Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. are the last and best Broncos standing.
The Dynamo Duo will be the only players remaining from the franchise’s 2011 season when Boss Bronco, John Elway, took charge of the football operations.
(Chris Kuper, an offensive tackle from 2006-13, has returned as an assistant coach.)
This year will be the ninth together for the linebacker and the cornerback with the Von Trap Family and CrushCountry.
“Chris is the longest-tenured teammate I’ve ever had in my career. When we met he wasn’t married. Now he has a wife and three daughters,’’ Von said. “That’s my guy.’’
When I asked Chris to characterize their relationship, he referred to the pair as “Shaq and Kobe.” He also could have cited Outkast’s Andree 300 and Big Boi, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence of “Bad Boys,’’ Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther.’’
“He’s working the front end, and I’m working the back end,’’ Harris said. “I help him by buying time in coverage, and he helps me by getting to the quarterback.’’
Miller emphasized how special their “communication’’ on and on the field has been through eight seasons. “We have a lifetime bond.’’
Miller was the No. 2 overall pick in the ‘11 draft. Harris was not picked at all. Von was a natural to become a universal star out of Texas A&M. Although he was one of the most skillful cornerbacks ever for Kansas, the 5-foot-9 Harris was ranked the 30th college safety.
For a $2,000 bonus, Harris became one of 17 free agents the Broncos brought to camp. Miller received a $13.77 million signing bonus.
Yet, both made the NFL all-rookie team. Miller was Defensive Rookie of the Year. Harris was fourth on the depth chart in camp, but would be elevated to starter in the 13th game.
At the end of practice one day at Dove Valley a gaggle of media surrounded Miller. Meanwhile, Harris and I talked in a back hallway. Miller had no worries, but “I’m trying to so hard and doing everything I can to make the team,’’ Harris said. He did.
Since then, Miller has been a seven-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro first team three seasons. He was named Super Bowl 50 MVP primarily as a result of two game-changing forced fumbles against Cam Newton, 2011’s No. 1 selection.
The undrafted, unknown, unappreciated cornerback has been selected to four Pro Bowls, was All-Pro in 2016 and has been ranked 52 in the top 100 NFL players and compared to Ty Law, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Miller and Harris will represent current Broncos at the ceremonies. They played for Pat Bowlen and played with Champ Bailey.
“Von definitely will be in the Hall. I hope to go back to Canton for my own induction someday,’’ Chris said.
Both men turned 30 this year. Miller missed the practice at Mile High on Saturday to attend a funeral. Harris ran around like an Energizer bunny as usual.
Von has recorded a gobsmacking 98 sacks in the regular season and 6.5 more in the postseason. He also has 196 quarterback hits, 352 solo tackles, 26 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and two interceptions in 120 regular-season games. Chris has 19 interceptions, four touchdowns (including an a 98-yard return), 80 pass deflections, 80 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He produced vital touchdown interceptions against Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco.
But their most remarkable combined achievement was playing for the only teams in the Broncos’ history to reach the playoffs in five consecutive seasons (2011-2015). They played in two Super Bowls and own one championship.
(The others were former Broncos Demaryius Thomas, Virgil Green, David Bruton and Britton Colquitt).
Chris and Von have been in camp workouts, exhibitions, regular-season games and postseason games with more than 850 players, including 20 quarterbacks. They are with their fourth coach and fifth defensive coordinator.
After all, though, Von and Chris could be in their final season unified in sync and in Denver.
Chris ultimately agreed to a one-year contract and will be a free agent, this time as a veteran, in 2020.
And, peculiarly enough, the Broncos hold the option on Miller’s contract for next season.
“We’re the best duo around,’’ Harris said.
Say it ain’t so, Broncos, that either or both will go.