ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the aftermath of the Broncos' 27-17 win over the Lions on Sunday, Von Miller crouched down in the center of the team's locker room and scribbled a message on his No. 58 jersey.
A few moments later, Drew Lock jotted a note on his own No. 3 jersey.
The three-time first-team All-Pro and Super Bowl 50 MVP then stood and exchanged jerseys with the rookie with a 3-1 record.
In a photo of the two Broncos — one a veteran and one four games into his career — you can make out the messages.
On the Miller jersey, a slew of phrases jump out, including "I knew you were a baller since Day 1."
On the Lock jersey, a longer message: "[You] believing in me from the jump gave me the confidence I needed. Forever in debt."
Lock said Thursday that he and Miller had planned ahead of the game to swap their Color Rush jerseys.
And though Lock may not have known, that means quite a bit coming from Miller. In his nine-year career, Miller said he has only ever swapped jerseys with one other teammate. He has signed jerseys hanging in his home from players like Champ Bailey and Demaryius Thomas, but he said he has only participated in one other true jersey swap.
Before Sunday, he had only traded a No. 58 for a No. 18.
"I just wanted a Drew Lock jersey," Miller said Thursday. "I know how valuable it's going to be in the future. I wanted to add it to my collection. He's going to be the quarterback. He's going to be the future of the Denver Broncos. I wanted to make sure that I had that jersey. I've got a Peyton Manning jersey. I've got Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. I like Drew. I had to put him up there too."
If that sounds like high praise, well, it is. And that's how Miller intends it.
Years before Miller racked up 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles against the Panthers to earn Super Bowl 50 MVP honors, he received some encouragement of his own.
When Manning joined the Broncos in 2012, he consistently provided Miller with the encouragement he needed to take the next step in his career.
"I know how that feels to have a guy like Peyton Manning tell me that I'm a great player and to keep it up and that I'm one of the best players that he's ever played with," Miller told DenverBroncos.com on Thursday. "I know what that does to confidence. When Peyton told me that, I was like, 'I'm here now. I'm ready to go. Peyton Manning already signed off on me.'"
Now, Miller is the player that young players look to with admiration.
"That was definitely a big adjustment," Lock said of meeting Miller. "Especially right as you first get here and you're like, 'All right, do I say hi to him? What do I do? Do I say, "Hello Mr. Miller," or do I say, "Hey, what's up, Von?"' It's just balancing that circus act of I think they're some of the best players I've ever watched, but they're also on my team now. So I've got to try to act like I belong a little bit."
Lock handled the first interaction just fine.
"I went with Von," he said, laughing. "I didn't go with Mr. Miller."
Miller said he remembers calling Peyton "Mr. Manning" and having the same star-struck feelings.
Manning, though, made sure Miller felt at ease and able to reach his potential. Miller is only looking to return the favor to Lock.
"[Manning] told me, he was like, 'You're one of the best pass rushers I've had, and I had two good ones in Indy [in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis],'" Miller said. "He told me I was better than those guys. It made me feel like, 'OK, I'm doing the right stuff, I've just got to keep going and stay on the same path.'
"I know what that does to young guys, so I just try to do the same thing to Lock, like, 'Hey, you're the future. You're going to be a great quarterback — a Hall of Fame quarterback. Nobody throws the ball like that. Nobody's running around doing the stuff that you do.'
"I just try to pay it forward."
Miller said he's seen instances where veterans don't support young players — and he's never wanted to follow suit.
"He's a great player and I just try to water the seed and water him with confidence," Miller said of Lock.
It's worked. And Lock said it doesn't matter if Miller is being a bit hyperbolic with his projections of a future gold jacket for the young quarterback.
"I thinks it's hard to put into words how much Von's meant to me from the first time he talked to me on draft night to the first day I stepped [into] this facility," Lock said. "… Like it said on the jersey, [just] how much confidence he instilled in me. Whether or not he actually believes it or actually meant it, I felt that he meant it. That gave me the confidence to go out and do what we've been doing since I took over. If him doing a little fibbing — maybe telling me the truth — was worth it, then I really, really appreciate him for doing that."
There's more good news for the young quarterback as he tries to cement his spot as the team's long-term starter:
As a No. 3 jersey joins No. 18 in No. 58's collection, Miller and Lock's relationship seems to have just begun.