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A Letter to NFL GMs

Apr 24 2018
Photo by
Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Photo by
Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Anthony Miller
Chicago Bears
Apr 24 2018

Dear NFL GM’s,

My name is Anthony Miller, and I think I’m the best wide receiver in this draft class.

Last season I led the nation in touchdown receptions and finished third in receiving yards. I mention that off the top because it showcases what I’ve always done on the football field: Produce.

But for the purposes of this letter, I don’t want to focus strictly on the stats, because those things speak for themselves. Instead, I want to talk about the even bigger reason you should draft me, which is something that’s inside of me. It can’t be measured with a stopwatch or a scale.

I know there are a lot of really talented players you’re looking at. And pretty much all of them have a deep love for this game. But regardless of their passion, it’s hard for me to imagine another person who loves football as much as I do. More than anything else, it’s that love which has gotten me where I am.

I’ve never had the luxury of getting by on athleticism or potential. But I’ve overcome that because football isn’t just a sport for me. This is my identity. And I plan to have a really, really long career.

Hopefully it will be for your team.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

I graduated from Christian Brothers High School as the program’s all-time leading receiver.  

Still, I didn’t get a single scholarship offer.

I heard from a few schools, but ultimately they backed off for the same reasons: Too small. Too slow. Next.

Even though coaches couldn’t see it, I knew I was good enough to play D-I football. I just needed to find a way to get on a practice field and then do what I do. Produce. Make plays.

I decided to walk-on at Memphis, where my dad played. He’s always been my hero. He started putting me through drills when I was only five years old. While I was growing up, he taught me all the little things — how to do double-moves, run precise routes and finish plays — but the one lesson he ingrained in me that I think made the biggest difference wasn’t about a particular skill. It was bigger than that. He taught me how to play with an edge. He taught me a way of handling myself so that even if opponents didn’t think I was a good athlete, they damn sure knew I was a great football player.

Even though coaches couldn’t see it, I knew I was good enough to play D-I football.

When I first got to Memphis, the program wasn’t doing very well. I remember going to a game when I was a senior in high school, and it was like a library inside the stadium. There was no real atmosphere or energy. I wanted to be part of changing that.

I’ve watched highlights of a lot of different receivers for inspiration, but my go-to has always been Steve Smith.

He represents the kind of player I want to be. What I loved about his style was that he didn’t just play the game, he attacked the game. He looked different when he was running a route and especially when he was blocking. You never watched Steve Smith play and thought, Oh, he could have done way more there.

As a walk-on, nothing was promised to me. I couldn’t control the number of snaps I got in practice, so every single opportunity I was given I wanted to have a Steve Smith-type of impact. I wanted to make my presence known. The results didn’t come right away. My first year on campus, we had a bad season and I redshirted. The next year, a pre-season injury kept me off of the field. But I kept grinding, and slowly, as I improved, the team improved as well.

I remember the spring leading into my third year on campus, Coach Fuente called me into his office. He pulled out a sheet of paper and placed it in front of me and said, “That’s a scholarship.” My first thought was how happy I was for my parents, to be able to take that financial burden off them. Then I’ll always remember the next thing he said, “Don’t screw this up.” I appreciated that. It was the perfect reminder that just getting a scholarship wasn’t the goal. I had much, much bigger things in mind.

Eventually my stats started to reflect that. I guess you could say my breakout came when we played Ole Miss at home in 2015. They had a pretty stacked defense full of top talent — they even beat Bama earlier that same season — but I still made my presence known. I ended that game catching 10 passes for 132 yards in a victory, and that was when I kind of knew that all of this wasn’t in my head. I could hang at that level.

Actually, I could dominate.

Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal/USA Today Network

My junior season we were playing against USF. It was near the end of the third quarter, and we were down by four. I beat their corner pretty badly. As I moved into open space, I saw the throw was a little short so I readjusted my body and pulled a little trick out of my hat.

I’ll be honest, I was kind of surprised I made that catch, but I liked that play because it was a good example of what I bring to the table for a football team. There are million different stats and metrics you can measure, but ultimately I think the two biggest qualities you should want in a wide receiver are:

  1. Can he get open?
  2. Can he make a play?

For me, throughout my entire life playing this game, it’s been check and check.

It’s been really interesting going through this draft process and coming across a lot of the same kind of criticism I encountered back when I was in high school. I realize I can’t control that. I’ve scored as many touchdowns as I could and fought for every yard possible, but to some people I’ll probably never be big or strong enough.

I’m fine with being doubted. I love it actually. That’s part of what’s fueled me up to this point. It gives my game that Steve Smith kind of edge that I need. I know if I carried myself like a player who was satisfied with just being known as an All-America and Memphis’ all-time leading receiver, that would be all I was ever known for. But that’s not the player you’ll be getting if you pick me. I’m a person who’s always looking forward to what’s next rather looking back on what he’s already done.

I’m always going to approach this game like a player with no scholarship offers. I’m going to grind the same way I did when I was a walk-on hoping for one extra practice rep.

This draft, if you’re looking for a raw athlete that you want to mold into a football player, there are plenty of other prospects you should consider.

But if you’re looking for someone who will join your organization with the expectation of making plays every single game, well, I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Anthony Miller

Anthony Miller
Chicago Bears