By David Gross

Leo High School Class of 2022

Anthony Miller of the Chicago Bears is my favorite NFL wide receiver, so I was really excited when the Bears offered me an opportunity to interview him.

Miller, 26, is in his third year with the Bears, joining them in 2018 as a second-round draft choice from the University of Memphis. He was the 51st overall pick and the sixth wide receiver taken in that year’s draft.

The interview took place on Tuesday, Dec. 15, via Zoom; Miller was at the Bears’ Halas Hall training center and I was at Leo. He covered many things, including the Bears’ playoff chances, which are still alive after the December 20 30-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings that evened their record at 7-7. 

I was a little nervous at the start, but he helped me relax by telling me to call him “Anthony” rather than “Mr. Miller.”

Anthony had chosen Black Lives Matter as his message for the “My Cleats, My Cause” game the week before, and he addressed the significance of his decision: All lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t matter, he explained, adding that he would support the movement even if he were not Black because he believes in the equality of all people.  

Growing up in Memphis, Anthony said he was aware of racial inequality, but that his only experience with overt racism was being randomly pulled over by police, “which is a pretty common thing in the South.”

The transition from Memphis to Chicago has gone pretty smoothly, Anthony said, adding that he looked forward to coming to Chicago because “it’s a big, exciting city,” although he is still getting used to the cold weather.   

Memphis, he added, was the inspiration for much of his “Drip”—his style, which, he said, makes him one of the more fashion-conscious Bears. As he builds on his “Anthony Drip,” he said he’s avoiding designer stores and doing more shopping at Black-owned businesses and boutiques. He’s also supporting his girlfriend’s up-and-coming clothing line, and as a Nike athlete, he has his choice of Nike wear at his disposal.

Anthony’s girlfriend gave birth to a baby in June. Not that there’s any upside to a pandemic, but Anthony said COVID restrictions are keeping him at home more, enabling him to spend time with his 6-month-old son and bond with him.

Anthony believes that running track in high school helped make him a better football player in that it improved his conditioning and his speed. He’s known for an exceptional burst off the line that makes him one of the more dangerous slot receivers in the NFL, though he said he views himself as an all-around receiver who happens to line up in the slot primarily. 

Anthony said he didn’t really have a favorite wide receiver growing up, but he looked up to Steve Smith Sr. because he was small but tough and didn’t back down from anyone. He likes to watch film of Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs and the other top wideouts to see how they run routes and get open.   

He said he “didn’t hold it against” the five wide receivers who were taken ahead of him in the 2018 draft, but that it gave him motivation to prove he was as good as they were. He also said he paid no attention to “mock draft” projections that ranked him from 10th to 20th among wide receivers because he knew he was better than that. Also, he saw from the Bears’ depth chart that he’d have an opportunity to play right away as a second-round pick, and that gave him additional motivation as well.

The Bears’ wide receiver group, with Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and himself as the leaders, is among the most underrated in the NFL, Anthony believes. 

Anthony said he’s conscious of the fact that pro athletes are expected to be role models because so many young people look up to them. He accepts that responsibility and said it makes him feel good to know that young people look up to him.

Anthony has 45 catches for 462 yards and two touchdowns this season. He’s also being used as a punt returner. He impressed me as a really good guy who works hard to perfect his craft and has a really great future ahead of him.

Editor’s note: The interview Leo junior David Gross did with Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller on Tuesday, Dec. 15 came about through the Bears’ partnership with Invisalign. More on that later.

The Zoom call—Miller was at the Bears’ Halas Hall training center and David was at Leo—began at 2:30 p.m. We had a hard stop of 2:50 because Miller had to get to a meeting, and just before 2:50 a Bears PR rep started wrapping it up. “Last question, David.” 

Said Miller: “Hey, the meeting’s just down the hall. I can stick around. If you’ve got two or three more questions, David, ask away.”

Leo President Dan McGrath, a longtime sports journalist, told David he must have really made a connection, because “in my 40-plus years of interviewing athletes, never once did I have one volunteer to stick around and answer more questions.

The Bears have a promotional agreement with Invisalign, an ultra-modern orthodontics firm that bills itself as an alternative to metal braces for teens and adults. David didn’t know it until the interview was over, but because he was chosen to conduct it, he will receive a free Invisalign treatment to correct an overbite that makes him a little self-conscious about his smile.

His dad Gary, a Leo grad from Principal Rawls’ era, was near tears when we told him. “I’ve been trying to scrape together the money to get that boy’s teeth fixed, and now it’s going to happen,” he said.

Pretty cool to be able to do something nice for a great Leo family.

Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller chatting up Leo kids within three weeks of each other. Not bad for a scrappy little school on the South Side. Further proof that the sun never sets on the Leo Empire.