Published: May 4, 2013
DENVER After a playoff loss to Baltimore chilled the night air, the dark cloud of gloom hovered low over Broncos Country.
It forced Von Miller to make a critical, life-changing question.
Layers or fryers?
'I've got a couple layers in there, ' Miller revealed on a fowl day at Dove Valley.
'When the hens get big enough, I'm going to keep those layers ready. Everybody else is going to be chicken tenders. '
Supper's on! Vonnie Football is serving.
'Hopefully I'll have chicken tenders for you guys. '
Yes, you read this correctly: The menacing Broncos linebacker broke ground on a lifelong dream.
Von Miller started a chicken farm. 'Thirty-eight chickens, ' he said, and he hopes this is the first step toward a side business, Miller Farms.
'I named them all after players on the team, ' he said. 'No, I'm just playing. '
The Broncos view Miller as the cornerstone of their next decade. He was, and is, the most important piece of their football puzzle.
But before he became the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Miller was a poultry science major at Texas A&M. He was, and is, a student of the chicken game.
'Getting into the poultry industry is something I always wanted to do. '
For Miller and the rest of the Broncos locker room, the Ravens loss hit home.
'At first, when the offseason first started, it was tough. It was like, 'Man, we lost. We weren't supposed to be losing.' '
Now his chickens are at home, in Dallas.
This talk is not all for the birds. To recover from the Ravens' upset, the Broncos have to move on. With football, with life. With poultry, it turns out.
Miller started his chicken farm. He moved on with life. He raised his weight, from 255-ish to 260 pounds, while trimming his yoga training. He moved on when close friend and defensive mate Elvis Dumervil moved on, to Baltimore.
'He just had to pull the trigger on something that was better for him, ' Miller said. 'I think this (change) is better for him, and I'm all for it. '
In March, Miller guaranteed the Broncos would bring the next Super Bowl championship to Colorado - and, last week, he didn't shy away from the promise. He watched the Broncos shuffle their roster without turning it over.
'I like the Wes Welker addition, ' Miller said, 'And I don't even play offense. '
Moving on, Miller brought respite to American soldiers while on a USO tour in Afghanistan. He saw how a football defeat is not as bad as picking desert sand from your teeth.
J.J. Watt, the Texans' ball-swatter and quarterback sacker, joined Miller on the USO tour. Watt showed Miller 'another level ' of offseason work ethic.
'When you see the way the guy works, it's a motivator for me, ' Miller said.
Considering the funereal scene in the playoff locker room, I was eager to see the Broncos this offseason.
What changes would be made? What would be their mental state? How deep would be their Ravens hangover?
From their words, which are only that, the Broncos have moved on, without forgetting.
The process is helped immensely, I think, by having an older locker room with a veteran core. That includes Miller, a leader in his third year.
'There is nobody complacent, ' tight end Jacob Tamme said. 'Nobody comfortable, for instance, with what we did last year. Win streaks are great, all that stuff is great, but at the end of the day we want to finish the deal. '
On a finger-numbing night in January, contrary to Colorado opinion, life didn't stop when the Broncos laid an egg against the Ravens.
Von Miller started a chicken farm.
He has balance, and not all of his eggs in one basket.
'We're reloading, ' he said. 'I feel like we have a way better team than we had last year. '