ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In tears.
That’s how Von Miller left the Broncos on Nov. 1, 2021, traded to the Los Angeles Rams. As Miller, arguably the greatest defender in Denver history, exited the parking lot in a black SUV, he obliged when I asked for a quick interview. His emotion was raw. He had been crying. He talked of being a Bronco for life, and in a meeting with general manager George Paton, that plan dissolved. It worked out for Von. He won a Super Bowl with the Rams, cementing his Hall of Fame legacy.
On Monday night, he faces the Broncos for the first time. His love for his former team has not changed. That became clear when Miller, 34, talked with the Buffalo media on Thursday.
“It will be fun. It will be different. It’s not like it’s a revenge game. I left on good terms. Went on to win a Super Bowl. I had a great relationship with everyone in that facility. I cried real tears when I left,” Miller said. “To see that organization winning again and doing better is a treat for me.”
For those who think this is Miller sticking to a script, it is anything but. He has never hidden his affection for the team that drafted him. When he returned to Denver for a Von’s Vision event in the summer of 2022 – the impact his foundation had on the Colorado community remains enormous. He praised the acquisition of Russell Wilson and ran down the roster of players on why the Broncos could contend. Unfortunately, they did not. The Broncos are on their fifth coach in eight years – Von won Super Bowl 50 MVP under Gary Kubiak – and maybe, perhaps, finally, turning a corner with two straight wins.
Miller roots for it. Just not in Buffalo on Monday.
“It was 10-and-half, 11 years there. I have had so many players come through there that I built special relationships with. I went to two Super Bowls there. I played with DeMarcus Ware, Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, and the young leaders there now in Justin Simmons, Patrick Surtain II, Garett Bolles. I remember when those guys came in there in rookie minicamp,” Miller said.
“There’s not any bad blood at all. I want to be a GM someday in the NFL and those are some of the things you understand about the game. I check up on all those guys. I went to Courtland Sutton’s wedding in Cabo. Russ was there, KJack (Kareem Jackson) was there, and, of course, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick. I keep in touch with all the guys. It is just another game. But the one thing that will never change is my love for Broncos Country.”
Miller has started slowly this season in his return from his second torn ACL. In five games, he has failed to post a sack, though he showed progress vs. the Bengals. When the Broncos players think of Von, it goes beyond the field. He was a mentor and friend. Bolles told Denver7 that Von and Demaryius Thomas were the first players to reach out when he was drafted. It led to a close relationship with both.
Von lined up against Bolles, providing invaluable tips. Bolles explained that a practice in 2020 changed the trajectory of his career. He won the battles against Miller that day. And afterward, he recalled, Von told him, “You are on your way.” Bolles made second team All-Pro that season, and admitted, “his praise meant everything to me.”
“I love him. I truly do. I miss him. Our friendship is never going away. Between his mom and dad and my mom and dad and my wife and his mom, they used to talk all the time in training camp. My kids used to call him Uncle Von,” Bolles said. “It was sad to watch him leave. He deserves nothing but respect.”
Sutton told the story about how Von showed the way as a leader. He was a binding force, bringing players in every corner of the locker room together. It’s why he remains viewed as a Bronco even though he now wears blue and red.
“I think everybody knows that deep down, he will always be a Bronco,” said Sutton, who is tied for fourth in the NFL with six receiving touchdowns. “Being drafted here, winning a Super Bowl, all the accolades he had, no matter how many more years he plays, the Broncos will always be his home.”
Miller signed with the Bills in attempt to win his third Super Bowl ring. It has not played out that way. The Bills have come back to the pack this season, owning a 5-4 record, sitting with their noses pressed up against the playoff windowpane. Their defense, however, has been solid, ranking fourth in sacks (29) and fifth in points per game 17.8. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey knows the challenge facing him on Monday night on Denver7, especially with Von.
“(Miller) is such an accomplished player. So talented. A future Hall of Famer. And the way the guys talk about him, he was an even better guy. I have nothing but respect for him. His get-off, his bend,” McGlinchey said, “he has a lot of things that make you stress out there.”