ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Von Miller can’t say he wasn’t warned.
“To ask him questions,” Chubb said. “A lot of questions, every question I can think of and I hope he doesn’t get tired of it.”
Miller, now in his eighth season and one birthday away from 30 years old, has decided he’s ready in this football life to do something for other players the way DeMarcus Ware did for him.
“DeMarcus, I always say, he was one of those guys who taught me how to approach things,” Miller said. “But mainly he always answered everything I asked him and a lot of people say you should ask any time and then you can’t really make that work. But DeMarcus, he really answered me every time and he was real. I want to do that.”
This is Miller’s place right now. He is at the peak of his powers as a player; 2017 was his sixth season with at least 10 sacks, he has a $114.5 million contract, and has the profile to have organized two pass-rush “summits,” a meet-and-greet of sorts for defensive players from around the league to compare notes on chasing quarterbacks.
And he has not forgotten what Ware did for him after Ware arrived in 2014 as a free agent. In 2013, Miller was suspended six games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and ended the season on injured reserve with a torn ACL. The year tested Miller’s resolve, discipline and optimism.
When Ware arrived from the Dallas Cowboys, he saw a player “with all the talent in the world, who just needed somebody to help him work on the rest.” It was Ware, with all of his experience, drive and knowledge about the league as well as the art of the pass rush, who was that person. Miller flourished, culminating in Super Bowl 50 MVP honors, and has vowed since Ware retired after the 2016 season to “just keep paying it forward.”
So when Chubb fired off a text to Miller in the early morning hours during Memorial Day weekend, it shouldn’t have surprised the rookie that Miller answered in seconds.
“He’s great,” Miller said. “He reminds me of myself. He texts me late at night. Texts me at 3 o’clock in the morning. I’m up [laughing]. I’m all for it. It’s good, it’s some of the same stuff I saw — it’s some of the same stuff that I was doing with DeMarcus.”
Chubb is the highest pick by the Broncos since they selected Miller No. 2 overall in 2011. The rookie is an important figure in the team’s plan on defense to, among other things, try to give its best player (Miller) more room to operate.
“It was the weekend,” Miller said with a laugh, referring to the recent text exchange. “We were just talking … about what stuff matters and what stuff doesn’t matter. … Just doing more talking than what you probably would in the locker room.”
And that was the point Miller learned from Ware. Get him to understand what’s important at the moment.
Miller is dealing with his own transition of sorts this offseason. Coach Vance Joseph has given Miller a new boss, as it were. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar, with his intense, no-nonsense and shall we say, high-volume approach to feedback, is now Miller’s day-to-day position coach.
And Miller, along with his new protégé Chubb, are getting the hard coaching Miller had said he wants.
“It’s good for Von to have somebody on his ass like that,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “Von’s the kind of guy that’s going to embrace whatever comes at him. He’s not going to make a fuss about anything. … He’s practicing harder, and he’s being a leader.”
“I just want to be the best Von I can be,” Miller said. “That’s what DeMarcus really showed me. It doesn’t stop as long as you’re in this league, you have to grind — work — to get better or you won’t be great. You won’t even be good. So embrace the work, love it, because that work is the thing. That’s my message.”