Mason alums Knue and Miller earn NFL opportunities

Andrew Little | Editor-in-Chief

The Long Green Line of Mason Football extends from Dwire Field to Paycor Stadium and Raymond James Stadium.

Tanner Knue and Eric Miller, both 2018 Mason High School graduates, signed respectively with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL) as undrafted free agents following the 2024 NFL Draft. 

Knue, a wide receiver, walked on at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) following his career as a Mason Comet. He eventually earned a scholarship and led the Eagles in receiving yards in 2022 and 2023. His 17-career receiving touchdowns are the third time in EMU history.

Miller, an offensive tackle, spent five seasons at Purdue University before transferring to the University of Louisville for his final season of collegiate eligibility. Miller started 43 games in college and was named an All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Honorable Mention in 2023. 

Entering the NFL Draft, thousands of players are eligible. Only 257 were drafted in 2024, and around 400 have signed undrafted rookie contracts. Miller said the leadup to and after the draft was a very stressful period, and it is special to get the opportunity to sign with Cincinnati and stay in his hometown near his family.

“It’s a nerve-wracking period,” Miller said. “There was just a lot of anxiety. You just want an opportunity and I’m so thankful to get an opportunity to show it I’ve gotten to do it. Here in Cincinnati, it is awesome. I can’t thank the Bengals organization enough. So it was exciting and my family was really fired up about it.”

Knue felt similarly entering the draft and was overcome with relief and gratitude when Tampa Bay called with a contract offer, giving him a chance to continue working towards his dream of playing in the NFL.

“[Signing] was a lot of relief because you go into [draft weekend] and have no idea what’s gonna happen,” Knue said. “[I] talked to a few teams here and there [before the draft], but you don’t really know. I’m just so relieved that I got the phone call from the Buccaneers. I’m ready to get after it because it’s really hard to get in the NFL, and it’s even harder to stay.”

Before Miller and Knue’s undrafted rookie deals, Mason has had two alumni sign an NFL contract, both eventually playing in the league. Josh Kline (Class of 2008) was a seven-year NFL veteran with stints as a starting offensive guard with the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. Kline, an undrafted free agent signing with the Patriots in 2013, was on the roster for their Super Bowl XLIX championship team. 

Elijah Nkansah (Class of 2013) signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. Nkansah spent four years in the league, including time on the active roster for the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns. 

Miller and Knue were in high school during Kline’s career and Nkansah’s predraft process. Miller even got to work out with Nkansah when Miller was a senior preparing to play Big Ten football at Purdue. 

Miller cited Nkansah and Kline, who all played on the offensive line, as inspirations during his football journey and hopes to follow in their footsteps with his football career and representing Mason.

“It was cool to look up to [Kline and Nkansah] and now have a chance to do what they did,” Miller said. “To represent this Mason football program my whole career my whole life has been awesome and I just want to keep doing that and do right by them.” 

Each NFL team hosts a local pro day for nearby college teams and hometown players like Knue and Miller. Knue and Miller got to experience the Bengals organization firsthand at their local pro day, working out and meeting with Bengals coaches and staff at their facility.

“It definitely helped because we both did the Bengals local day with guys that we grew up playing against in high school,” Miller said. “It was surreal to walk in there because it’s where you grew up.”

Miller remembers playing a youth football game at the Paul Brown Stadium, now Paycor, as a kid. Now, he is competing for an NFL roster spot on the same field this summer as a professional football player.

“I played games in Paycor when it was Paul Brown Stadium back in the day for youth football,” Miller said. “To work out there and now to sign a contract [with the Bengals] and be going to rookie minicamp next weekend is incredibly exciting.”

Knue played football in his youth but did not play as a sophomore or junior to focus on basketball. He returned to football as a senior and earned All-Greater Miami Conference second-team honors as a wide receiver. Knue was also the GMC Defensive Player of the Year in basketball. He then opted to stick with football and continue his athletic career at Eastern Michigan. 

Knue credits Mason football head coach Brian Castner for helping rekindle his love for the sport and convincing him to return to the sport. Knue acknowledges that he had an unconventional path to playing football at the next level but believes his journey strengthened his mentality of taking his career one step at a time.

“There’s a lot of guys when you get to college that their mindset is the NFL, kind of looking past college, and I was taking it a year at a time [since] I started out as a walk-on and I wasn’t even thinking about the NFL,” Knue said. “It was about getting on the field first and once I got on the field, it was about earning a scholarship and once I earned a scholarship about being a team captain, and then now being present which got me to where I am today and I’m gonna keep having the same mindset because it’s just a start. I haven’t made it yet.”

Rookie minicamps for the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are from May 10-12. Drafted players and undrafted free agent signings like Miller and Knue get on the practice field, learn their teams’s playbooks with coaches and prepare for summer training. NFL organized team practice activities (OTAs) begin in late May. More players will join in June with team minicamps before training camp begins in late July, as teams work to cut their 90-man roster to the final 53 in August before the regular season. 

Miller and Knue agree they have a long road ahead but are excited about the opportunity to work with NFL teams. Although there is an uphill battle to climb to earn a practice squad or roster spot in the fall, Miller said he looks forward to competing and continuing his football career.

“[Rookie minicamp] will be great competition trying to learn the playbook and get adjusted to playing at the NFL level,” Miller said. “[Knue and I] are really excited about it.”