SAN FRANCISCO -- Von Miller has never felt like a second-fiddle guy. His strong power within, he said, helped him rise above his mistakes. He trusts his people and football skills. This Denver Broncos linebacker is from Dallas -- he can wax on about strength, loyalty and bravery.
He secured the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night and on Monday morning he gripped the MVP prize. His diamond-filled championship ring will come as likely will a new, rich contract. Miller sparkled in Super Bowl 50 with 2.5 sacks, six tackles, two forced fumbles, two hurries and a pass defended. He hit Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton hard. He made Newton skittish. It was Miller's raging rips around the end that forced Carolina's linemen to jump quickly and the entire offense to crumble.
In 2011, Newton was drafted first and Miller was drafted second. When you put No. 1 and No. 2 in direct combat in a championship game, somebody will become the second-fiddle guy. Somebody loses the championship and the personal matchup. There is passionate pride involved in that.
So, Miller not only won the game but was saluted as the best player on the field. For a night, he jumbled history. For a night, No. 2 became No. 1.
I asked him, as he left here for Denver to celebrate, if he realized how hard it was for everything to align to live this possibility? How hard the entire feat was to do?
"I mean, really, you can't dream this up this way or make it up," Miller said. "You know, I went three seconds after Cam in the draft. He was a quarterback, so, there were certain things in the positions we play that made it where he was clearly going to be the No. 1 pick. And Cam earned that. Sure, I would have liked to be No. 1. Who wouldn't? It's a special place in football history. But I found my own place."
Miller, 26, listens when his head coach Gary Kubiak tells him that life is 90 percent fair and the other 10 percent "you just gotta roll with it." He did this when he was suspended for six games in 2013 for a drug test violation. He did it when later in that season he was injured and missed Denver's Super Bowl loss to Seattle.
Miller would not allow a second-fiddle finish in Super Bowl 50. There was a fire smoldering within.
He took the biggest game of his career and played like the player he honors, the linebacker whose number (58) he wears, Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs great Derrick Thomas.
In Super Bowl 50 he looked like Thomas, fast and strong and quick. Spin moves. Juke moves. Hit the quarterback. Hit him again.
"Von did not miss a practice this year," Kubiak said. "He loves to play."
He loves to lead, Kubiak said. Miller complemented the guidance and guile of end DeMarcus Ware opposite him and plenty of stout help in between. Denver's defense tied the Super Bowl record for most sacks. Miller became only the 10th defensive player to win MVP and only the fourth linebacker.
Not only did Von Miller step in front of Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50. He also kept Newton from dancing. The Broncos were paying attention when Newton kept saying this season that if you don't like his dancing, don't let him score. Denver didn't.
Miller was in the middle of it. But he kept talking about how his teammates inspired him.
"My teammates bring me up," he said. "I can't wait to get back with them. To enjoy this in Denver with them. I really try to stay connected and focused on them. I think that's a really big part of football. You need that connection with the people you play with to do something special. We have that in Denver."
Miller has it with the Broncos. They never considered him second fiddle. When he was drafted, they considered him the type of player that comes along once in a decade. They instantly embraced him. Especially Broncos owner Pat Bowlen.
"He loved me first," Miller said of Bowlen.
There was joy in his eyes and in his voice when he explained: "What I mean by that is he reached out for me, took a chance on me, made me a part of who and what the Broncos are. They stayed with me when I was down. When I was hurt. This championship and this MVP honor represent a lot of wonderful things for me."
Among them for Miller, ascension to the top. A resounding reminder that there is nothing second fiddle about him. And a love-at-first-sight feeling with the Broncos that he hopes endures.