Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Super Bowl star will prove himself worthy of $70 million

He's worth it.

Von Miller dominated the Super Bowl, leading the Broncos and their sputtering offense to NFL supremacy, but he's only offered hints of his staggering potential. He can grow into an even more dominating, intimidating defender.

John Elway was right to guarantee $70 million of Miller's six-year, $114.5- million contract. In the final hours of needlessly dramatic negotiations, Elway knew he had to take a risk on Miller's tomorrows.

The future of a franchise was shaking until Emperor Elway surrendered and handed over a mountain of cash to an astoundingly talented 27-year-old linebacker.

Miller must prove he was worth all the money, which places a severe squeeze on the Broncos' salary cap. I'm betting, along with Elway, that No. 58 will use the contract as motivation. Miller will become the NFL's premier defensive player, worthy of the NFL's premier defensive contract. He will grow into a complete player, nearly as dangerous against the run as he already is against the pass.

The contract is the largest for a defensive player in NFL history and, sure, it's a risk to pay so much to a sometimes erratic young man who was suspended in 2013 for violating the NFL's drug policy.

But it's a worthy risk. I'm not the only one who believes in Miller.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, I talked with Bronco defensive end Derek Wolfe about Miller.

Wolfe is known as a diligent worker. He's talented, yes, but he's seen more as a self-made player.

Miller tends to be known for his dancing, on and off the field. He's the natural, one of the most gifted players of his generation.

Wolfe knows a different Miller. He and Miller are weight-lifting partners. Over the past several months, Wolfe said, Miller has never offered an excuse to miss a session.

While lifting together, Wolfe never sees the comical Von. He never sees Miller dancing around after setting a new personal lifting record. He always sees a devoted fellow football player. The natural doubles as a focused laborer.

"He's very serious," Wolfe said. "Von is serious. Von isn't the old Von that everybody thinks he is. The get-suspended Von, the screw-up Von, the being out and partying all the time Von, that's not him. He's serious. He's becoming a great leader."

For the past month, much of Colorado has engaged in a discussion about Miller's future. Some fans sided with Miller, saying he deserved a contract of historic levels. Other fans sided with Elway, who tried, and failed, to low-ball Miller to preserve flexibility with the salary cap.

Miller ended the season as a Bronco superhero, the man who tormented Cam Newton and dominated the Super Bowl. He suddenly transformed, in the eyes of many, into a villain as he sought the contract he deserved.

He's in control of his popularity. If his new-found millions inspire him to relax, he will become the least-popular man on the Front Range. He can prove his doubters correct.

Or he can reward those who, like me, believe in his future.

The blessed ones — Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Alex Rodriguez — always struggle to please those of us who are not so blessed. They climb high, and we wonder why they don't climb even higher.

Miller is one of those blessed ones. He's more talented than any player to ever play defense for the Broncos. He will, as long as he plays on the edge of downtown Denver, inspire fans, baffle fans and divide fans.

Elway battled with Miller for weeks over money. This battle sliced our state into separate camps. Elway, for once, lost a battle.

But Elway, as usual, made the right decision.

Miller is worth $70 million guaranteed, and then some.

— The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo. (TNS)

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