Do Not Cut My Leg Off | Zach Miller | The Players’ Tribune

Do Not Cut My Leg Off | Zach Miller | The Players’ Tribune


– All my life I’ve been doubted. He can’t do this. He can’t do that. When I suffered this injury … do not cut my leg off. I was told I may never run again. Doubt me, you’ll be wrong. I grew up in a town of 300 people. Small little village called
the Village of Weston. I had a great time being a
little country boy from Nebraska. I can’t go back to a specific date of when Kristen and I met, probably like seven or eight, and I probably saw her
running around on the farm. I thought, Hey, I’ll
probably marry her one day. – We started dating when
we were in high school. He is passionate about football, but he always puts family first. – This is where it used to go down, Bishop Neumann High School,
man, football field. I took a long road. I get to high school, and I
broke my collar bone twice in my junior year, didn’t really get to play. One year of varsity high school
football was my senior year. You know, you’re a walk-on hometown kid. Coaching changes and a number
of things led me to transfer into Nebraska at Omaha, which is one of the best
decisions I could have ever made. It gave me an opportunity
to be on the football field for three-and-a-half years. – When we started dating, I
remember him always telling me, he’s like, “I’m gonna play in the NFL, I’m gonna play in the NFL.” – I remember sitting outside
her house in college, in the car, like, “I’m
going to the league.” Welcome to Day 2 of the 2009 NFL draft. I ended up getting drafted
by the Jacksonville Jaguars. – Florida here we come. – The most vivid memory is I
could hear my dad, screaming at the top of his lungs. That was cool for me. Pre-season, Game 1, fractured my tibial plateau. 2010, I had a minor sprain in my Lisfranc. In 2011, torn labrum. 2012, torn soleus, a partially torn achilles
on the same play. 2013 was kind of a up-and-down year. I mean, I hadn’t played in two years from when they released me
a week before the last game. 2014, I signed my contract with Chicago. Come here first pre-season
game, I caught two touchdowns and people are like, Who’s this guy? The next week I had 100-something yards against the Rams and two touchdowns, and then I was kind of where I wanted to be my entire career. It just took awhile to get there. Walking into the stadium,
something just didn’t feel right. I vividly remember everything … coming in motion across the ball. I remember the defender,
shaking him at the line, and I knew it was a touchdown. Where I’m turning and I’m
kind of cuffing one hand and trying to get the football, I simultaneously felt my knee pop. I had an athletic trainer
come to me and he’s like, what’s going on? And I was just like, my knee is gone. I wasn’t in pain, but I was nervous. I knew that I wasn’t dealing
with a regular knee injury. – The Bears with a devastating loss beyond the game. Tight end Zach Miller
suffered a dislocated knee. – When I spoke to him he had
a little panic in his voice. I could tell, like, the urgency, kind of maybe a little
bit of chaos going on. – As I got into the ambulance,
they were taking my shoe off. They’re cutting my socks
off to check for a pulse, and I could kind of tell
just from the look of it. There was no, “Oh, hey,
we got this, that.” It was, “You don’t have
a pulse in your foot, and we have to fix that.” – I hear him say to one of the workers, “Doc, am I gonna lose my foot?” That can’t really be happening. Like, he really can’t lose
his leg from an injury. – You know, they’re trying
to take us to a hospital that’s 45-minutes down the road. Sid Dreyer is one our
assistant athletic trainers. He told the EMTs there’s no way you’re taking us to that hospital. So he pulled out his phone and found a level-one trauma
center five minutes from us. And I just remember telling Doc, “Do not cut my leg off, please.” They hit me with a mask, and
I cashed out for a little bit. So I wake up. I just see a white sheet over
me and my first thing is like, All right, I gotta look at this. Check to see if it’s still there. I pick the sheet up, and I
look. And I see these two bars, and I’m like, “What the hell is this?” And I peek over and Kristen
was sitting next to me like, “Oh, what’s up, babe?” – He looked at myself and
his dad, and he’s like, “Oh guys,” he’s like,
“You didn’t have to come.” And I was like, “What
are you talking about?” I remember him, he’s like,
“Today is my agent’s birthday. Did you tell him happy birthday?” It’s funny because it’s not about him. It’s about how everyone else is doing. – Being briefed on what had
happened was a shocker for me. They took a vein from my right
leg to repair that artery. My leg from my quad down was
probably almost the same size, so they cut it on both
sides to drain the blood. The remaining seven, eight
surgeries were to repair the ligaments and close that
fasciotemy, but it takes time. I remember the first time
I saw a still image of it, it was probably a day or two later. And just the rush of heat and
this wave just hit my body. I think I kind of just made
a decision like, All right, this is what we’re
dealing with so buck up. Let’s get through it. – I was reading through Bella’s journals, and she started talking
about what happened. – When my dad got hurt, I was so lonely. And then I found out that
he is in the hospital, and my mom went to the hospital too. – That tore me up when I saw
that she said she was lonely. That transition from New
Orleans to the hospital here, I remember seeing my mom and the kids, because Kristen and my dad flew with me. I remember peeking out the
window, and then I could hear Bella and Cash yelling “Daddy.” I was happy to finally pack my stuff up. We hopped back in that
ambulance and come home. – I almost feel like once we
got home was a total different struggle than it was in the hospital because there you have people
helping you, but then once you get home, it’s trying to
get places when you can’t. – Sleeping was terrible. There is no good rest, regardless
of how much medicine I had. The nerve pain that I
had was excruciating. Looking down and seeing
bars hanging out of your leg and your leg cut halfway open,
like, there was low days. That didn’t move for
probably five or six months. That’s all we got right now. Imagine if you really think
you could open and shut a door with your mind. But that damn door don’t move. That’s kind of how you’re
trying to move your foot. As hard as you can and it won’t budge. It can get somewhat frustrating. I remember sitting on the
couch, and I was like, “Oh, Kristen come in here.” Like, “Did my foot flicker?” So I’m like holding it up in
the air trying to move it. That was huge for me just
to see that little bit finally come back. Do you remember where
those were at in dad’s leg? – Those two. – Yeah. On the outside. Just to get that off and be
able to bend my leg again for the first time, that was a victory. Crutching my way in and
just seeing everybody for the first time, kind of
back where I felt, I mean, that’s everyday life for me. That’s been my second home for five years. Last home game of the year
allowed me to go on the field and get that standing
ovation from Soldier Field was probably one of the coolest things that I’ve been able to experience. When you got the people all
over the world pulling for you, praying for you, like sending
positive messages like, “Ah, what do I deserve all this for?” This one says: Dear Mr. Miller, welcome back to Chicago. I hope you’re feeling better
when you’re in your home city, and I hope you still play football again. I think I wanna play forever. Just being an athlete, I mean, I’m never gonna wanna give the game up. Do I know it comes to an end? Absolutely. I don’t think anybody ever
wants to end their career the way I did. My mind right now – get as strong as I can and as back to normal as
I can to play football. If I’m physically able to do it, I’d love to do it. Am I cool if I don’t? Out of my hands. If I can run around in the
backyard and play soccer with the kids, I’ll be good, man. There’s a number of positive
things that I’ve went through, been through, and still have
on a daily basis to look back at this thing and be
bitter or not grateful for the things that I have.

