NAPA – Kolton Miller is an imposing presence, now more than ever. The left tackle added significant weight to his 6-foot-8 frame, presently carrying 330 pounds of lean mass. All that power and strength isn't backed by a wolverine's disposition.
That plays against the stereotype for offensive linemen, normally cast as maulers with a killer instinct. Miller refuses to fit that mold, and the Raiders don't fault him for it.
Some want Miller to be nasty. He wants to be tough.
Tough to outsmart. Tough to overpower. Impossible to intimidate.
The UCLA product plans on staying true to his personality, and will gladly beat you with precision over raw power and shake your hand after the job's done.
"I think he's pretty real," Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. "There's a certain amount of nastiness and violence just to play the game of football, it's not for everybody and we say that. He comes off as a polite guy and that shouldn't be held against him. His parents raised a terrific young man.
"He's a tough football player, and guys show it different ways. You can't assume that, because he's a quiet guy, he's not a tough football player."
Miller's as tough as it gets. There's no arguing that after he played all 16 games, mostly on severely sprained knee ligaments. He never quit and never complained, even when others would've tapped out or lamented playing with injury-sapped effectiveness.
Not after the original 2018 knee sprain, just before halftime in a Week 4 win over Cleveland.
"I went down, and [quarterback Derek Carr] was like, ‘Get up!', and that was it for me," Miller said. "I was like, ‘we are going to finish this series out, tape it up and finish the game out.' There have been times, there have been plays, there have been games [where playing through injury was difficult], but I think just learning to push through that it's really helped me as a player."
Miller believes confidence comes from experience, good and bad. He survived 2018's beating and has come back stronger and better prepared for the season ahead. High expectations remain, thanks to his first-round draft status and holding firm at left tackle after the Raiders gave Trent Brown a record contract.
Coaches have confidence Miller will develop into an excellent left tackle, someone who doesn't get rattled by anything after already experiencing so much.
"He played through a lot of things last year," head coach Jon Gruden said. "He's a sharp kid, he's got a lot of pride. I would be shocked if he is not one of the strong points of this offensive team this year. We think a lot of him."
Richie Incognito does, too. The veteran left guard likes Miller's cerebral, technical approach, though he'll try to impart some of his aggressiveness on to this young player developing on the fly.
"I think Kolton is an extremely talented kid; I have nothing but positive things to say about him," Incognito said. "He's big, he's long, he's athletic, he's got the right attitude and he works hard. Hopefully I can bring a little bit of that nasty edge to him, get him to come out of his shell a little bit."
That might be tough. Miller balks at the idea he needs more edge to be successful. He has weathered plenty already, and knows his combination of size, athleticism, smarts and unflappable demeanor can be successful in this league.
He knows if after a trying rookie season where he gave up too many sacks while playing at far less than full strength. He was successful at times when healthy and survived challenges when he wasn't.
"I think you learn a lot more about yourself," Miller said. "You're challenged in things that you wouldn't think you'd be challenged in. I think that's helped me grow as a player. I'll be able to get better from that."
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Miller is better prepared physically and mentally heading into 2019, with added bulk and rhino skin.
"I've grown as a player," Miller said. "I think I've gotten a lot stronger, more experienced. Again, I think the number one thing is just being able to play hard and learn from your mistakes."