If there is one thing every draft expert can tell you, Denver Broncos rookie outside linebacker Von Miller will be an instant first-year sensation in the NFL. Projected as a top-five pick in the first round of April's 2011 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos did not hesitate to snatch Miller with the second overall pick.
Prior to the draft, speculation was that either the Bills would take Miller with the third overall pick, the 49ers at No. 7 or even the Cowboys selection at No. 9. But the Broncos, in need of massive defensive help with an emphasis in the pass-rushing department, made the draft’s first hiccup and selected Miller ahead of Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus or LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
And for Bronco fans, defensive help can’t come soon enough. Last year, the team was dead last in total defense (390.8 yards per game), points allowed per game (29.4), sacks (23) and rushing touchdowns (26), plus it allowed almost five yards rushing per carry.
Miller (6'3", 243 lbs.) will be a welcome sight for Broncos fans who realize their defense is sorely in need of a dominant OLB—and Miller is just that. He is an athletic hybrid with exceptional speed (4.55) and a knack for going sideline to sideline. He is considered a difference maker with an electric burst off the edge.
His college coach at Texas A&M, former Packers head coach Mike Sherman, instilled a system that emulates most pro schemes. This means that Miller was NFL ready prior to the draft without ever having stepped onto the professional gridiron.
In his junior year he led the nation in sacks with 17. Miller was projected to become a late first-round or early second-round draftee if he left school early, but elected to stay his senior season in order to finish his degree. As a senior, he began slowly after he suffered a high ankle sprain. He then went on a tear and finished with 10.5 sacks, and was then voted the Butkus Award as college football’s best linebacker. For the second season in a row he led the Big 12 in sacks and was a consensus first-team All-American.
Luckily for Miller, he is going to a team whose head coach is known for building up defensive units. John Fox was hired for the upcoming season after serving nine years as the Carolina Panthers head coach. Fox is respected around the NFL for his defensive schemes and knowledge, and for producing perennial defensive Pro Bowl players.
Before his stint with the Panthers, Fox was a defensive coordinator or coach with the New York Giants, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Defensive Pro Bowl players under Fox’s tutelage include Michael Strahan, Terry McDaniel, Julius Peppers, Rod Woodson, Chester McGlockton and Jon Beason, to name a few. In all, Fox has coached 44 Pro Bowl players, most of which played on the defensive side of the ball.
In plain English, Miller landed in a great situation for a young gun. He was the most athletic linebacker in the draft; and ultimately became the most coveted defender. This Texas native relishes tackling, loves the game, is an articulate young man and his character is refreshingly flawless.
The following is some quality time spent with Von Miller.
Bleacher Report: You were invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl this year coached by an NFL coaching staff, and named the game’s Defensive MVP. What experiences did you derive from that game?
Von: The Senior Bowl showed me that these coaches from the NFL take us college guys and push us like we have never seen. It’s business and it’s also a game, and different in the techniques used. They demand so much out of you.
B/R: What do you wish to accomplish at the next level?
Von: I just want to compete on a consistent basis.
B/R: What will you miss most about playing college football?
Von: (Texas A&M) Aggie fans are the best in the nation. That is already tough to walk away from. They love their football team, and they love their school.
B/R: Most think of you as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. Do you think you are capable of playing in the 4-3?
Von: I don’t have a preference at all—I have played in both schemes. It’s a job interview, and I just want to get a job with the Broncos. Whatever they want me to play, I’ll play it. I will play offense if there is hitting involved.
B/R: What do you offer the Broncos?
Von: I will be a great teammate from day one. I don’t mind lowering my head and being humble to the guys that have been there for years. I am just going in with big eyes, a little mouth and big ears, and (will) work my way under someone’s wing.
B/R: What do you think is your greatest strength as a football player, and what area do you need to work on the most?
Von: My God-given ability is my speed, mainly coming off the edge. I don’t think I have made it yet on any area of my game, and will have to keep working to improve.
B/R: Is the strength of your game pass rushing or stopping the run?
Von: My strength is helping my teammates out. I want to be in a position to make plays. I am a natural born leader.
B/R: How would you describe your personality?
Von: My personality is different on the field and different in the locker room, too. I lived by myself in college and like that. The locker room sometimes has too many cameras and too many media guys.
B/R: What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
Von: I mean I’ve got 32,000 songs on my iPod. I’m a music guy, so if a bad song comes on, I just press mix. I listen to a lot of music. I’m not just into one genre or anything like that. I like listening to music.
B/R: What is your most favorite and least favorite part of football?
Von: My favorite part of football is the locker room after a win. Everyone acting silly and going crazy—that’s what this sport is all about. The worst part about football is losing—period.
B/R: Tell us about a big moment on the football field.
Von: There is nothing like a sack on third down. The stadium erupts. Your teammates jump all over you and slap you like they are going to kill you. But you can’t trade that moment.
B/R: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Von: The one player I try to emulate my game after is (former Chiefs LB) Derrick Thomas. I have lots of film on him and watch his point of view of the game from interviews. My defensive coach Joe Kines told me my sophomore year that he once coached Derrick, and happen to say one day I reminded him of Derrick. I have studied him ever since.
B/R: You will be wearing jersey No. 58 with the Broncos. Was that because of Thomas?
Who will win the 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Von: Yes, it is. I was just lucky it was available for me. It would be great if I could live up to (Thomas’) abilities. Mr. Elway said if I wore that number just not to walk behind him. He said he still has vivid memories of No. 58 harassing him.
B/R: Let’s say you make the Broncos' final 53-man roster next year. Is it important for you to be a starter from Game 1?
Von: No, it’s not. It’s important for me to be the best teammate I can possibly be and contribute to winning the best way that I can. Starting is not everything to me—being the teammate that helps out in the game is what is important, whether I am on special teams or coming in on certain downs or carrying the wires for the coach’s headset.
B/R: Who is the best college player you faced?
Von: (Colorado OT and Patriots first-round pick) Nate Solder. He’s a beast. When you are that big and that quick, it can be real scary for guys like me. He can match on every step. (Redskins OT) Trent Williams was a problem too and when he left college football I had a good day.
B/R: Which was your favorite NFL team as a kid?
Von: I am from Dallas. You guess which my favorite team was growing up.
B/R: When you get that first NFL paycheck, what’s the first thing you'll buy?
Von: Um, I haven’t even thought about that yet. It’s not about money for me. I’ve been wanting to play football since I was a little kid. Just to have the opportunity to go out on Sundays and have the whole world watching, it’s priceless.
B/R: What do you plan to do once your playing career is over?
Von: I plan on raising chickens. I know it sounds kind of wacky, but you know I went to an agricultural school at Texas A&M. I started off by taking some easy classes and it formed into becoming my minor. And that’s what I really enjoy doing is raising chickens.