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December 11, 2018

Miller making Winnipeg home for two more years

Mike Miller 24 - BC Lions @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers, October 14, 2017 - Kyle Thomas Photo

Mike Miller has been around pro football long enough to know how to accurately survey the lay of the land.

There are the stars of the game that grab all the headlines – the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linebackers and defensive ends. And then there are the foot soldiers who are quite content to slap on a hard hat, roll up their sleeves and do the grunt work.

Yes, as the old saying goes, some guys play the piano, some guys move the piano.

And consider Miller – who agreed to a new two-year contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Tuesday – one of the best piano movers in the entire Canadian Football League.

“I really wanted to come back, so I was always hoping this would happen sooner rather than later,” Miller told bluebombers.com from his offseason home in Riverview, NB. “I had no idea what was going to happen with the pending CBA (collective bargaining agreement talks) and all that stuff. Then I got a call from my agent a couple of days ago saying a deal was ready and I was very happy to sign on again. I’ve really enjoyed my two years here. The coaches are great, teammates are great, and the organization is top-notch. Plus, my family loves Winnipeg and all that makes it a really good fit for us.”

Now 29, Miller has carved out a solid eight-year CFL career after first cracking the Edmonton Eskimos roster as an undrafted free agent in 2011. A linebacker during his college days at Acadia, it was Jeff Cummins – his head coach with the Axemen – who spelled out how his CFL career might unfold.

“My university coach played in the CFL for a bit and he told me, ‘You’re going to make your way on special teams in the first couple of years,’” said Miller. “I just enjoy the role. It’s a huge part of the CFL game. I just find it really fun and another opportunity to compete.”

Miller established himself as one of the best special teams players in the CFL during his six years in Edmonton, so much so that when he was released after the 2016 season, he wasn’t unemployed for long. The Bombers, in fact, had him signed to a new deal within 72 hours.

Miller has played in every game for the Bombers over the past two years, leading the team in special teams tackles in 2017 and finishing second to Chandler Fenner this past season. He now has 160 career special teams tackles, ranking him 11th all time, and just one shy of cracking the Top 10.

And while the soft-spoken Miller won’t stick out his chest and boast, he’s one of those respected men in Bombers locker room who puts his team first daily.

“It’s all about the opportunity,” he said. “I was grateful to take the opportunity Edmonton gave me eight years ago and I’ve been trying to do whatever has been asked of me since. With special teams, a lot of times it just comes down to realizing you’re going to be in a fight. It’s one-on-one a lot, and you’ve just got to have that want-to attitude to beat the guy in front of you. That’s the best way to describe it: you need that attitude to want to make those plays.

“It’s not really a glory-filled type of job, but you’re doing your part to make your team successful. And I love it.”

Miller’s got a good thing going on the home front – he and his wife Erica have two kids, three-year-old Ethan and sister Coady, who is 10 months old – and couldn’t be happier with how his CFL career has unfolded.

“I can honestly say I’ve never been a part of a locker room where the guys are as tight-knit as we are,” said Miller. “Everybody is going to bat for each other and we’re trying to win a championship. We’re that close and we were that close this year. I really think we have a winning formula because of the strong characters we have in the locker room.”