From how to be a better pass rusher to how to prepare mentally and physically for Sundays, Malik Reed has learned a lot from Von Miller on the football field.
An eight-time Pro Bowler, Miller has been a mentor to the undrafted Reed, who’s entering his third season in the NFL. The two Broncos outside linebackers have formed a close bond the past three years, with Reed, 24, describing Miller, 32, as a "big brother."
But the real classroom may be on the banks of the South Platte River, where Miller has taught Reed what he believes could be the most important lesson of his career.
"Patience," Reed told The Gazette. "You have to be patient when fishing, when playing football and, really, in life."
Reed has been patient his entire career, after being underrecruited out of high school, going undrafted out of Nevada, and now behind stars Miller and Bradley Chubb. But last season, after Miller went down with a season-ending ankle injury, Reed got his opportunity and exceeded expectations. He had a team-high eight sacks and started 13 games for the Broncos.
Miller was by his side the entire time.
"Von's made himself readily available to me. I definitely see him as a big brother," Reed said. "I feel like he's a great leader and someone you want to be like — how to consistently do great things on and off the field. He's always been instrumental in giving tips. Last season, he was sending me inspirational messages like, 'never put a cap on what you can and can't do'."
Miller spent a lot of time with Reed during the season, offering tips and pointers on his game. This offseason, he's spent more time, with Reed attending Miller's pass rushing summit Saturday in Las Vegas. They've also done a lot of golfing and fishing on their off days. The two recently spent a day fly fishing in the mountains. Miller caught 13 fish and Reed hooked nine. Though, Reed joked Miller "cheated."
"It's like a competition. Every time we go out there, we see who can catch the most fish," Reed said. "I'll be in one spot and start catching fish and he starts coming into my area and starts casting his rod into my space. I'm like, 'What are you doing? You're not going to go a little bit downstream?' You're going to come right next to me and start fishing?'
"It's always a fun trip to go out there and be able to spend time and see how Von is off the field."
Spending time away from football with teammates is one of Miller's favorite things to do, especially with Reed.
"Malik is like a brother to me," Miller said. "If you like hunting, if you like fishing — he's from the country, he's just like me. When you spend time with guys, you just have this connection. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Malik, that's my guy."
Reed said not all veterans take the time to do what Miller's doing.
On the back end of his career and entering his 11th year in the NFL, Miller said helping a new generation of players keeps him motivated and passionate about the game.
"He's just a special guy and he works extremely hard and it rubs off on me," Miller said of Reed. "I think that's the type of people I need to be around going into Year 11. The guys are going to continue to drive me, continue to push me to be a better player and be a better teammate. We spend so much time off the field. We spend so much time talking about stuff, and that's when you really develop these friendships and these relationships. It's bigger than just football for me and Malik. We'll take two-hour drives to go fishing. We've been out on the stream all day. We travel — he's going to the pass-rush summit this weekend. We've done so many things together."
A veteran on a relatively young roster, it's important for Miller to lead. He and kicker Brandon McManus are the last players left from the Super Bowl 50 team.
It's nothing new for Miller who has mentored Broncos including Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett, who have since moved on. Now it is Reed's turn.
"I've always gravitated towards the younger guys and the guys that's just trying to make it," Miller said. "I don't know what it is. I feel like those guys kind of drive me to be a better player. They remind me that I have to keep working.
"Before Malik got here, I told everybody in the room, I said, ‘I'm not raising no more kids in the outside linebackers room. I got Shaq, he left me. Shane, he left me.’ You get all these guys that come in and leave me, and my heart really can't take it anymore."
Reed doesn't seem to be going anywhere — at least for now. With Miller back, Reed will again be behind Miller and Chubb. After next season, Miller and Reed can be free agents. Who knows where the two will end up.
They aren't worried about that yet. Miller wants to get the Broncos back to their winning ways, while Reed is content with helping the team any way he can — even if that means he won't see the field as much as he did last season.
"That's a good problem to have," Reed said. "Once you get your one-on-one opportunities, it creates more one-on-one matchups for each person. That'll create a rise in numbers for everybody around the board. I'm excited to get going. The more pass rushers you have, the better you are."
Reed said their next fishing trip will be sometime soon, though, he's first going to get a round of golf in with Miller while they're in Las Vegas. Reed had never golfed in his life before Miller took him to a course in Colorado Springs last month.
Fishing and golfing may not to help Reed or Miller get more sacks next season. But the skills and patience they share off the field might just help the Broncos succeed on the field, Miller said.
"That's where you really take leaps and bounds — outside the locker room," Miller said. "He's family for me, and it's a relationship that'll last us a lifetime.”