WASHINGTON D.C. — When DeMarcus Ware arrived in Denver as a free agent, Von Miller was a former first-round pick seeking to rebound from a disappointing 2013 season.
On the field, Miller did just that under Ware's mentorship and guidance; the duo won a Super Bowl in their second season together.
"He needed someone to lead him — to lead him out of those trenches to the light," Ware said Tuesday at the 2019 Jefferson Awards. "That was a great opportunity."
Ware, though, may be more proud of how Miller progressed off the field during their time as teammates and in the years that have followed.
"You can see how much he's matured — matured to the point where he's an awesome player on the football field but [also through] the stuff that he's doing off the field, making a big impact with Von's Vision," Ware said. "Every single year we always support it, and we can see how big it's become now."
Ware presented Miller on Tuesday evening with the 2019 Jefferson Award for Public Service in Sports, which has previously been awarded to influential NFL players like Peyton Manning and Chris Long.
Miller received this year's award for his eight years of work with Von's Vision, which provides access to eye exams, glasses and other necessary vision-related care to low-income children.
"I know where [Von's Vision] started," Ware said. "Now being part of presenting this award here to him, I know it really means a lot. He's like a brother to me. I had to come through."
Ware said he respects that Miller's foundation is about more than providing eyewear. Instead, Ware said, Von's Vision gives kids the opportunity to unlock their personalities — and their futures.
"I think it's really, really special to him, because normally you see people with the Coke-bottle glasses on and you're like 'Ah, they're a nerd,'" Ware said. "They don't want to take on their personality. But this is not just about putting their glasses on. This is about letting people really see the impact of you putting those glasses on and being able to see your journey in life."
And just as Ware saw a bright future for Miller on the football field, he foresees more that Miller can do with Von's Vision, as well.
"I think he can do a lot more," Ware said. "You always can do more. I hope he can reach thousands of people, not just here in the U.S., but worldwide with vision programs and creating glasses and doing that because it's a big deal.
"Kids don't want to put their glasses on, but he actually makes it cool."