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March 6, 2017

Mike Miller | “A heckuva teammate”

Eskimos' Mike Miller hauls in a catch during second quarter CFL Eastern Semi-Final action in Hamilton on Sunday, November 13th, 2016. (CFL PHOTO - Dave Chidley)

Mike Miller has been around football long enough to understand a guy should never expect any favours from the game.

And that, in part, explains how an undrafted product of the Acadia Axeman has somehow managed to carve out a six-year career in the Canadian Football League.

It’s not always just about talent. It’s about want-to, adaptability, versatility and a ton of sweat equity. Along the way, the 27-year-old vet has earned enough respect that when the Edmonton Eskimos cut him adrift earlier this week, his phone didn’t stay silent for long.

Yes, less than 72 hours after his release from the Esks, Miller – the Canadian Football League’s special teams tackle leader from a year ago – was scribbling his name on a new deal with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“It’s perfect. I couldn’t be more excited to be a Blue Bomber,” began Miller in a chat with bluebombers.com from his offseason home in Riverview, N.B.

“It’s funny, if you had asked me in 2011 if I’d still be playing football today I would have said you were crazy.”

“Being undrafted, I wasn’t sure if I’d even make a team. Edmonton gave me that shot and I just do what I need to do. I’m going to do whatever they need. I started out in this league as a defensive back, I got moved to linebacker and then fullback. It’s the more you can do.”

“I’ll carry water bottles if I have to.”

left to right - Edmonton Eskimos player #25 (S ) Mike Miller tries to go after Toronto Argonauts player # 86 ( WR)Trent Guy during the 4th quarter of CFL game action between the Edmonton Eskimo's and the Toronto Argonauts at Commonwealth stadium in Edmonton Saturday, September 28/2013 (CFL PHOTO - Walter Tychnowicz)

left to right – Edmonton Eskimos player #25 (S ) Mike Miller tries to go after Toronto Argonauts player # 86 ( WR)Trent Guy during the 4th quarter of CFL game action between the Edmonton Eskimo’s and the Toronto Argonauts at Commonwealth stadium in Edmonton Saturday, September 28/2013 (CFL PHOTO – Walter Tychnowicz)


That’s the kind of stuff that can endear a player to a football brain trust, especially like the one here with the Bombers that has such a soft-spot for special teamers. Wade Miller, Kyle Walters and Mike O’Shea, after all, have a deep-rooted connection to the foot soldiers who do a lot of the grunt work.

“He’s our kind of guy,” said Walters. “He’s what the Winnipeg Football Club is about: he’s a hard-nosed, tough kid that everybody says, ‘You’ve got yourselves a heckuva teammate there.’ He’ll get into that locker room and fit in and run around and smash people.”

Miller likely won’t get touches out of the Bombers backfield, but does provide some depth behind Andrew Harris and Chris Normand. Walters said Normand would be the ‘get-you-out-of-a-game tailback’ if Harris was to be injured – an import like Timothy Flanders, like last year, would be the replacement if Harris was shelved for a longer stretch – and Miller would then step in for Normand at fullback.

“Plus,” added Walters, “he’ll lead the league in special teams tackles just like he does every year.”

“The way we’re building our team, he will come right in and fit in and be an example of what we’re doing here.”

Miller has 104 CFL games under his belt – and eight playoff games, including the 2015 Grey Cup – and 116 career special teams tackles. Just as important, he has missed only four games since breaking into the league in 2011.

It turns out Miller also received a good sales pitch on signing with the Bombers from an old teammate and close friend: quarterback Matt Nichols.

“When I found out I was going to be released Matt got in contact with me,” said Miller. “Our families are close and have stayed close over the last few years. Our wives are best friends. He was trying to lure me to Winnipeg and was giving me information about the team and the locker room. It was all good things; it definitely piqued my interest to go there and I’m super excited.”