ENGLEWOOD — Von Miller stood outside an airport hangar Monday night and acted like he wish he had never taken off from Denver. It was not his choice to leave. On Nov. 1, Broncos general manager George Paton traded Miller to the Rams for second-and-third round draft picks in 2022, part of the cache needed to acquire Russell Wilson four months later.
Miller remains arguably the greatest defensive player in Broncos history. When he retires, he will join the Ring of Fame and the Hall of Fame. In so many ways, however, he remains part of the Broncos' family, even though signed with the Bills as a free agent, landing an eye-opening six-year, $120-million deal with $51.4 million guaranteed.
So Von is gone. But not entirely.
"This is home. You can't erase 10 years of Denver. Even though I am not wearing orange and blue, I still have got orange and blue in my heart," Miller told me at a fundraiser for Von's Vision Foundation, which has raised more than $4 million to help 8,000 students receive eyeglasses. "These are brotherhoods that have been built with blood, sweat and tears and putting on another jersey doesn't erase that. I love Colorado."
It does not take a deep dive into the data to understand why Miller joined Buffalo this offseason. They overwhelmed with money and an opportunity to win a Super Bowl with a third team, a feat accomplished by only linebacker Matt Millen and runningback Kenjon Barner.
The Broncos needed pass rush help, but identified Randy Gregory as their top target, signing him to a five-year, $70-million deal with $28 million guaranteed. Gregory is 29. Miller is 33. Denver wanted to go younger, and Miller found a terrific landing spot after having interest in the Rams, Cowboys, Broncos and Bills in free agency. It doesn't mean he has turned his back on the Broncos. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"I have been a huge fan of Randy Gregory for a long time, and I know this team like the back of my hand. Russell Wilson and Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton and Albert O (Okwuegbunam), and Billy Turner and Garett Bolles and we've got Javonte Williams in the backfield. It's going to be crazy man," Miller said with a smile. "Patrick Surtain — everybody knows that I love Patrick. And he's going into Year Two. Like I said, you can't erase the brotherhood we've created here. I will still be a fan of the Broncos. If the Bills don't win it, I want the Broncos to win it."
Miller netted MVP of Super Bowl 50, a performance that made him his popularity transcend football. He was known as Von locally and nationally, a regular on commercials and a near champion on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars." Von fits many lifestyles, but appeared perfectly cast for Hollywood.
"To go and win a Super Bowl with the Rams is the only thing that could help out with the heartbreak (of getting traded). Winning two Super Bowls, starting Von's Vision, those are my three greatest accomplishments in the National Football League," Miller said. "I am always open to the Denver Broncos. But I am Buffalo Bill now. Bills Mafia, what's good? God works in mysterious ways. I have just got to keep going."
When Miller signed a five-year contract extension with the Broncos following Super Bowl 50, he never imagined he would never reach the postseason with Denver again. He played well, but the team's inability solve the quarterback position — 11 starters since Peyton Manning — undermined the franchise. Now, he is teaming with Josh Allen, a MVP candidate, and Von told me he's determined to play out his six year contract.
Having a son, Valor, who is 1, has provided a new perspective.
"Honestly, it's bigger than just the contract and it's bigger than the years. I want my son to remember me. I want my son to remember this Von. I want him to see it and feel it" Miller said.
"It has changed everything. I have grown. It's been 10 years (in the NFL). I have been through ups and downs. But just looking at Valor, he's the best I could ever do. He's the best in me. He's the best in his mom. I just want to put my best foot forward everyday. He's going to be checking in to see who his dad was. To see what his dad has done, and what his dad is doing. I love my teammates and I want them to revere me as well. But I want that guy (Valor) to love me. I want to be Superman for him."