Three years ago, Bruce Miller was an undersized defensive end at Central Florida who was wondering if he'd even get drafted. On the eve of the draft, he got a phone call from 49ers assistant coach Tom Rathman. The good news: The 49ers were interested in selecting him. The odd news: They also were interested in switching him to fullback.
"I didn't care if it was offense, defense, special teams or any of that," said Miller, who ended up being taken in the seventh round. "It was exciting to know that I was on their radar and that I had the possibility of moving out to California and being a Niner."
That open-minded attitude has served him well since, and on Thursday he was rewarded with a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season. Few teams in the pass-heavy NFL use a fullback as much as the 49ers, and Miller will be among the highest paid at his position with his new deal.
Miller also is the latest member of the 49ers' successful 2011 draft class to receive an extension. The team previously extended the deal of offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore, a fifth-round pick that year, and is working on a longer contract for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a second rounder in 2011. Kaepernick's is expected to be the highest on the team and one of the most lucrative in the NFL.
"Bruce is a hard-working, dedicated young player that has done an outstanding job for us, both on and off the field," general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "He is one of those players that contributes a lot more to the team and to the community than he gets credit for, yet wouldn't have it any other way. We are pleased that Bruce has chosen to extend his stay with the 49ers."
Miller, 26, has played in 45 games (34 starts), and has 48 receptions for 410 yards and one touchdown and 16 carries for 39 yards. In 2013, Miller set career-highs in receptions (25) and receiving yards (243) despite breaking his scapula in a Dec. 15 game in Tampa Bay and missing the last two games of the season and the postseason. Miller said he has completely recovered from the injury and will be full-go for the team's offseason strength and conditioning program that begins April 21.
-- Matt Barrows