“It was crazy. We never really thought about that before and we didn’t think it was going to happen,” said Vernon, who starred at Miami American High School before going to UM and was drafted in the second round by the Dolphins. “I remember one day Lamar and I were talking about it over lunch and we never would have thought we would have been where we are right now. But we’re just enjoying it and taking it in stride right now. Our parents don’t have to waste any money on plane tickets so they’re enjoying it as well.”
It marked the first time in eight years the Dolphins had selected a Hurricane since taking Vernon Carey in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. The last time they took two UM players in the same draft was back in 1991 when they took wide receiver Randal Hill in the first round and cornerback Roland Smith in the ninth round.
For Miller, who was selected in the fourth round, this also fulfilled a childhood dream. He went from Killian High School to the UM and took off with the Hurricanes to the point where he felt comfortable enough to declare himself eligible early.
“It’s a great opportunity getting drafted by your hometown team and playing on the same field you played on in college,” Miller said. “That’s a blessing because you can always play in front of your family and friends and they can follow you. If you went somewhere far then they probably wouldn’t be able to follow you because they’d have to jump on a plane to see you.”
Both players participated in a rookie clinic earlier this month where they got to work with area kids inside the practice bubble in a camp atmosphere. Miller taught kids how to properly hold the football, how to take the football on a hand-off from the quarterback and how to avoid defenders in the open field.
Vernon worked with the other linebackers and defensive ends teaching the proper tackling techniques and how to get out of a three-point stance. It brought back memories for him of Dolphins camp and for Miller it gave him a sense of civic pride.
“It’s always a great feeling just to give back to your community because growing up some kids look up to people and someday they wish to be in your shoes,” Miller said. “Growing up I didn’t too many camps but in high school I was nominated to be the Dolphins’ offensive player of the week two times.”
The real winners are the Miller and Vernon families as their weekends of watching their kids or siblings play right down the road can continue. That’s an aspect that cannot be overstated when it comes to these two players.
“It is rare and I said jokingly to Olivier, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if you played for the Dolphins?’” Vernon’s mother, Bernadette, said. “He said, ‘Oh, that’s a one-in-a-million chance because they never pick from Miami.’ Then when the call came that night I had to make sure that it wasn’t a crank call.
“We live like 10 minutes away from the stadium and I had said to him that I hoped he didn’t have to move away. After he got the call he said to me, ‘Well, your dream came true.’ And his dream came true, which was to play in the NFL and it’s a blessing.”
Vernon’s father, Lascelles, is a Miami Beach police officer and couldn’t always make it to his games but he recalls how much fun his son had in that Dolphins youth camp.
“I think he was more excited seeing the jerseys in there and the workout room and thinking maybe one day he would be inside one of those showcases, too,” Lascelles Vernon said. “It’s very good to see him play in front of the home crowd. He did it as a UM player and now he’s doing it as a Dolphin player, so we don’t have to travel too far. We’re just five miles away from the stadium.”