Von Miller is no stranger to pressure. The Denver Brocos' pass rusher makes his living pressuring the quarterback. He has also had to live up to enormous expectations.
After being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, expectations surrounding Miller, the highest linebacker selected in the draft since the Washington Redskins drafted LaVarr Arrington in 2000, were sky high and justifiably so. After all, Miller was an All-American while at Texas A&M and won the 2010 Butkus Award, given to college football's top linebacker.
As a rookie in 2011, Miller recorded 64 total tackles, forced two fumbles and recorded 11.5 sacks en route to capturing the 2011 AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
How exactly did Miller follow up his excellent rookie season? By turning himself into a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, recording 18.5 sacks, forcing six fumbles and totaling 68 tackles on the season.
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Explaining his growth as a player, Miller simply said he "cut down on mental errors" between his rookie and sophomore season. That, in turn, made him an even better player than he was in 2011.
Miller noted that the game "didn't slow down" during his sophomore year, but instead, cutting down on the mental errors simply allowed Miller to "speed up his game mentally."
Though Miller is certainly disappointed with Denver's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he wasn't totally surprised that the Ravens were able to defeat the Broncos in Denver and then defeat the Patriots in Foxboro the following week. He called the Ravens a "great team," and that Baltimore is playing "great football when it counts."
Still, 2012 has to be considered a success for Miller and the Broncos. Denver did finish 13-3 en route to capturing the top seed in the AFC, and Miller established himself as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate, alongside Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt.
Fans and analysts may be quick to compare Smith, Watt and Miller, but Miller believes that the trio of dominant defensive players have only one thing in common -- that they sack the quarterback. The 2011 draft class certainly has produced no shortage of pass rushers.
As for next year, Miller just wants to play "Broncos football," and he believes that Denver will build on the success it had in 2012. He admits that the 2013 version of the Broncos "will be different," but that they'll be better than this year.
Miller's lifelong friend Michael Crabtree enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 and finds himself playing in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. Though Crabtree took major strides forward statistically in 2012, Miller doesn't think that Crabtree's game has changed significantly.
"He's always been good," Miller said of Crabtree. "He had a great college career, and got the ball more in college." Miller believes Crabtree's success in 2012 is simply because he was thrown the ball more, which is certainly true. Crabtree set career highs in targets (127) and receptions (85), and consequently receiving yards (1,105) and touchdowns (9).
Even though they're both elite NFL players, Miller and Crabtree still find time for some simple fun -- playing Madden.
"It's extremely realistic," Miller said of Madden 13, the latest installment of Madden. "Everything you'd want is in there, the moves, the playbook," Miller said. It comes as no surprise that Miller uses the Broncos when he plays and when he squared off against Crabtree, it was equally unsurprising that Crabtree used his 49ers.
Fans can check out Miller and Crabtree taking each other on in Madden in this video:
The DeSoto Shuffle, Miller's signature sack dance, isn't in Madden 13 -- but there's certainly reason for optimism that it'll be included in next year's version.
As for Super Bowl XLVII, Miller expects it'll be a "tough game," but that his lifelong friend Crabtree and the 49ers will come out on top, making the 49ers a perfect 6-0 in Super Bowls.