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Gameday Q&A: Bruce Miller

Posted Aug 8, 2013

Fullback Bruce Miller is featured in our 49ers Gameday magazine interview.

Pick up a copy of the 49ers Gameday magazine at Candlestick Park when the 49ers host the Denver Broncos to open the 2013 preseason. The following interview is featured on the cover of this week's Gameday magazine.

Bruce Miller doesn’t want the limelight, but we asked him to be on the Gameday cover anyway. The unselfish third-year fullback has quite the reputation in the 49ers locker room. Players respond to someone like Miller, a hard-working professional who does everything possible to help the team win.

Players also admire those who have earned starting jobs. Just ask Colin Kaepernick. As for Miller, the former college defensive end has impressively worked his way from seventh-round draft pick to all-around contributor. Miller shines as the lead blocker for San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher and then relentlessly covers kicks and punts on special teams. Miller helped lead Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore to another 1,000-yard season in 2012 and finished tied for the team lead with 15 special teams tackles. It’s the only way Miller knows how to play the game.

Miller, 25, gives back to everyone around him. He also gives the opposition a tough time when they’re desperately trying to tackle the 49ers hard-nosed running backs. Off the field, Miller still carries himself like the same hungry rookie that was eager to prove himself in 2011. Over the summer, Miller held his first football camp in his hometown of Woodstock, Ga., and is back to soak up more knowledge from a respected 49ers coaching staff.

Miller is revered for his approach to the game of football. Gameday learned more about the selfless mindset of San Francisco’s starting fullback.

What’s the best and worst part of playing fullback for the 49ers?

The best part is getting to block for such a talented group of runners. They definitely make you look good as a blocker. The worst part about it is having to block, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks at practice.

Maybe that’s a gift and a curse?

Yeah, it is a gift and a curse. They do help me. That’s the best matchup I face all year. The best group of linebackers I’ll see will be this month at training camp.

How has your relationship with Frank grown over the years?

It’s getting better every day. It’s been really good so far – getting to work with him and being able to play alongside him – but we’re still getting better every day. I’m still learning and I’m still trying to learn his style of running. I think I’m getting it down, but I want to get better and better for him so I just know wherever he wants to go, I’m blocking for him, using the right leverage and making it easy on him. We’re working every day to get better.

Is there a consistent tip he has for you, or something he says to you over and over again to help you get better?

Every snap there’s communication with him and sometimes during the play I can hear him, especially in away games. When nobody’s cheering for us, sometimes in the middle of the play, I can hear him, coaching and talking. It’s been good to work with a guy who can not only see the hole – where he’s supposed to go – but he also sees everything around him. He sees all the defenders, he sees things that you wouldn’t think guys would be able to see. His vision is unbelievable. I’m lucky having a chance to work with him.

You block for an elite rusher, but do you feel pressure playing the position and having a legendary 49ers fullback, Tom Rathman, as your coach?

There’s not really pressure playing for him, but he definitely expects a lot out of us. I put a lot a pressure on myself. I take a lot of pride in what I do. He’s played the position and played it at the highest level you could play it at. With him coaching me, I want to put a good product out there, so I put pressure on myself and with Frank and how hard he runs, I want to mimic that and block even harder. He runs tough, so I want to be a tough blocker.

You’ve gotten to know Coach Rathman pretty well over the years, so have you ever looked up his highlights on the Internet or have an idea of what he was like with the flat-top haircut, the neck roll he wore, the way he played the game?

I’ve only seen a few highlights. I know he’s hiding them from us, but I have seen a couple interviews on YouTube with the flat-top and the eye black. It’s pretty good.

He caught 73 passes in 1989, what would you have to do for Colin Kaepernick or Greg Roman to get 70-plus passes thrown your way in a season?

I don’t know… it would probably involve taking them out to dinner a lot. If I get 73 passes, that would be nice. But I think we have so many guys that are so talented with the ball. Let them have it and let me block. I’m good with blocking for them.

You were an accomplished defensive end in college at UCF – your 35.5 sacks led all active collegiate players during your time in school – do you ever wish you could sneak in a pass-rushing drill and try to dust off those talents against someone like Joe Staley?

Yes! Every day I want to line up over there and go up against Staley especially. It would be fun. But right now I live vicariously through our guys. They’re fun to watch. We have the best in the business playing outside linebacker. It’s fun to watch them, but I do have dreams over on the sideline about lining up and rushing the passer.

I hear you’re a movie buff who loves comedies and action films – tell me your favorite and worst movie you’ve ever seen?

Oh, wow. Actually last night I watched a little bit of “Gladiator” – that’s No. 1. The worst movie I’ve ever seen… One time my mom and dad took us to the movies to see “Into the Wild.” That was probably the worst movie I’ve ever seen.

What’s your go-to snack at a movie theater, is it popcorn, Junior Mints, or something else?

Popcorn and a white cherry slushee. That’s money every time.

What’s been your favorite part of this year’s training camp? What makes it more enjoyable the third time around?

I get to sit in meetings with Anthony Dixon. It’s a comedy show every day. Being around our guys so much is fun because our guys are awesome. They make being here enjoyable and then of course, we get to play football. It’s not a bad thing. Dixon is a comedian though. He always keeps it fresh and new. He always has everybody laughing.

How do you feel about being an unsung hero on this offense? Is that something that comes with being a fullback in general?

I’m one of many unsung heroes. Our guys up front, they’re the real heroes. They make everything work. Without them, I can’t do my job, we can’t run the football and we can’t throw the football. This is nice to be on the cover, but those guys up front, without them, we don’t get anything done.

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