It’s been a year-and-a-half since Zach Miller suffered a devastating knee injury in a game against the Saints, but the Bears tight end is still blown away by the support he’s received from literally all over the world.
The 34-year-old has been contacted by fans as far away as Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.
“It touches my heart just because I’ve had so many people reach out to me, whether near or far, whether they’re Bears fans or NFL fans across the globe,” Miller said last week on the Bears All-Access radio show on WSCR-AM 670.
Miller has been rehabbing and recovering since he suffered a dislocated knee and torn popliteal artery in his left leg Oct. 29, 2017 in New Orleans. He announced last Tuesday via social media that “the time has come to move on from playing the game of football.”
During his radio appearance, Miller revealed that those who have reached out to him include people who have experienced similar injuries or are dealing with other obstacles in their lives.
“They find a little bit of inspiration in my story and for me that’s the coolest part about it because other people are getting a little bit of positivity from me,” Miller said. “They’re gaining some light and it’s continuing to help them push through the stuff that they’re struggling with on a daily basis. It’s almost a blessing for me to be able to provide that positive influence on people all over the world. We’ve never even met, but we connect on a certain level.”
Miller has appeared in 33 games with 28 starts in four seasons with the Bears, catching 101 passes for 1,161 yards and 11 touchdowns.
After missing three straight NFL seasons due primarily to injuries, he blossomed with the Bears in 2015, catching 34 passes for 439 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns.
After appearing in 33 contests with five starts with the Jaguars from 2009-11, he spent the 2012 season on injured reserve with the Jaguars, failed to make the Buccaneers roster in 2013 and landed on injured reserve again with the Bears in 2014.
Miller traveled a unique path to the NFL even before he was bitten by the injury bug. A quarterback at Nebraska-Omaha, he was immediately converted to tight end after being selected by the Jaguars in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. His only experience at his new position in college came in the Cactus Bowl, a Division II all-star game.
If given the opportunity, Miller wouldn’t change anything about his NFL career—at least up until he was injured in New Orleans.
“I think I’d run it all back just the same way, and partly just because for me my love is the journey,” Miller said. “It kind of made me who I am. Maybe I’d change the ending, I’d change the outcome. But as far as everything leading up to that point, I think I’d do it all the same way because I learned so much through the hardships.
“In those moments where I was down for a while, out of the league and not playing for almost three-and-a-half years, being on IR, I learned so much about never giving up, continuing to believe in yourself and really believe in your abilities regardless of outside perception or what other people may think.
“If you have that confidence in yourself and in your abilities, then you can continue to push and grow. You can ultimately reach those goals and I think for me that journey and learning all those things is probably one of the most important parts of it.”