Durrant Miles (from left) climbed the barrier for a photo with Ben Hair, 6, and his brother Henry, 8, taken by Cate Cranston after working out with the Atlanta Falcons Football team during practice camp in Flowery Branch on Thursday July 25th, 2019. Phil Skinner/For the AJC
Photo: Phil Skinner
Photo: Phil Skinner

Faith took new Falcon to Bolivia

Durrant Miles, one of the newest Atlanta Falcons, put faith above football, even though it meant placing his career dreams on hold.

In 2013, when his high school classmates were heading off to college, Miles was packing for South America and a two-year mission trip with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A full scholarship to Boise State University had to wait, while Miles, a Utah native, heeded his church’s call to mission work.

“My dad and grandfather took two years out of their lives to serve the Lord, and, ever since I was a kid, I wanted that, too,” said Miles, an undrafted free agent signed by the Falcons in April to bolster the team’s defensive line.

His church expects its members to go out into the world, two-by-two, to spread the gospel. Men, as young as 18, are expected to serve two years, and women, as young as 19, are to be missionaries for 18 months.

Miles spent his two years in Bolivia, where 4 million of the country’s 10 million residents live in poverty. There, he became fluent in Spanish, shared the gospel at every opportunity and tackled service projects, such as building houses.

“Being able to serve the Lord and dedicate myself those two years to him was a life-changing experience,” Miles, 24, said.

When he returned stateside in 2015, Boise State’s scholarship offer was still open, and the 6-foot-5 Miles accepted.

Transitioning back into football wasn’t easy. “But the coaches at Boise State did a really good job of getting me back into playing shape, and my knowledge of football, with them teaching me, went through the roof,” he said.

Miles finished Boise State in 2018 with a degree in health sciences and a notable record as a starting defensive end for the university’s football team, the Broncos. In his senior year, he shined as a pass rusher, racking up 4.5 sacks to smash his previous career high of two in 2017. He also proved formidable against the run, picking up 6.5 tackles for losses.

Andy Avalos, former defensive coordinator for the Broncos, said Miles was “an unbelievable leader, not only with his play-making ability on the field, but also as a leader making sure our mindset was always right.”

“The thing that sticks out about him is how reliable he is as a person and teammate,” said Avalos, now defensive coordinator at the University of Oregon. “He comes every day with a great attitude.”

Football has been Miles’ lifelong passion.

“Ever since I was in Little League, my goal was just to get progressively better,” he said.

Now that he’s wearing Falcons jersey “48,” Miles still has that focus.

“Even at this level, my goal is to continue to get better and be someone who can be counted on by this team,” he said.

Miles gushes when he speaks of his teammates, describing them as “awesome” and their “togetherness” as unparalleled in his football experience.

“I think we have a very special opportunity this season – obviously taking it game by game,” he said. “But I think we really have an opportunity and a good shot.”

Miles knows he’ll have to prove himself to stay on the team. He was one of 19 free agents picked up by the Falcons and could be cut when the team roster is whittled from 90 to 63 on Aug. 30.

But he’s optimistic, with God’s help, he’ll make it.

“Without our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we wouldn’t really have the opportunities to do what we do and be who we are,” Miles said. “I’m very grateful for this.”

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