About the Author: Garret Beatty

100 Comments

  1. This dude is so chill and nice “you didn’t have to come” “it’s my agents birthday did you say happy birthday” Bruh you dislocated your leg talking about your agents bday

  2. I’m only here to read the comments. I’m not watching the video bc I know that I’m gonna pass out since there’s a warning sign

  3. Stand up dude. Really want to see what he’s about. Search “The Brotherhood” and watch that video. This guy will be your favorite NFL player.

  4. I’ve had a sprained ankle and knee the last 2 years. I thought that hurt bad but he’s went through way more and then some. thank god he has a beautiful family to support him

  5. The amount of emotional strength this guy has. The determination to get better. The realization that he still might not get there. The amount of peace he has on his face when faced with that. It's tough, but man it's admirable. Supporting him in whatever he pursues now.

  6. There is a video of him and a high school qb who became friends the qb had his leg cut off and Miller showed up at his homecoming

  7. Brutal injury. What a beast fighting back. I recall many years ago, Napoleon McCullem's career ending with a similar horrible knee injury. I think he was with the Raiders then.

  8. Are we going to ignore that the ambulance drivers at the stadium were really going to take this dude to a hospital 45 minutes away??? How tf does the team training staff have to look on his phone to find a level one trauma that’s 5 minutes away. That’s absolutely ridiculous. I can see if the hospital far away was the level one and the closer was a level 2 trauma but that wasn’t the case. Coming from a nurse who works at a level one trauma center and a former EMT I find it absolutely insane that they wanted to go 45 minutes away.

  9. Not a Bears fan, but I'm a Zack Miller fan. Get better, get back on the field if you can brother. If not, live your life well. Beautiful family, THAT's what matters.

  10. I remember watching this play happen (being a Saints fan). Much respect and props to Zach. I wish for a full recovery as much as possible.

  11. I'm a die hard eagles fan but much love and respect to zach on the faith and the grind. Good luck zack and my thoughts and prayers are with you. #BearDown

  12. What a great guy. I wish him d his family all the very best for his future. about six years ago all that happened to me was a badly broken right clavicle, to this day it still isn't 100% and I'm certainly no athlete, so I can only imagine the frustration guys like this go through in order to recover

  13. You are amazing!!! You have a gift tell other how you fought back, you have a beautiful family!! God bless you!!

  14. As a Bear fan, I watched this play in horror. I thought about Gale Sayers, Wendell Davis and countless Bears who gave it their all on the field of play. I was so glad that this normally frugal organization kept him signed to assure that he wasn't just a cast away. A very classy move by the Bears. I was also pissed at the NFL for the result of the ruling of the play.

  15. I’ve heard of the phrase jaw dropping and people saying that their jaw dropped when they saw something and I never felt that until that fucking picture

  16. 2019 and its still the Best 12:29sec I have ever spent on youtube shit had me in tears and happy at the same time… wish you the best Zach

  17. As a saints fan, I fell bad that he got injured on that play, the worst part was that the touchdown was overturned even know he had 2 feet down and possession. I hope for the best.

  18. I broke my fibula and tore my Icl playing flag football and retired from no-contact flag football at 28 (thank God I had my active duty military insurance and unlimited sick days)… This dude makes me feel like a major punk. Shout out to Zach Miller from a jags fan!

  19. injury plagued this guy from the beginning.. almost 10 years of nfl experience but only generating close to 9 million in earnings. not to say that isn't a lot of money to most average joes but had he been healthy he'd probably earn close to 30-40 million year to date from the beginning of his career…

    football injury gods can be very cruel sometimes…

  20. Wait I broke my femur at age 10 EXACTLY one day after this dude at football practice. I had the same feeling he had before going to practice. I didn’t feel good about that practice at all

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