Anthony Miller will wear the No. 17 jersey for the Bears this year, a number which hasn’t been worn in a game since the team’s previous second-round wide receiver left in free agency.
But Miller isn’t concerning himself with living up to what Alshon Jeffery did in Chicago from 2012-2016, even if it was averaging 61 catches, 910 yards and five touchdowns per season. He doesn’t view himself as the “next” Jeffery, let alone the “next” receiver similar to his size (and this is a guy who’s received lofty comparisons to Steve Smith and Antonio Brown).
“I’m not trying to match any type of skills that (Jeffery) had,” Miller said. “I’m Anthony Miller, I’m the new 17. I’m not trying to match him at all.”
Miller said something similar after he was drafted, too: “I believe I’m just a different type of receiver, all in one, and someday guys are going to be like oh, you play like Anthony Miller because I believe I’m a one-of-a-kind type of guy.”
This isn’t to say Miller doesn’t appreciate being compared to some of the best receivers to ever wear a helmet; he and Smith have struck up a relationship for which he’s grateful. But this confident, I’m-my-own-guy approach is what helped propel Miller from being a college walk-on to a star, and then on to being the 51st player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Combine that confidence with Miller’s “Memphis Grind” — the work ethic that backs up his mental approach to football — and he has the kind of personality that wide receivers coach Mike Furrey wants out of a young receiver.
“If that’s who you are and that’s allowed you to get here, bring it,” Furrey said. “But you’d rather have to pull someone back instead of trying to push them to become energetic. And that’s a trait that he has, I love it. I love his energy, I love his passion.
“He’s a former walk-on out of high school, so he wasn’t really wanted — people said he couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that, that’s great motivation. And don’t lose that. That’s who you are, that’s part of who you are. So bring that confidence, bring that personality.”
Furrey is cognizant of how the difficulty of transitioning to the NFL can sometimes sap the personality from a player — the early mistakes, the tough film sessions, the long nights studying the playbook and then making different mistakes, those are tough. What Furrey wants Miller to do is develop as a pro without losing that swagger that got him here.
“At the same time you have to grow professionally,” Furrey said. “And that’s being able to handle your business, that’s being able to come in early, stay late, take notes — all those things that you might’ve been able to get away with in college, some of those things have to be honed in. But don’t let your personality, don’t let your passion for what’s got you here leave. You don’t need to change that. That’s something that he has that’s neat to have.”
And it’s that confidence possessed by Miller that works in tandem with his own growth as an NFL receiver. Because if he wants to be known as Anthony Miller at the end of his career, he’ll have to prove it on the field.
“I just want to be — who wouldn’t want to be their own person?” Miller said. “They don’t want to be known as somebody else, or a replica of somebody else. I believe I bring certain traits to the game that maybe those guys didn’t. I just want to be known as Anthony Miller.”