Professional sports are less sympathetic than a photo radar ticket. Only the elite reach this level.
How do you separate yourself from the fray once there? The key to greatness remains simple, if barely possible: be good for a long time. Not one year. Not three. A large body of work.
That's why the honor bestowed Monday resonated with such force. The NFL named its All-Decade Team for the 2010s. Broncos linebacker Von Miller was one of eight unanimous choices. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. joined him on the team.
"The all-decade team is a such a huge honor. I remember when DeMarcus Ware got it and how important it was to him," Miller said. "Everybody knows I am trying to be like DeMarcus. It's incredible."
Miller was an easy selection. He led all players with 112.5 sacks in the decade. That total ranks fifth all-time for any decade, 12 behind leader Bruce Smith. Miller is an eight-time Pro Bowler, including last season, one shy of John Elway's franchise record.
Miller owns 490 tackles and 25 forced fumbles. Not only has Miller produced, but he did it when it mattered most. He spearhead the Orange Rush defense as the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers. Miller was named the game's MVP. Only Shannon Sharpe and Lionel Taylor own more first-team Associated All-Pro selections among Broncos. Miller has also recorded at least a half sack against 51 different quarterbacks.
He's not done yet. He believes some of his "best ball" is ahead of him.
"I don’t want Super Bowl 50 to be my high point. I feel like some of my best ball is coming up. Winning Defensive Player of Year and leading sacks is attainable now more than ever," Miller said. "I have to take advantage of it."
For Harris, the recognition is long overdue. He rolled up his sleeves from the moment he arrived in Broncos camp. All he did was become one of the team's best players. Harris is one of four undrafted cornerbacks in pro football history to make at least four Pro Bowls with his original team. He joined Cornell Green, Emmitt Thomas and Everson Walls. Harris posted 20 interceptions with the Broncos, one of 12 players to reach that mark for Denver, and his 86 passes defensed rank third in franchise history.
"Wow. Undrafted to All-Decade team. God is amazing," tweeted Harris, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers last month.
Why is being on this team such a big deal? Eight previous Broncos to receive the honor made the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Gary Zimmerman, Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater, Champ Bailey, Ty Law and Brian Dawkins.
Other Broncos to make all-decade teams include: Louis Wright, Rick Upchurch and Neil Smith.