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Von Miller overcame early troubles to become All-Decade selection

Resiliency and athletic ability made Miller a unanimous selection and one of Broncos few Super Bowl 50 holdovers.
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller reacts as he takes the field before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Denver.

DENVER — With his unanimous NFL All Decade selection comes the latest reminder Von Miller almost prematurely sabotaged his decade.

It was before his third season of 2013 that Miller got himself in trouble. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and had a career-best 18.0 sacks in 2012.

But then came a failed drug test aggravated by trying to circumvent the test. This was accompanied by a seemingly weekly headline on how he missed another court hearing for a traffic violation that led to warrants out for his arrest.

A six-game suspension started his 2013 season and a blown out ACL ended it before the Broncos’ postseason run to Super Bowl XLVIII.

“One-hundred percent, I definitely thought about it,’’ Miller said Monday asked during a conference call if he was worried about how he may have messed up his career in 2013. “You know how some people say take it one day at a time? I took it six hours at a time. I went to work and did what I had to do. Then I went home and did what I had to do. I made it small and achievable.’’

From that career pothole, Miller regrouped. He wound up leading the NFL with 112.5 sacks (including postseason) in the 2010 decade, and his unanimous selection to the league’s All Decade Team that was announced Monday completed his comeback chapter.

Another first-round selection in Miller's same 2011 draft, Aldon Smith, had 19.0 sacks in 2012, one more than Miller. Smith, though, struggled with addictions and spent four years out of the league until the Cowboys gave him another chance last week.

Von Miller did not go the way of Aldon Smith.

“Every day that passes you can gain trust or you can lose it,’’ Miller said. “I just tried to put together a lot of good years, just try to learn from that. It was never a mistake. You just have to learn from that. I was young in my career. If I would have made the same mistake later in my career, it would have been different.

“I was young in my career and I was able to be around a lot of great players. They helped me develop. Here we are today. It’s a huge blessing. I’m very appreciative a grateful to be here and still be a Bronco here.”

Miller was so productive the past decade, the Broncos are keeping him around for the start of the next one. He’s outlasted his All Decade teammate Chris Harris Jr., who broke in at the same time in 2011, and Derek Wolfe, another stalwart on the Super Bowl 50 team who was a second-round draft pick in 2012.

Harris is now a Los Angeles Charger and Wolfe a Baltimore Raven after both were set free to the open market last month. Only Miller, linebacker Todd Davis and kicker Brandon McManus remain from the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 team.

“It’s crazy to lose Chris and Wolfe,’’ Miller said. “I’m sad about it, but I just fast-forward to the type of team that we have. The young players that we have, they need me to show them the way. I’m looking forward to that.

“It’s special. When I look at it and see that I’m the last one here I just look at it like, ‘Man, I’m old as hell. That was in 2016.’ (laughing)

“I just try to keep playing like I said before just try to take it one day at a time, one season at a time. We have a great one coming up. On paper this looks like it’s going to be a great one.

“We’ve got coach Fangio back, all the key coaches that we had before. I’m pretty excited about my new teammates and spending time with those guys. Everybody knows that I’m a locker room guy. I’m a team guy. I’ve got new teammates. I’m happy.”

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