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Emma: Zach Miller Thankful His Comeback Story Can Continue With Bears

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) The story of Zach Miller reached a satisfying chapter Monday -- one of sustainability. His perseverance finally paid off with a two-year deal in Chicago and a chance to become a top tight end. This story has been an unlikely one.

After all, a Nebraska-Omaha quarterback doesn't often become an NFL tight end. A player who misses two full seasons doesn't often get a second chance with a new team, then yet another after missing a third full season.

Miller's promising career was derailed by injuries to his shoulder, Achillies tendon, calf, foot and a concussion. His NFL dream should've been dashed, or so logic would suggest. But Miller's something special.

"I never really had that mindset," Miller said in November. "I think if you let that (concept) creep in, you're kind of setting yourself up for failure. It was always a positive mindset, grind through whatever I had to grind through, get back to where I'm at and whatever happens happens."

Those words were relayed by Miller after his highlight-reel catch on Monday Night Football in San Diego. It was his first touchdown since 2011 and the moment that brought his comeback to the forefront. At that time, it seemed like a momentary blip, a feel-good story in a sub-.500 season for the Bears. Miller then sustained it, with five touchdowns in eight games while solidifying his place in the team's offense.

The Bears on Monday re-signed Miller to a two-year deal, a day after he met with the Rams in Los Angeles. Miller became a commodity in free agency, but staying in Chicago was something he wanted all along.

"For me, this is a comfortable place personally for me and my family," Miller said. "This is where we wanted to be."

Miller moves into a 2016 season with potential promise. He was a pleasant surprise for the Bears in a 6-10 season that showed signs of progress in Year 1 of a new regime. Now, it's a different situation.

The Bears are taking a step toward playoff competition in 2016, and they'll need Miller to be healthy and productive. With a trade of Martellus Bennett likely to come this offseason, Miller must continue to prove he's a top tight end.

"I'm very comfortable being a leader," Miller said. "It's one of those things I've done well. I haven't had the opportunity to step in yet in my professional career."

Miller understands the business side of a Bennett trade, though he vouched for his teammate's character, calling him a special player and special person. Still, the Bears believe that Bennett's a distraction and that Miller can fill his void.

The goal for Miller is to build on his 2015 season. The first fold of that comes with good health, then he must live up to expectations as that go-to target for quarterback Jay Cutler. Miller sees the direction that general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have established, and he's excited.

"Their vision is very clear," Miller said. "The goal in mind is definitely to win a championship here. That's something I want to be a part of."

Poor fortunes have filled Miller's career, one that logic suggests shouldn't have reached 2016 and beyond, but he kept his spirits high and work ethic higher. All along, he believed that Monday night would come.

Miller earned his way back to Chicago and the opportunity to be a top tight end.

"I'm just thankful," Miller said. "It's been a long journey, a really good one. A lot of ups and downs. I'm just thankful to be here."

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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