It may have been Michael Vick that coined the phrase, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of fight in the dog”. But regardless of the origin of the classic phrase, it easily could have been invented to describe Barron Miles.
Miles arrived at Nebraska in 1991 at only 5’8” and 160 lbs., but few Huskers played bigger. Miles didn't begin to make noise until his sophomore year which was still fairly modest. He appeared in 10 games, making 11 tackles, knocking down a pass, intercepting a pass and returning a punt for 9 yards.
But in 1993 Miles exploded starting every game and blocking three kicks including a punt he hung onto for a touchdown to help Tom Osborne win his 200th game against Oklahoma State on a Thursday night ESPN contest. He finished the year with fifty tackles, an interception, and five pass breakups. He also returned three kickoffs for 64 yards. But most impressive that year might have been his performance in the national championship game against Florida State. For years the Huskers had been losing lopsided bowl games to teams like Florida State. But in this game, Miles played a lot of man coverage where he was out on an island with speedy receivers for FSU like Tamarick Vanover and he more than held his own. Nebraska held the Seminoles to 18 points and just a single touchdown on the day. Miles finished with nine tackles including seven solo takedowns.
Barron took his game to a whole new level in 1994. He started every game but had fewer tackles (in part, because offenses weren’t able to complete passes in his neighborhood). He blocked four kicks on the season, broke up 13 passes, intercepted five more and forced a fumble. He was named an all-conference player and a third team All-American. Again, Miles found himself on an island in a national championship game and again he did a fine job of containing the big, fast receivers of Miami. The Hurricanes would manage only fourteen first downs on the day and surrendered a safety to a smothering NU defense. His measurables that year? He was still 5'8" and 165 lbs.
When people grouse about a small player like Cortney Grixby being recruited, remember that Barron showed you don’t have to be a big guy to be the big dog.