Ex-NFL All-Pro battling rare heart disease, could need transplant


Few men have made an impact on the game of football to the degree of Matt Millen.

Sure, Lions fans will remember his historically bad run as the team’s president at the start of the century, but there is so much more.

During his 12-year playing career, Millen won four Super Bowls and was one of the toughest inside linebackers of his generation.

He has also had a very successful run covering the game he loves on TV and radio.

Now, Millen is fighting for his life and likely looking at a heart transplant.

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The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania, broke the story that Millen received the diagnosis last summer that he has amyloidosis, a potentially fatal heart disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, amyloidosis is caused by a buildup of the abnormal protein amyloid, which is produced in bone marrow and can be deposited in any tissue or organ. Severe cases can lead to organ failure and ultimately death.

Millen’s symptoms began in 2011, when he felt chest pain while working out.

Subsequent testing showed no issues, but eventually the former Penn State All-American couldn’t walk more than 50 feet before exhaustion.

Six years of doctors visits ensued, and he finally got the diagnosis last July.

Millen remembers how the doctor broke the news.

“I know what you have,” he recalled, “and you’re not going to like it.”

Much like his reputation as a player, Millen tried to “play through” the diagnosis, hoping to delay treatment.

His doctor told him that would be a death sentence, so Millen began chemotherapy.

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The longtime Raider (he also played — and won Super Bowls with — San Francisco and Washington) has been in treatment basically nonstop, just like he played.

“I’ve always lived this way,” Millen told The Morning Call. “You take what you get. I look over my life, and it’s been a storybook. I have an awesome family, a phenomenal wife, and you can’t ask for more.”

Eventually, he will likely need a heart transplant, but as anyone who knows Matt Millen would expect, there won’t be any complaining.

“So you’re not supposed to take the good with the bad? When a bump comes up in the road, you deal with it,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to feel sorry for yourself. I’m thankful for what I have, and I’ll take what I get.”

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Mike is an 11-time Michigan Emmy Award winner who has spent nearly 30 years working in sports media.
Mike has spent nearly 30 years in all aspects of sports media, including on-air, 10 at ESPN and another 10 at Fox Sports Detroit. He now works as a TV agent, and lives with his family in West Bloomfield, MI.
Sudbury, Massachusetts
11-time Michigan Emmy winner
Emerson College
Books Written
The Longest Year: One Family's Journey Of Life, Death, And Love/If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Tigers/If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Lions
Topics of Expertise