When he was done obsessively hunting down Cam Newton during every minute they were on the field together, and the confetti was done swirling around Levi’s Stadium, Von Miller stood next to two trophies. The first was the Vince Lombardi Trophy, signifying the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers. The second was the Super Bowl MVP, given to Miller for his five tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
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The Panthers offensive line was powerless to stop the spectacles-wearing, hips-shaking-after-a-sack Broncos linebacker. But Miller’s performance, the culmination of two ridiculous seasons since he returned from suspension in 2014, did not result from his honing his abilities as a linebacker. Not really, because Miller doesn’t see himself that way. He doesn’t even think of himself as a defensive player.
In a recent profile on The Ringer, Miller revealed that doing research on his favorite player, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, led him to a moment of enlightenment: to become an unstoppable force on the defensive side of the ball, he had to imagine himself as a running back.
“[Thomas] felt like the offensive linemen were on defense and trying to stop him, as if he was a running back,” Miller said. “And when he explained himself, I saw myself. I’ve never felt like I was going to stop the offense. The guys behind me are trying to stop all those guys. I’m trying to get after the quarterback.”
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It’s a fascinating concept, not only envisioning yourself as a running back with the opposing offensive line trying to stop you from getting to your own end zone (a.k.a. the quarterback), but essentially blocking out everything around you and focusing on a single player—the opposing team’s QB. Miller’s visualization has certainly worked, as the Broncos star has amassed 60 sacks in a little over four and a half seasons.
Von Miller, NFL linebacker/running back, coming to a backfield near you.