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Great expectations: Von Miller living up to the hype as a rookie

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By Lee Rasizer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The game was going south, and it showed in Von Miller's face.

By the time the loss was complete, the rookie linebacker was beside himself.

Elvis Dumervil tried to approach his Broncos teammate the following day, but Miller responded with the silent treatment. The two sat together in a team meeting room, and while Miller stared at the greaseboard and video screen, he ignored Dumervil's attempts to engage him.

Practice time arrived, and Dumervil finally took it upon himself to end this nonsense. "I was like, 'Are you mad at me?' "

Miller explained that, yes, he was peeved — intensely so.

After all, he wasn't used to coming out on the short end in a matchup on "Madden NFL 12."

"He wants to win," Dumervil said with a smile. "By any means necessary."

That cutthroat mindset, though perhaps extreme, helps explain why the second overall pick in April's draft is threatening Jevon Kearse's 1999 rookie sack record and nearing shoo-in status for the NFL's top defensive rookie award.

If Miller is that competitive when professional players are graphic representations, imagine his thought process when he's playing the real deal.

"I remember the first time he came in, he was talking to me and told me he wanted to be the best player to ever play his position. That was a goal of his," said Dumvervil, the league's sack leader in 2009 before missing the 2010 campaign with a chest muscle tear.

"But he's an ultimate team guy along with being a great player on the field."

Miller has rare physical gifts that Broncos GM Brian Xanders said he hadn't seen at the position in his 18 previous years evaluating players for the draft: explosive get-off at the line of scrimmage, power, long arms to disengage from blocks and pure speed that matches or exceeds starting cornerbacks in the NFL despite Miller carrying 248 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame.

But it's Miller's competitive drive that sets it all in motion.

This is a person who, as a child, used to race his younger brother, Vince, to see who could clean their side of the room first.

"When it's all-go, it's a to-the-death mentality for me," Miller said before pushing his AFC-leading sack total to 10½ in an overtime victory at San Diego on Nov. 27.

"I'd rather die than lose," he added. "That's the mentality I have when I'm out there. That's what allows me to have the pursuit and effort to the ball that I do. I'm so afraid of losing — I'm not scared of losing, but I'm afraid of failure, you know what I'm saying? — that's what drives me and gives me the motivation to play like that."

 

To read the rest of Lee Rasizer's feature on Von Miller, purchase a copy of the current issue Pro Football Weekly online at PFWstore.com. In this issue, you'll also have access to a profile of Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who is the anti-diva wide receiver; our comprehensive fantasy football coverage; and our draft-related "Audibles" and "The Way We Hear It."

 

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