After 10 seasons, 110.5 sacks, a Super Bowl, and an appearance on Dancing with the Stars, there is no doubt that Von Miller is the definitive Denver Bronco of the 21st century. Hearts across Denver broke at the news of the Pro Bowler's trade to Los Angeles, and as such, we are going to read a lot about what Von Miller meant to Broncos Country in the coming weeks.
If the writer is a fan, they’ll talk about Von the edge-rusher, a 6’3" 250-pound apex predator that pounced upon opposing quarterbacks in violent, two-second bursts. They’ll mention how the 2nd overall pick went from student to teacher, imparting the insight he once absorbed watching elder pass rushers to promising young draft picks like Bradley Chubb.
With breathless wonder they’ll recall Von Miller on a sun-kissed field in Santa Clara, California, telling referee Clete Blakeman before the start of Super Bowl 50, "If I ain’t getting a lot of sacks today, they holdin’ me. Alright?" And lo and behold, he got those sacks – personally delivering the Lombardi-Trophy-as-retirement-gift to Peyton Manning – on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP.
If the writer has a heart, they’ll talk about Miller’s work with the USO, Make-a-Wish foundation, or his charity, Von’s Vision – which provides glasses to low-income youth. There was always a gala to host or fundraiser to donate to, and Von gladly made the most of his resources to give back to the community.
The funny writer, chuckling, will talk about the cowboy hats Von wore to press conferences – how they were just one feather short of Cam Newton’s. And they’ll laugh in good fun about Von mixing his Texan roots with modern street fashion, a style that could accidentally evoke the Aspen couture aesthetic ala Dumb and Dumber. It left many of us blinded by rhinestones.
They’ll point out – have you noticed – the Greener Pastures Chicken hat he’s been wearing all season? That’s the organic chicken farm he owns. In retirement, Von Miller isn’t going to scream bad-faith hot takes into a camera opposite a mummified commentator. He’ll be raising chickens.
You just want to rip a bong with the guy.
These would be the right things to talk about. Von Miller is a vibe. It’s what made him great for Denver – a city with a red-eyed, blue-skinned, demonic horse sculpture that welcomes you from the airport. A city with a church dedicated to marijuana. Things are just a little different at altitude and Von could dig it, as exuberant as the mile-high air itself. Tellingly, his first sack celebration in the NFL was a Mile High Salute.
But as the years went on, Von seemed increasingly lost as the bespectacled face of Rocky Mountain football. We watched his movie over and over: lauding opponents with platitudes in a tactful show of humility, bestowing compliments upon the different faces at quarterback each camp, calling every new locker room a, "great group of guys." You might think to yourself, ten years on, "Von, that’s just mathematically improbable. There must’ve been a few duds. Teammates and situations that weren’t on the level." But he never let on. He protected us from our gilded team while reminding us of our gloried past.
But let others talk of that Von Miller. I want to talk about the Von Miller that punked Travis Kelce.
It was week two of the 2015 season and the scheduling gods had Denver under the prime-time lights in a road game opposite the Kansas City Football Team. After falling behind early, Aqib Talib picked off Alex Smith deep in KC territory to help Denver’s anemic offense tie the game just before the half. Reeling from their 14-point lead vanishing, Kansas City decided to run out the remaining 48 seconds and head into the locker room. Just a few runs and done.
Now I’d like to pause a moment so we can get on the same page. You probably already know this but it bears repeating: Travis Kelce is a tool. For proof, look no further than the photos of him receiving his Super Bowl ring decked out in fashion designer Dior. From his Jordan 1’s to his shorts to his shirt he is exactly matching. It’s a tasteless display of wealth that accentuates how lame he is. Coupled with his haircut, he looks like Üter Zörker if he made a fortune selling steroids on the dark web. Regardless of who you root for, you are not rooting for Travis Kelce in that outfit.
On 2nd and 9 with 13 seconds to play until halftime, Travis Kelce and Von Miller engaged at the 21-yard line. For a brief second, we see Kelce blatantly grab at the underside of Miller’s facemask, stopping Miller’s progress while the play cuts inside and ends in no gain. With a fellow teammate rolling over his foot, Von Miller is on one knee, but Kelce remains engaged in the block. Whether Kelce's holding onto his facemask or just attempting to pancake Von is unclear, but what happens next is crystalline.
In one motion, Miller gets to his feet and whips the 6’5" 260-pound Kelce over his shoulder. It’s a sight you rarely see on the football field, and it happens so fast you have to watch the tape several times to understand that you aren’t watching two wrestlers in the squared circle. No, it’s just Von Miller imposing his will and setting a tone.
Miller took to Twitter after the game to add insult to injury, calling Kelce a, "fake Gronk heada$$."
That is Von Miller. A quarterback assassin with swagger to spare. A chicken farming football player who whooped everyone’s ass with style.
Thank you, #58.