ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Von Miller one day returns to Empower Field at Mile High for his certain Ring of Fame induction or to receive his Hall of Fame ring, his legacy will be marked by trophies and takedowns.
He'll likely be introduced as the Super Bowl 50 MVP — the driving force behind Denver's third world championship — and the franchise's all-time leading sack artist.
His 110.5 regular-season sacks are a testament to the 2011 second-overall pick's production during his tenure in Denver, which came to an end on Monday. The Broncos agreed to trade Miller to the Rams in exchange for 2022 second- and third-round picks.
There may be a way, though, to remember Miller's Broncos career beyond the tally marks and the various quarterbacks that Miller added to his collection of those he'd sacked.
Let's choose to remember Miller's masterful career in Denver, instead, through the lens of time.
Start with the immediate and with the fleeting. The tenths of a seconds it took for Miller to race off the line of scrimmage, timing his jumps with the very snap of the ball. The irrationally quick manner in which he would bend under a tackle to get to the quarterback. The instant in which he could change a game with a third-down sack or by ripping the ball away.
If you turned away for even a moment, you risked missing that game-changing or franchise-changing play that Miller was so very capable of creating.
Miller's ability to use time to his advantage wasn't limited to a second here or there. The vast, long-lasting nature of his success was equally impressive. For 142 games across 11 seasons, Miller was a constant mismatch. He posted double-digit sacks in seven of his first eight seasons, including a five-season stretch from 2014-18. He earned three first-team All-Pro nods, eight Pro Bowl selections and posted 26 career forced fumbles to go with 110.5 sacks.
Perhaps the most fitting tribute to his consistent play was his unanimous selection to the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team. For 10 seasons in his No. 58 jersey, he stacked stellar moments.
But even Miller, arguably the greatest defensive player in franchise history, cannot remain undefeated against time. And both Miller and the Broncos have reached the point where they must move forward in separate directions.
As they do so, it won't cloud the moments that Miller has given the Denver community — both on the field and away from it. The Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2011, a career-best 18.5 sacks in 2012, his masterful comeback campaign in 2014 and his 2018 sack to pass Simon Fletcher for the franchise's all-time lead are indelible. So too are Miller's contributions to his community, as he's helped hundreds of young children gain clear vision and confidence through Von's Vision. He was honored in 2018 as the team's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, but his efforts have extended far beyond that single season.
Then, of course, there is Miller's crowning achievement — a set of games in which he gained national recognition. During the 2015 postseason, Miller turned in a tour de force as he battered Tom Brady and Cam Newton to the tune of five sacks, six quarterback hits, an interception and two forced fumbles. It's far from hyperbole to say the Broncos would not have won their third world championship without Miller's locked-in performances in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl 50. As the confetti rained down in Santa Clara, Miller deservedly accepted MVP honors.
Miller's tenure with the Broncos would sadly not again reach that pinnacle. In the five seasons since Super Bowl 50, the Broncos have failed to make another postseason appearance. Miller fell a vote shy of Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2016 — the one accolade that escapes him — and had his streak of double-digit sacks snapped in 2019.
Miller maintained his lofty goals, claiming at various points he believed 30 sacks in a season was attainable. He guaranteed a win over the Cardinals in 2018 — claiming Denver would "kick their ass" — and backed it up with a two-sack, two-forced fumble performance on national TV. Miller also continued to take over games in opportune moments. He recorded 11 more multi-sack games after the Super Bowl, including three more three-sack games. He posted one against the Colts in 2016, when his game-clinching strip-sack helped the Broncos to a win. His three-sack, two-forced fumble performance against Seattle in 2018 was as dominant as he'd ever been, and he swung a road game against the Chargers that year with a late interception of Philip Rivers.
Nearly a decade after entering the league, Miller still had moments where he played like he was in his prime. Again, Miller was able to manipulate time to his advantage.
And while the playoff wins did not follow in the later years of Miller's Broncos career, he continued to build his connection with the city. He took up the habit of playing catch with fans during pregame warmups, and his sack dances were works of (often hilarious) art. Then, of course, there was Miller's unmatched personality, defined by chicken farming, his eclectic style and a "Dancing With the Stars" appearance.
That's largely what we'll miss as Miller moves on to the next stop in Los Angeles. The jaw-dropping athletic accomplishments are certainly impressive; His first strip-sack of Newton will remain one of the most-played highlights in team history. But equally as inimitable are the dance moves, the press-conference metaphors and the frenzied runs out of the tunnel.
The pure joy with which he played the game.
After an ankle injury robbed Miller of his 2020 season, he returned to the field as a Bronco for one last run in 2021. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors in September, and he gave Broncos fans a few more chances to celebrate his success.
Someday, Denver's fans will get the chance to cheer again, whenever Miller returns to Empower Field at Mile High.
Until then, we have plenty of Miller memories that should tide us over and will not fade, even with the time that Miller slowed down, sped up and — more often than not — helped stand still.