Von Miller: ‘Be More Than Just a Football Player’

The MVP of Super Bowl 50 has a bright future after the NFL, but there are many years still to play. As he enters his seventh season, Miller addresses his off-field interests, as well as Denver’s changes, QB battle and more
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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — It was the kind of mercilessly hot day in this southern California canyon city that causes people to sweat simply standing still. So it was fitting that Von Miller was here filming a commercial for Old Spice, the official deodorant and body wash of the NFL. It‘s not a stretch to say last weekend’s two-day shoot on the unshaded football field at College of the Canyons was the most Miller perspired since the Broncos’ season ended last January.

You won’t see the new commercial until September, which is also when Miller, 28, and the Broncos will try to start another Super Bowl march. Denver missed the playoffs  last season, a year after winning it all, and the team made several changes this offseason in the hopes of getting back. The Super Bowl 50 MVP sat down with The MMQB to talk about the Broncos’ new coach and coordinator, the quarterback competition and the team’s draft picks, as well as his future after football, concussions and much more.

Through his signature thick glasses, Miller sees his life in football differently than other NFL players in similar positions.

Through his signature thick glasses, Miller sees his life in football differently than other NFL players in similar positions.

BONVISSUTO: You spent time this offseason with Michael Strahan, filming an upcoming episode of The $100,000 Pyramid. Like you, Strahan spent part of his youth in Texas, was a dominant pass rusher, Super Bowl champion, and has an outsized personality that transcends football. Now, he is a TV superstar. Do you envision yourself on a similar career path?

MILLER: It’s hard to be like Mike. He’s got the tooth gap, the personality, the charisma. Mike is definitely inspiring and it motivates me to go out and do more and be more than just a football player. I look at football as just something that I do, and everything else outside of that defines who I am. Football is going to come to an end, and we all recognize that. You can develop and become a person like Mike that you can do for the rest of your life. That’s inspiring and motivating to me to try and do the same stuff.

BONVISSUTO: You mention Strahan’s tooth gap. Your thing seems to be the glasses. Are you surprised that’s become your thing?

MILLER: It hasn’t always been cool to be a geek. I’ve been wearing glasses my whole life. I don’t even know how it happened, it just did. I tell kids all the time to just be yourself to the fullest and you’ll be unique. There is only one you.

BONVISSUTO: The Broncos get the Cowboys in Week 2, which means your first on-field look at Dak Prescott. Is he No. 1 on the list of current quarterbacks you haven’t sacked but want to?

MILLER: I want to sack them all. It’s like playing Pokemon—I want to catch them all. The Dallas Cowboys, that was my favorite team growing up. I spent a lot of time with Dak and he’s a great guy, down to earth, and you don’t get that out of quarterbacks. He’s a regular guy, but on the football field he is a beast. You have to respect that. I’m looking forward to playing against Dak.

“I’m just a grown man playing a child’s game,” Miller says. “If I get a broken fingernail, I’m coming off the field. If it’s something serious like a concussion, I’m definitely going to go and get it checked out.”

BONVISSUTO: The Broncos have a new coach this season, Vance Joseph, and a new defensive coordinator, Joe Woods. You’ve been through coaching changes in the past. What is hard about change?

MILLER: A new defensive coordinator is going to want their principles, their ideas enforced, and their vision supported. The good thing about us on defense is we’re going to be running the same exact defense we were running last year. The difficult thing about change is coming in and starting over new again.

• HOW VANCE JOSEPH’S WORST SEASON GOT HIM THE JOB: Robert Klemko on what drew the Broncos to hire the ex-Dolphins coordinator

BONVISSUTO: Whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch at quarterback, what do the Broncos need from the position?

MILLER: With those guys, I’m going to be OK with whichever one is going to be the starter. They both can make all the throws, they both are smart. Paxton was our first-round pick, and Trevor is our more experienced quarterback. But on the field, they are both effective. On the field, I just want those guys to come in and compete and do the same things they did last year. Be themselves and lead the offense, and everything else will be gold.

Miller has had double-digit sacks in five of his six seasons in the NFL.

Miller has had double-digit sacks in five of his six seasons in the NFL.

BONVISSUTO: The Broncos’ first two draft picks will directly impact you: you’ll face first-round offensive tackle Garett Bolles in practice every day and second-rounder DeMarcus Walker is a fellow pass-rusher. What are you looking forward to with both?

MILLER: Those guys were both big-time players in college, and we need them to come in and do the same stuff they were doing in college. Be the same type of players they’ve always been, nothing more, nothing less. What comes with that is growth, and over time they’ll develop into the players they want to be. But just come in and do the same thing they did in college. They made it this far, keep doing it and you’ll get to the next level.

BONVISSUTO: Myles Garrett is from your alma mater, Texas A&M, and was the Browns’ No. 1 pick (and first overall). You were in a similar position as the No. 2 pick in 2011. What does it take to be able to make an impact right away as a rookie?

MILLER: As the No. 1 pick, he’s going to start right away. The franchise is depending on him to come in, change the culture and make plays immediately. He has to come in and be himself. He was the most dominant player in college football, and if he can continue to make plays like he did in college, he’ll be one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. It’s still football at the end of the day, guys are just a little more experienced and a little bit bigger and stronger. But it’s the same football we played in college.

I talked to Myles before the draft. I’m happy he handled it [not going to the draft in Philadelphia] the way he did. He is different than just your average football player. There are so many more things he is interested in than just playing football. 

• THE NFL’S BIGGEST POSITION BATTLES: Albert Breer on the Broncos quarterback situation and more camp competitions to watch

BONVISSUTO: Tom Brady’s wife said he was concussed last season, though there are no records of it. Drew Brees told Peter King that he wouldn’t self-report concussions; on the other side, Ben Roethlisberger took himself out of a game in November 2015, when his peripheral vision was blurred. Would you self-report a concussion?

MILLER: I just play football, it’s not life or death out here. At the end of the day, I’m just a grown man playing a child’s game. Health is the most important thing. If I get a broken fingernail, I’m coming off the field. If it’s something serious like a concussion, I’m definitely going to go and get it checked out.

BONVISSUTO: You took an unconventional approach to your contract negotiations last summer. What advice do you give other players in similar situations?

MILLER: You have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. You’re not always going to be able to take time for yourself and do what’s right for you and your family, and what’s right for the moment. Like I said, it’s a game. You gotta take advantage of the opportunity while you have it.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com