The man once known as 'Rudy' has finally called it quits.
With a body that defied being a pro football player, Wade Miller overcame long odds not only to crack the Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster but somehow survive for 11 CFL seasons.
"It's been an amazing 11 years," said Miller, who called a press conference at his own Pinnacle Staffing offices to make the announcement yesterday. "I played 11 more than any of you thought I would."
Like the lead character in the movie, Rudy, the 5-foot-9 Miller was able to become a pro just out of the University of Manitoba through his tenacious approach to the game. He became an integral Bomber and one of the CFL's top special teams player, leading the league in special teams tackles in two different seasons (1997 and '99). Miller, 32, started his career as an undersized linebacker but was converted to fullback in 2000.
"What I focus on in life is this: if you believe in yourself and you have that passion, you can do anything you put your mind to," said an emotional Miller, his voice often trembling. "I'm closing a chapter in my life. It's been great, so I'm looking forward to the rest."
Although Miller denied being eased out the door, his role with the team would have been reduced with the club's new offensive scheme this season.
"It's definitely the time and it was made clear to me," said the Winnipeg native, who plans to devote more time to his four businesses. "There was an offer on the table and I did a lot of thinking. I really believe I can play but it's just time to move on."
Bombers GM Brendan Taman confirmed that the club had been negotiating with Miller when he made the decision.
"He was a good team guy," Taman said. "His tenacity and his competitiveness will be hard to match. It's hard to replace a guy like that, with all his character and fire and vigour and what-not."
Miller, whose father, Al, played linebacker for the Bombers in the mid-sixties, was able to play for his hometown team his entire career.
"It was a childhood dream," said Miller, known as The Phantom who often played practical jokes on unsuspecting teammates. "I'll never be able to give back to the organization what they've given to me. It was just tremendous to play in Winnipeg Stadium for the fans."
But Miller will be missed by his good friend, Troy Westwood.
"Miss him? I'm in therapy once a week after accidentally glancing at that body walking into the shower," Westwood joked over the phone from Toronto. "But he's done exceptionally well for himself off the field because he has the same ferociousness as he does on the field. And we will miss his humour in the locker-room."
Miller's biggest regret is never celebrating a Grey Cup victory.
"Absolutely," he agreed. "That's the one thing I didn't accomplish."
But Miller and his wife, Dawn, are still celebrating the birth of their son, Branson, eight weeks ago.
"They're not going to like to hear this but I've only changed one diaper because I've got a weak stomach," Miller said.
Time for a new training camp.
SPECIAL TEAM SPECIALIST
Wade Miller's CFL career:
- Drafted by the Bombers in the fourth round (37th overall) out of the University of Manitoba in the 1995 Canadian College Draft
- Played 11 seasons, 159 regular season games and eight playoff matches
- Named East Division all-star in 1997 and '99, Bombers' Most Outstanding Canadian in '99
- Club career leader in special teams tackles (184)
- Career rushing: 14 carries for 23 yards