When Shareef Miller left his Frankford neighborhood to begin his football career at Penn State, he wanted to take advantage of his opportunity to strive to reach the next level – the NFL.
Whenever he needed some inspiration to help him along, he would think of his mother, Tekeya Cook, who raised him and his five siblings.
“Coming home to see my mom, that motivates me to do what I do with football and school,” Miller said in a November interview, “that one day I can put my mom in a great position to get her out of Philly.
“That’s my goal. I’ve got sisters, I’ve got a little brother, I’ve got nephews. I’ve got a niece now. I want to get a better life for them. That’s my motivation. That’s what keeps me going.”
Miller, a defensive end who played his high school football at Frankford and George Washington, took a step Wednesday when he announced that he was forgoing his final year of eligibility with the Nittany Lions to declare for the NFL draft.
In addition, wide receivers coach David Corley was fired, and backup linebacker Dae’lun Darien said he was transferring to be closer to his family in Baltimore.
The 6-foot-5, 259-pound Miller, who was named third-team All-Big Ten, finished second on the team this season with 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, bringing his career totals to 14.5 sacks and 31.5 TFLs.
He also was the leader of the defensive line, referring to himself as “the older guy in the room” helping the younger players.
“Shareef has been a tremendous leader for us this season both on and off the field,” head coach James Franklin said. “He has grown so much since arriving in Happy Valley and I am so proud of the man he has become. We appreciate all of his contributions to our program and we wish him nothing but success as he moves on to the NFL.”
Miller thanked Franklin “for giving a kid from Frankford a life-changing opportunity,” and defensive line coach Sean Spencer for “believing in me and teaching me life lessons I’ll never forget.”
He also thanked his mother “and my loved ones for their support and sacrifice. Without their unconditional love, I would not be in this position today.”
The 6-4, 301-pound Bates started 35 career games, mostly at left tackle, but started the final four games of 2018 at right tackle. He won third-team All-Big Ten honors the last two seasons.
Bates, who received his degree last month in labor and employment relations, called his Penn State time “some of the most memorable years of my life.”
“Ryan has made so many contributions to our program in his three years as a starter,” Franklin said. “He has been a great teacher for younger guys in the offensive line room.”
The 6-5, 326-pound McGovern, of Larksville, Pa., started 35 games at guard and center. He earned third-team All-Big Ten honors this season and won the team’s outstanding offensive lineman award.
Givens, a 6-1, 285-pound senior from Altoona, had 13 sacks in 39 games over three seasons.
Corley, who spent one season with the Nittany Lions, originally was hired to be running backs coach but was switched to wide receivers after the hiring of Ja’Juan Seider. Penn State’s passing game was inconsistent throughout the season with timing issues and dropped passes.