Bears rookie receiver Anthony Miller is used to making big catches.
By the time he was finished with his college career at the University of Memphis, Miller owned nearly every program receiving record. He tore up record books his senior season, catching 96 passes for 1,462 yards en route to 18 touchdowns — all single-season program bests.
So when the Bears used the No. 51 overall pick to snag Miller in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, there was never a doubt that the former Tiger would soon be making dazzling plays as a Bear.
Last Saturday, Bears fans got their first real glimpse at what could be a key piece of the team's receiving corps going into the season, and the rookie didn't disappoint.
Late in the first quarter of the Bears' preseason game against the Broncos, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky took a shotgun snap and rolled to his left. With Denver's defense charging toward him, Trubisky threw across his body and lofted a ball toward Miller, who was in double coverage defense on the sideline.
Shooting his 5-11 frame into the air, the rookie receiver somehow came down with the ball, reaching above the hands of two Broncos defenders.
"I knew Mitch was going to give me a chance," Miller said Monday. "So once it was in the air I just attacked it and it stuck."
The catch put the Bears on the Broncos' 24-yard line and set up a touchdown two plays later, eventually helping to lift the Bears to a 24-23 win.
The two Denver defenders on the impressive Trubisky-Miller connection — Tramaine Brock and Bradley Roby — have a combined 14 years of NFL service. But despite being a fresh face in the league, Miller doesn't back down from more veteran competition.
"When you step out there you can't be scared at all," Miller said. "You've got to go out there with confidence in yourself knowing you can make plays. … Even though I'm a rookie, I have to carry myself like I've been there all along."
It's the sort of mentality that has Bears coach Matt Nagy excited about the future.
"The confidence he has, that's the word that I think of with him," Nagy said. "And it's not a cockiness. It's a confidence in himself and in his skills. ... He's a very powerful guy. He has a good burst to him. And he's got excellent hands."
Miller made another key catch later in the half when quarterback Chase Daniel found him open on a second-and-10 play. Miller stiff-armed his way through the defense before being pushed out of bounds and picking up a first down. The drive resulted in a field goal to cut the Broncos lead before half time.
In total Miller had three catches on the night for 33 yards.
He credits part of his success in transitioning to the NFL to the slower game pace. During his days with Memphis, the Tigers ran a fast-paced, high-tempo offense, and Miller has found the speed of the NFL to be more manageable. He also credits some of his veteran teammates with helping him make adjustments to get him up to speed, noting that Allen Robinson II, Joshua Bellamy and Taylor Gabriel have been particularly helpful.
Despite the nice showing Saturday night, Miller isn't looking too far ahead, noting the value of preseason reps. But the confident receiver thinks he's where he needs to be before the games start to count.
"Each and every game is important whether it be preseason or regular season," Miller said. "I think every opportunity you get to play or showcase your talent, that's a big opportunity. But I believe I'm ready to play in the regular season. I'm ready to strap it up versus the Packers and just ready to show my stuff."