Were were struggling and Anthony came in there and returned that kick."

Although Miller is San Diego's best kick returner, having also scored on a 93-yard return against the Rams last season, the Chargers took him off their kickoff return team this season because they thought he was too valuable as a receiver.

But the move didn't last long.

After the Chargers' special teams struggled at the start of the season, Miller found himself returning kicks again.

"Earlier in the year, they thought I was more valuable on offense and they didn't want me to risk getting injured returning kicks," Miller said. "After a while when we weren't doing the job returning kicks they put me back there part time. Then I asked to be put back there full time."

Although the Raiders tried to kick away from Miller, the Chargers moved him into the middle of the field so that the Raiders had no other choice but to kick to him.

In addition to returning kicks, Miller is also a good wide receiver. He made five catches for 54 yards against the Raiders.

Which does Miller prefer, returning kicks or catching passes?

"I like catching passes," Miller said. "When you return kickoffs, you've got 11 guys on your neck and if something happens you can get hurt."

But Miller is so fast that defenders have trouble catching him.

Miller began his career as a sprinter at Muir High in Pasadena, where he ran the 100 and 200.

He went out for football after Coach Jim Brownfield noticed him on the track. Miller played just one year of football and didn't attract much attention from recruiters.

He got a track scholarship at San Diego State, but transferred to Pasadena City College because San Diego State's coaches wouldn't let him play football and run track.

He flourished in football at PCC and got a scholarship to Tennessee. The Chargers' first-round draft pick last year, Miller emerged as the team's top wide receiver.

But Miller seems to get more attention for returning kickoffs.

After he helped beat the Raiders Sunday, he was interviewed on television, and the Charger fans saluted him as he ran toward the locker room after the game.

What does Miller think of his new-found fame?

"I don't like too much attention because if you do bad everybody gets down on you," he said. "Right now, I made a big play and everybody is high on me, but I know if I do pretty bad, everybody is going to get on me."

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