Shareef Miller couldn’t be happier.
But he’s far from content.
Miller, a 2015 graduate of George Washington High School, wanted to play in the NFL. His dream was to play with his hometown Philadelphia Eagles. And in a perfect world, he would play with his former Penn State University teammate Miles Sanders.
By Saturday afternoon, every one of those things came to fruition.
“It feels really good, man, it feels great, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Miller, a Frankford native who now lives in Torresdale. “It won’t hit me until my first practice. They drafted me, but if I could have picked a team, I would have of course picked the Eagles.
“I’m from Philly. The Eagles are everything to me. Me and my grandpop would watch every game. He loves the Eagles, too.”
The Eagles selected Miller, a defensive end who starred the past three seasons at Penn State, in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. It was two rounds after they selected Sanders, a running back, in the second round.
“It’s crazy, we are really close,” Miller said. “We were talking because the Eagles did show a lot of interest in us, and it just worked out.”
Miller watched the draft with his family and friends on Saturday when he got the call. While everyone projected the edge rusher to get selected around that time, it was still a dream-come-true scenario.
“I’ve always loved the Eagles, my favorite was Brian Westbrook,” Miller said. “But I like a lot of the defensive linemen, too. I love Javon Kearse and a lot of the guys on the line. I was so happy when they won the Super Bowl.”
He got one as a fan two seasons ago.
Now he wants to get one as a player.
But Miller knows he can’t just show up and expect to be a star in the NFL. He knows the hard work is just beginning.
The same could have been said when he earned a scholarship to Penn State, and even when he was recruited by one of the top schools in the nation, he wasn’t complacent.
He worked his way into becoming a star.
Last season, he was third-team All-Big Ten, was Penn State’s co-Most Valuable Defensive Player of the year and was on the preseason watch list for the national defensive player of the year.
He started every game, recorded 41 tackles, including 15 behind the line of scrimmage, and 7.5 sacks.
He also improved in all aspects of the game during his time at Penn State. But working hard to get better is nothing new for him.
While he was at Frankford, he had all the football ability, but his grades were almost keeping him out of going to college. That’s when his mom Tekeya Cook and his football mentor Rasheed Muhammad gave him a nudge in the right direction.
He quickly pulled his grades up.
“He could have just kept being a football star and getting by on that, but we told him he needed to do better in school,” said Muhammad, who coached at the Frankford Chargers, as well as at Frankford and Washington. “He didn’t give up. He worked so hard. He didn’t miss one day of school after that. He needed to step up and he did. We were there with him, but he could have stayed in the neighborhood, hanging on the corners with his peers. That’s the easy thing to do. He didn’t want that.”
And that work paid off.
“He worked for everything,” said Cook, a single mother who raised Miller, his brother and four sisters. “He just kept working. He wanted this. We all knew he could do it, but he put in the work. I made sacrifices for him and it’s all worth it.
“We’re just so blessed he’s with the Eagles. I was afraid we would have to move somewhere far. We love Philly and we love the Eagles. This was the perfect thing for all of us.”
Miller knows how much he put into making himself an NFL player, but he’s also very much aware of what his mom did to get him where he is.
She was his rock, and now he’s going to be her’s.
“My mom made sure I had everything, she made sure we all had everything,” Miller said. “She did everything for me, my sisters and my brother. Raising a family is hard but she made sure we had everything. She made sure I had everything and now I’m going to make sure she’s straight with everything. I’m gonna take care of her.”
He’s also going to continue to give back to his schools.
While he graduated an Eagle at Washington, he still considers himself a Pioneer as well. He remembers the struggles of playing high school football, both on the field and in the classroom. Now he hopes his efforts can help the next generation of players.
He would go back to the schools when he was home from Penn State and now that he’s an Eagle, he’ll be back to share his stories.
“I just want them to know that it’s possible,” Miller said. “You can work for this. It’s not easy, but if I can do it, they can do it. I hope people see what I did and see they can do it, too. I want to help them. I had help, so I’m happy to help them.”
He’s also not afraid to ask for help.
While Miller was a star in high school and then a star in college, he’ll be new to the NFL when rookie camp beings next week. He’s ready to work hard and he also understands he’ll have to turn to some veterans to get some guidance.
He feels he’s in the perfect situation.
“The Eagles play a great defense and I think I’ll do well there,” Miller said. “I’m going to go in, learn and work. They have some great players there, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, they have a lot of good players.
“I’m going to go in, work hard and try and make the team, then see if I can get into the rotation. I know it’s not going to get easy, it’s going to be hard, but I’m ready.”
So are his family and friends.
It’s hard to say those around Miller are bigger Eagle fans today than they were before his name was called because they’ve always been all about the green and white. But it’s probably safe to say they all have a new favorite Eagle.
“I loved watching him play, but I loved the Eagles, too,” his mom said. “I’m so happy he’s on the team. He got what we all wanted.”
“I’m so happy with all of the love people are showing,” Miller said. “I keep getting calls and texts. People are happy for me and that means a lot. And everyone around here loves the Eagles. That’s what Philly does. It really is a blessing.”