Bears TE Zach Miller, one of the more revered players inside Halas Hall and across the NFL, announced his retirement on Instagram Tuesday, less than 18 months after a gruesome knee injury nearly cost him his leg and ultimately claimed his career.
Miller, 34, was named last week the recipient of the Bears 2018 Ed Block Courage Award, given to the player who best exemplifies professionalism, strength, dedication and community work.
"Just the sheer fact that it’s voted on by your teammates, that means a lot," Miller said. "To have your peers have a say-so in an award that you win — there’s nobody you want to be respected by more than your peers.”
And no recent Bear has commanded his teammates respect more than Miller, who nearly had his left leg amputated after he was rushed to a New Orleans hospital in October of 2017 for emergency vascular surgery on his dislocated knee and torn popliteal artery. Miller ultimately required nine surgeries to save his leg and allow him to walk again.
Miller was injured in the third quarter of a Week 8 game vs. the Saints after catching what should have been ruled his 16th career touchdown, a 25-yarder late in the third quarter that was deemed an incompletion. The NFL has since updated its catch rule, with the touchdown Miller was deprived of as one of the biggest catalysts for the change.
“I think you know my answer," Miller quipped when asked last year for his opinion of the rule change. "Show of hands, touchdown/no touchdown.”
It's the kind of response that epitomized Miller's unwavering optimism and lightheartedness despite his trying NFL career.
“I know the fact I’m here on two feet, to be able to stand here, is a blessing in itself, said Miller, who signed a one-year contract with the Bears last offseason and worked closely with the tight ends in practices and meetings. Miller currently remains unsigned, but he could return to the team in a similar capacity given his sterling reputation among his peers and coaches.
A collegiate quarterback drafted in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010 to play tight end, Miller was no stranger to overcoming injuries in the NFL. Nearly four years passed between his last catch with the Jaguars and his first with the Bears, a fact that helped him earn the team's 2015 Brian Piccolo Award after logging career highs in starts (14) and receiving touchdowns (5) that season, his first in Chicago.
The 6-foot-6, 245 pounder with speed and seam-stretching prowess was building on his successful second career act, too, with a career-high 47 catches and 486 yards in 2016 and 236 yards in the first half of his final season prior to the injury.
"I don’t think I’ve ever been mentally defeated – ever," Miller said after re-signing with the team last season. "... Positivity has been one of my qualities that’s helped get me through all this stuff. I’m in a good place right now.”