The Dolphins love celebrating their history, and at the running back position, there’s much to celebrate.
For starters, Larry Csonka is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris spearheaded the Dolphins’ only two Super Bowl championships.
Then there’s Ricky Williams, whose 1,853-yard season in 2002 was by far the most prolific by anyone who ever has worn the Dolphins uniform.
Is Lamar Miller the next great one? He sure hopes so.
“That’s everybody’s goal — just to have people memorize [your name],” Miller said after a training camp practice this summer.
Miller would be difficult to forget — at least in South Florida. He’s the true homegrown talent, playing his entire high school (Miami Killian), college (University of Miami) and now pro career in Miami-Dade County.
Now in his second season, Miller is in a battle to become the team’s starting running back and is being predicted by many to have a breakout season. Miller has done nothing to temper expectations, stating publicly his aim for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
But on draft weekend in 2012, he was simply wondering when, if ever, his name would be called. Miller turned pro after just three seasons at UM — including one as a redshirt designee. He had hopes of going in the first round of the draft but wasn’t surprised when his name wasn’t called on the draft’s first night.
However, when the entire league passed over him a second and third time, he was distraught.
“It was a horrible feeling,” Miller said.
Added Drew Rosenhaus, Miller’s agent: “But by the Dolphins drafting him, it turned what was a nightmare to a dream come true.”
The Dolphins took Miller in the fourth round and groomed him to replace Reggie Bush, who was entering the final year of his contract.
Miller has a built-in support system. His mother Yvette, a nurse at Baptist Hospital, and father Edgar, a truck driver, can make the half-hour trip to Sun Life Stadium to see every home game.
Plus, Miller is close to his old high school buddies and even has an old UM ally in the Dolphins locker room: Olivier Vernon, the defensive end who the Dolphins took a round earlier in April 2012.
“He’s very humble,” Vernon said. “You never see him talking that much. He’s a quiet guy. But at the same time, he’s a real good person, a real good competitor, and a good teammate.”
Vernon actually knew all about Miller well before either enrolled at Miami.
Like Miller, Vernon is from the area. He went to Hialeah American and came across Miller during film study for a common opponent.
“We thought the whole film was on fast-forward,” Vernon said. “He’s fast.”
Probably as fast — or even faster — as the player he’s replacing. The Dolphins had brought in Bush to be a home-run hitter out of the backfield. But in limited opportunities, Miller actually had a better yards-per-carry average (4.9 to 4.3).
But that was on just 51 attempts. To be the Dolphins’ featured back, he will have to handle a workload some six times bigger.
Coach Joe Philbin said he’s not philosophically opposed to giving one back — whether it’s Miller or Daniel Thomas — 300 carries in 2013.
But if Miller does exceed 300 carries, it would be the exception, not the rule for the Dolphins.
Other than Williams, who had nearly 400 carries in each of back-to-back seasons, a Miami running back rarely has had that kind of volume. For example, Csonka eclipsed 200 carries only three times.
If Miller is to take on an increased workload, he will have to stay healthy, which was a struggle in college.
“Lamar had setbacks physically and so he really didn’t have the continuity of seasons — fall, spring, the offseason program,” UM coach Al Golden said. “Now he’s settled in, he’s healthy, he’s operating at 100 percent, he’s got complete focus. There’s nothing that Lamar Miller can’t do in the NFL.”
Miami Herald sportswriter Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.