“I’m just happy being back playing football again” | Miller on verge of CFL record

Sometime later this season, Mike Miller will see his name move to the very top of the Canadian Football League’s all-time special teams tackle list. It will be a significant achievement for the 32-year-old Riverview, NB product, a man who has carved out a solid nine seasons in the game, first with Edmonton and the last three years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

And it somehow seems only fitting that the CFL’s career special teams tackle record would be owned by an undrafted player like Miller, who is the very definition of a hard hat and lunch pail worker and who has forever put his team first.

“I came into the CFL as a defensive back,” said Miller in a Zoom call with media on Saturday. “I knew from other people and talking to other guys who played in the CFL how important special teams were. It was drilled into me at university, too, from my university coach Jeff Cummins (at Acadia University) who played in the CFL as well. It’s something I did well at university and so when I was sending out my highlight tapes to teams I made sure I had a lot of special-teams tape on there.

“I went in with the mentality that I was going to do whatever the team needed me to do. Throughout my career I’ve changed positions. I’ve played linebacker and safety and I’ve always done just what the team has needed me to be. When I made the switch to fullback, that’s where the team needed me to be at the time.

“That’s how I took the mentality on special teams, too,” he added. “For me to be able to contribute to my team it was working as hard as I could on special teams. That’s what they needed me to do and I was willing to do that. I’m still willing to do that. I just had an adaptable mentality.”

Miller has 185 special teams tackles in his career, trailing just Jason Arakgi, who had 190 with the B.C. Lions from 2008-16. Just last year he moved past Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller, who had retired as the CFL’s all-time leader with 184.

Not surprisingly to know how humble the man is, Miller had no idea how many tackles he needed to move past Arakgi.

“I haven’t thought about it too much, I guess,” said Miller. “I’ve been more focused on getting back in the swing of things and playing football again. I’m just happy we’re able to do this again. It’s been a long offseason. I haven’t thought about it too much… I’m not even sure what I’m actually away from it. I’m just happy being back playing football again.

“I do take a lot of pride in the role that I play and that I’ve played all my career. To see that it’s paying off, all the time and effort that I put into it, that is definitely a cool thing to see come to fruition.”

With Miller as the Bombers big boss and the team led by two former special teams gurus in GM Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea, the club was thrilled when Miller landed in their laps after his release from Edmonton. Miller hasn’t missed a game in three seasons with Winnipeg, has averaged 23 special teams tackles over that span and in 2019 was named the team’s Most Outstanding Canadian and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

“I still think about getting him here and shocked that we were able to get him,” said O’Shea on Saturday. “He’s a great teammate, he understands the game of football, he’s a great mentor in the running back room and for special teams he’s always helping somebody out and taking control of situations. There’s nothing not to like about him.”

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