ENGLEWOOD--A player doesn’t have to be an unknown to be a camp surprise. Take Von Miller, for instance. Last year, he was often the last player out for camp practice. You know, because it was cool to be fashionably last.
This year, the quarterbacks always come out first. Then the returners. Then, without fail, Miller is the first of the rest to hit the field.
It’s as if Von Miller’s mantra this year has been: “What would Peyton do?’’
“I think Peyton Manning had an influence on us all,’’ Miller told 9News this week. “From the top down. I don’t know, now that I think about it, I don’t know: I was always the last one before?’’
Yes, Von. But not this year.
“I put a quote on Instagram yesterday, “If you do what you love, you would never have to work a day in your life,’’ he said. “And this is truly what I love to do. As the years add on you start to appreciate it a whole lot more. You’ve got young guys coming in that’s looking at you. You appreciate the way they look at you. You appreciate they leadership position they automatically put you in. So, I just want to set a good example for everyone who comes out here.
“But at the same time, I want to be Von. I want to interact with everybody. Have fun. But at the end of the day I’ve got to do my job. It’s all square business when I’m out here on the field.
“I never realized I was always the last one. I never realized it. I never realized I was the second or third one out here, either. I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunity. I’ve got a great opportunity here this year. I’m healthy, I’m in great shape. Just trying to take advantage of it.’’
Something else, Miller does that Peyton Manning did: He’s been signing autographs for fans not on his designated day, but every day. And make no mistake, Miller is the autograph Bronco fans want.
“It’s hard to pass it up,’’ Miller said. “All these guys, they come from all over the world, all over the United States to come … see me. I can’t sign autographs for everybody but I try to do a little bit every single day. All those guys they come out here and show so much love. Energy is great. They come to see me. They come to see the No Fly Zone. They come to see Demaryius (Thomas). So, whenever they come I try to live up to their standards.’’
Manning is gone and he’s not coming back. With the uncertainty at quarterback – Trevor Siemian seems to be leading the competition, yet he has only been sharing first-team reps with Paxton Lynch – the Broncos need a leader. And it helps if that leader is also the best player.
Miller is unquestionably the Broncos’ best player. And he has been all but unstoppable so far in training camp. Just ask right tackle Menelik Watson. But Miller sights are much bigger than what he does on the field.
“It’s the legacy aspect of it,’’ he said. “Whenever you’re gone, whenever it’s all said and done, what are they going to say about you? I’ve always kept that in mind but this year its year 7. I want to play 20. So, I have to start taking advantage of the opportunity I have now. Peyton, DeMarcus (Ware), Brian Dawkins, Tim Tebow, all those guys set a great example for me to go out here and just put my own spin on it and be Von.’’
On Sunday, Broncos’ outside linebacker coach Fred Pagac didn’t seem happy with the pass rush from his group. So, Miller gathered his five or six fellow outside linebackers, gave them a pep talk, then led the line each time on several, 6-yard, full-speed, get-offs.
Miller went hard every time.
Don’t worry. Just because Miller is stepping up to lead like Peyton doesn’t mean Von is going to button up his personality.
“I’ve always taken it seriously, but I guess it’s just a different style,’’ he said. “A different mold of leadership. But yeah, the typical leadership, the role that they’ve had in the past, I’m starting to feel those. But it’s still Von at the end of the day. I still try to come out here and make it light for all the guys and try to let everyone know that at the end of the day it’s just football. In the locker room, I’m still the people’s champ in the locker room.’’
Whether interacting in the community, with the fans or opposing quarterbacks, Von Miller understands he, not Manning, is face of the Broncos’ franchise – and the responsibility that comes with that.