Miller an inspiration to ex-college teammate

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INDIANAPOLIS – Bears receiver Anthony Miller grew up in Memphis, starred at the University of Memphis and made an immediate impact as an NFL rookie last season.

Miller arrived at the school as a walk-on after not receiving any Division I scholarship offers and eventually developed into a second-round draft pick.

Another Memphis native who teamed with Miller in college, running back/receiver Tony Pollard is motivated by Miller’s success and hopes to follow in his footsteps.

“He definitely is a big inspiration, showing that whatever you want to do in life, if you work hard, don’t give up on your dreams,” Pollard said at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “Just keep pushing and working and don’t let anything stop you.”

It was difficult to stop Miller and Pollard when they were Memphis teammates. Miller had 95 receptions for 1,434 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016 and 96 catches for 1,462 yards and 18 TDs in 2017. He set school records in all three categories in 2016 and eclipsed the marks in 2017.

Pollard, meanwhile, developed into one of the nation’s top return specialists while also contributing on offense as a running back and receiver. In 2016, he averaged 28.1 yards on 38 kickoff returns with two touchdowns and followed by leading the country with a school-record 40.0-yard average on 22 kickoff returns with four TDs in 2017. Pollard’s seven career kickoff return touchdowns are tied for the most in FBS history.

Last season he also generated 1,010 yards from scrimmage, rushing for 552 yards and six touchdowns on 78 carries and catching 39 passes for 458 yards and three TDs.

As a Bears rookie, Miller demonstrated some of the same playmaking ability that he had displayed at Memphis, producing a team-leading seven touchdown receptions, the most by a Bears rookie since Willie Gault had eight in 1983.

Pollard isn’t as outwardly confident as Miller—who last year wrote a letter on “The Players Tribune” website to NFL general managers explaining why he felt he was the best receiver in the draft. But Pollard wouldn’t change anything about his former upstairs neighbor.

“We’re two different people when it comes to confidence,” Pollard said. “But I like his style, him believing in himself. Him coming from nothing and being where he is now, he believed in himself when nobody else did, and now that he’s up there he still hasn’t changed the way that he acts.”

There’s nothing that Pollard admires more about Miller than his work ethic.

“Even when he was in his last season at Memphis and he was being projected as one of the best players in the country, if you came around practice you would have thought he was a walk-on,” Pollard said. “He practiced and just was the hardest-working player I have ever been around.” 

In his NFL.com draft profile, Pollard is projected as an NFL backup with special-teams potential. Multiple sites predict that he’ll be drafted in the sixth round.

Asked about the possibility of rejoining Miller with the Bears, Pollard said: “That would almost be a dream come true, being back with my guy from Memphis. Having played together at Memphis, I know that we would click instantly.”

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