CHARLOTTE, N.C. – If sometimes his ability makes it easy to forget Von Miller is 23 and learning the NFL ropes, ask him about his first meeting with John Elway.
Miller comes off like a kid hoping for an autograph.
"It was surreal."
That was on a Saturday night at Fish Daddy’s, serving up the finest seafood in College Station, Texas. The Broncos brass was doing its predraft homework, interviewing Miller as the potential No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft.
Miller’s audience: Elway, coach John Fox and linebackers coach Richard Smith.
“I never even speculated on being that big, of having a possibility of going No. 2 to the Denver Broncos.”
If we’re allowed one request: Don’t change, Von Miller. Don’t let the glitz and glamour certain to shadow your career change that sincerity into cynicism. We appreciate that you treat football as the game it is, not the business it is.
You get the big picture. Don't change that.
And can the clichés, please? You’re too entertaining for "one game at a time," even if that one game is Sunday’s showdown vs. Cam Newton, the only man selected ahead of you in that 2011 draft.
"Superman Cam," as Miller called him. It’s the former No. 1 (pick) vs. No. 2 when the Broncos play the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
“Hopefully we can switch jerseys or something.”
And keep dancing like 70,000 are watching. Last week against the Bengals, Miller sacked quarterback Andy Dalton three times. That was a first for Miller, and it won’t be the last.
After one sack he busted into the “DeSoto Shuffle,” a nod to his Texas roots.
Miller won’t shuffle Sunday. He’ll Superman.
Miller has 20.5 sacks in 23 career games. That’s the third-most sacks over a player's first two seasons with the Broncos (Elvis Dumervil, Rulon Jones). Newton’s been sacked 17 times to Peyton Manning’s 10. If Miller tracks down Newton for another one, he plans to borrow the gifted quarterback’s trademark celebration.
“I sure hope to do my ‘Superman,’ rip open my 58 instead of the 1,” he said.
Keep dancing, because others need it more than the Broncos. Whenever Miller shuffles or Supermans or shimmies or salsas after a sack, he donates $1,000 to his foundation, Von’s Vision.
“We give back glasses, contacts and free eye exams to underprivileged kids and Lasik surgery to young adults. ... (I’m) working with doctors to knock down the price.”
There’s a bigger picture at work here. And Miller seems to grasp that he’s been afforded a stage to make a difference. Don’t change that, Von.
“He’s a really terrific young guy that’s not afraid to work hard,” Fox said.
Keep your memory clear, too. A short one is good for plays that go against you. But once in a while for a linebacker a subtle grudge isn’t so bad.
Miller recalled a Visa-hosted event last offseason when he shared an audience with Newton. The second-year stars answered questions from fans.
“A question came up — 'Cam, what do you think about the game (against the Broncos)? What do you think about (the game between) the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos?’ And he stood over me and (said), ‘We’re going to crush the Denver Broncos.’
“That was the one time I was like, ‘Wow. In front of a crowd?’ I felt kind of challenged. I definitely want to go out there and win this week.”
Don’t take that the wrong way. No. 1 and No. 58 are cool. But Miller rushes quarterbacks like there is caffeine rushing through his system, and today he'll swap it with espresso.
Miller said he’d want his son to play quarterback like Newton. He said Newton “doesn’t get enough credit for how strong he is.” He layered Newton with praise, contrasting critics who say Newton’s in a sophomore slump.
“He’s a bad dude,” Broncos safety Rahim Moore added.
One more thing, Von. This wouldn’t sit well with the suits in charge of turning big athletes with big personalities, guys like you, into cookie-cutter robots. But there’s too much PC out there, anyway. Don’t shy from predictions. Give us your target sack total.
Your latest prediction was dead on.
“We're going to beat Alabama this week. I’m serious about it.”
Final: No. 14 Texas A&M 29, No. 1 Alabama 24.
"Touchdown Johnny (Manziel)."
The Bears’ Charles Tillman, responsible for forcing nine turnovers, should be the Defensive Player of the Year at the midway point. Houston end J.J. Watt, who leads the league with 10 sacks, and Miller, who’s tied with Watt with 17 tackles for a loss, are 2A and 2B.
“I think he’s (Miller) becoming a more complete player,” Fox said.
Here’s hoping the final result is more of the same.