Can a special teams player really be a top 100 talent? In the CFL, where special teams always play a meaningful role in the outcome of games, the answer is yes.
Mike Miller played defensive back at Acadia where he recorded 133 defensive tackles over four seasons (2007-2010). He was named an All-Canadian in his third year, though his production dropped off the following season as he appeared in only five games.
The native of Riverview, N.B. didn’t draw much interest heading into the 2011 CFL draft. He fell into a category dreaded by many U Sports players: pro scouts felt he was too slow to play defensive back but too small to play linebacker.
He was a ‘tweener’ — a player without a position.
Miller went unselected in the draft and wasn’t signed for ten days afterward until Edmonton came calling. Players selected in the first round of the 2011 CFL draft include: offensive lineman Scott Mitchell, second overall; receiver Jade Etienne, fourth overall; and kicker Brody McKnight, eighth overall. All were out of professional football by 2015.
Miller went to training camp with Edmonton and made the active roster, which was a surprise to many. He recorded 19 special teams tackles in 18 games as a rookie, tied for fifth-most in the CFL.
Miller played six seasons in Edmonton (2011-2016), winning a Grey Cup in 2015. He made 116 special teams tackles over that timespan — 19.3 per season — and led the entire league with 27 in 2016.
Released due to salary cap issues, Miller became a free agent in March 2017 and signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers shortly thereafter. It was a perfect fit with head coach Mike O’Shea placing such importance on the area of special teams.
The six-foot, 210-pounder has since made 69 special teams tackles over three seasons with Winnipeg, winning a Grey Cup in 2019. He was named the team’s Most Outstanding Canadian this past season, though he felt the award should have gone to Andrew Harris. He was also named a West Divisional all-star and made history in Week 4 when he tied the CFL record for most single-game special teams tackles with seven.
The CFL’s all-time leader in special teams tackles is Jason Arakgi with 194. Miller currently has 185 and was on pace to surpass Arakgi around the midway point of the 2020 season prior to its cancellation.
Miller has appeared in 158 of a possible 162 career games, which is remarkable durability considering the violence associated with playing special teams. He has also been a contributor on offence with the Bombers since his conversion to fullback with the team, making eight receptions for 91 yards over the past two seasons.
Needless to say, it turns out Mike Miller wasn’t too slow or small to play professional football.
3DownNation is unveiling its list of the top 100 active CFL players, a project that will run through December 31, 2020. To read the criteria for player eligibility, click here. The list to date can be found below.
99. ST Mike Miller, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100. DE Chris Casher, B.C. Lions