Von Miller’s unconventional leadership on display at training camp

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Credit: Ryan Greene, 5280 Sports Network

If you’ve been one of the thousands of people that have attended Denver Broncos training camp over the last two weeks, you may have seen All-Pro linebacker Von Miller catching punts and kickoffs during the special teams period.

There are a few different reasons that Miller likes to run with the returners at various points during practice. It’s good conditioning, it gets him warmed up and – arguably most importantly – it keeps things loose.

The idea of the Super Bowl 50 MVP fielding a punt in a game is funny, but according to special teams coordinator Brock Olivo, Miller’s work on the practice field is no joke.

“He’s serious about it,” Olivo said after Tuesday’s practice. “He came up to me at the beginning of camp and said, ‘Coach, I hope you don’t mind, but I want to get in some of your drills.'”
Miller may be serious about it, but not for the reasons you might think.
No one keeps things looser than Miller, who in his seventh season has become one of the faces of the franchise. Miller, along with tight end Virgil Green and cornerback Chris Harris, are the the longest-tenured Broncos behind wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Fans who’ve attended one of the open practice sessions this summer have seen Miller doing what he can to make the training camp experience a little more fun for fans and players alike.

“In all honesty, from a football perspective, that guy is amazing,” Olivo said of Miller. “I love the fact that he comes out and he jumps in our drills. That’s great for team morale. It’s great for the young guys to see Von Miller jumping in and running it down on the scout kickoff team. He brings another whole level of energy to the field.

“He does it for conditioning but he also does it because he knows what he brings to the guys,” Olivo said of Miller’s participation in his returner drills. “He really does. He gets that. He’s a great leader.”

As Miller gets deeper into his career, the legends that he once shared the locker room with have called it quits. From Champ Bailey to Peyton Manning to DeMarcus Ware, Miller has had the opportunity to learn from some of the titans of the game both on and off the field.

It’s now Miller’s turn to set the standard for the younger players as those players once did for him. Now, he is the focal point, with younger players learning what they can from the five-time Pro Bowler.

“Any time you lose a guy like DeMarcus, it’s tough” president of football operations and general manager John Elway said on the eve of training camp. “He was a tremendous help, tremendous leader. As we talk about with Von, the steps he’s taken maturity wise, it’s a different type of leadership, which is great. He keeps things loose. I think that he’s relished that role in knowing that as a vet that is one of his responsibilities. He’s done a great job with it.”

In his six seasons in the NFL, Miller has established himself as not only a premier pass rusher, but a fun-loving, somewhat goofy character. His sack dances are sometimes more entertaining than his sacks, and his pregame footwear is always a sight to see. Off the field, he’s dressed as Prince Charming on “Dancing with the Stars,” he’s paved his own road to the Super Bowl for Old Spice and named chickens after his teammates. Miller is quite different from the guy who tucked his jersey into his jeans to sell pizza.

As Miller explained at the beginning of camp, it’s hard for him to believe how fast time has passed and placed him in the position he is now.

“It’s different, I mean roles change every single year,” Miller explained on July 26. “At the end of the day I have to be Von Miller. The leadership, it has to come.”

You know I’m going into year seven, so I’m the DeMarcus Ware in the room now. I’m not old but it’s like I’m the old guy in there. Everybody’s joking and laughing and stuff looking at them like what are y’all laughing about. I don’t get it and that used to be me on that side. The tide has changed I guess, and I have to be that guy for my team and I think I have taken steps to do that.”

Perhaps the one gesture that Miller has made throughout the 11 days of training camp that best illustrates what it means to be a pro hasn’t even taken place on the football field, but at the base of the berm where Broncos fans sit to observe practice. Miller has stayed after practice all 11 days to sign autographs. Typically, position groups are assigned to give autographs – linebackers one day, running backs another, defensive backs yet another, etc. Miller has signed every single day, and is usually the last one to leave.

The Broncos haven’t even stepped foot on the field for a game yet, but Miller has already established himself as a leader in true Von Miller fashion – a little differently.

Featured Image Credit: Ryan Greene, 5280 Sports Network

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