Boise State sophomore safety Kam Miles has adjusted his vision of college football three times since he announced his first college commitment in May 2012.
He originally chose to play for Tennessee but reconsidered with the Volunteers’ staff about to get fired.
He went to Texas A&M instead, then was dismissed in 2014 for undisclosed reasons during the spring after his redshirt season.
He transferred to Butler Community College in Kansas for an experience last fall that reminded him more of high school than college.
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And finally he found a home in Boise, where he arrived in January with three years of eligibility and a hunger to prove he belonged at the FBS level.
Now, after all that, he knows exactly what he wants his career to look like.
“I want to play like Darian Thompson,” he said, referencing the Broncos’ star free safety. “That’s who I want to play like because he makes a lot of plays. I love watching D.T. play and playing with him. He’s a mentor to me.”
Miles already has done one thing like Thompson — fill in seamlessly.
Miles became the strong safety late in the first half of the Virginia game when sophomore Dylan Sumner-Gardner — Miles’ teammate at West Mesquite (Texas) High — broke an ankle bone.
Since then, the Broncos have allowed 17 points in just over 10 quarters.
“I’m real proud of him,” junior cornerback Jonathan Moxey said. “I could tell as soon as he stepped in at Virginia, he started making plays, that he wasn’t going to miss a beat and I think he’s been getting better as far as learning the playbook.”
Thompson’s starting career began in much the same way.
The Broncos’ last top-15 defense, in 2012, lost starting safety Lee Hightower to a career-ending suspension in October. Thompson, a redshirt freshman at the time, replaced him for the final six games with no drop-off.
Miles’ experience likely will be different — Sumner-Gardner is expected to return after two or three more games — but he has positioned himself to step into a full-time job next fall.
Miles has eight tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble this season. One breakup and the forced fumble came in the Virginia game.
“It was kind of unreal at first when I started playing,” Miles said. “Then when I was making plays, it was: ‘This is really happening. Wow.’ After that, I felt normal again. I just started playing and it was becoming more fun.”
Miles played nickel in spring ball and moved to strong safety in fall camp, enhancing his knowledge of the defense but adding to the challenge of making an immediate impact.
It’s rare for transfers to start in their first year at Boise State.
“He’s a hard worker,” Moxey said. “You could tell when he first came in that he was going to work hard, and he hasn’t stopped being persistent.”
Miles built a reputation as a smart, passionate player during his career at West Mesquite, where he played a little quarterback and wide receiver before settling on safety. He was called up to varsity during his sophomore season and became one of the nation’s top recruits — ranked as high as the No. 10 safety.
“He had great ball skills, knew how to get people lined up, very football savvy,” said Mike Overton, who was the West Mesquite coach during Miles’ career. “... He was kind of the quarterback of our defense. There were always guys who were maybe a little faster, but he was always in the right place.”
When the Tennessee situation deteriorated, Texas A&M co-defensive coordinator Marcel Yates convinced Miles to play for the Aggies. Yates maintained that relationship after he became the defensive coordinator at Boise State in 2014.
“They built a good (relationship),” Overton said. “... They understand each other.”
Miles spoke to Tennessee’s new coaching staff when he was at Butler but decided to join the Broncos and reunite with Yates and Sumner-Gardner. It was the only recruiting visit he made.
“Stuff happens,” Miles said of his unusual journey. “I’m happy where I am right now. I can’t knock that. I love it here.”
Coaches and teammates say he fits in the defense in part because he plays the game so much like Sumner-Gardner. They were trained the same.
Their personalities are different — Sumner-Gardner is more “boisterous,” junior nickel Chanceller James said — but Miles showed some personality, too, in his first interview as a Bronco.
“Yeah,” he said of whether he sees the similarities to Sumner-Gardner, “but I’m better looking.”
The biggest difference with Miles: experience.
Thompson is a fourth-year starter. Senior cornerback Donte Deayon is a third-year starter. Moxey is a second-year starter. And James is a first-year starter but fourth-year Bronco.
Miles is the new guy in that veteran secondary.
“They have a standard that they set,” Miles said, “and you have to play to it. I feel I’ve played well. I’ve got to get better. I’m not what I’m expecting to be.”