THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Six years ago, Von Miller was a young but established All-Pro and Pro Bowl outside linebacker listening to veterans like Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware impart their wisdom on the way to a Super Bowl 50 title.
Presently, the 32-year-old Miller now finds himself in the same position for his Rams teammates ahead of Super Bowl LVI.
"Take advantage of the opportunity, and I'm here to tell you, opportunities like this don't present themselves all the time," Miller said during a video conference with reporters Thursday. "That's the message that I've been giving to my teammates. All of the speeches that DeMarcus Ware and Peyton Manning gave me in 2015, and all the stuff that Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas (said), and all the speeches that we had in the locker room, and all the things that we talked about, I pay it forward to these guys. I find myself saying the same thing that Aqib told me and the same thing that Peyton talked to me about and coach (Wade) Phillips, and I'm just paying it forward to these guys."
Whatever advice Ware, Manning, Talib, Sanders and Thomas shared proved effective.
Miller won Super Bowl MVP as his 2.5 sacks, six total tackles, two QB hits and two forced fumbles helped capture a 24-10 Denver victory over the Carolina Panthers.
From Ware, Miller saw the importance of speaking up, which likely explains why he challenged current Rams teammate and defensive lineman Aaron Donald to be a more vocal leader.
"Football is just one of those sports, man, (that) if you can motivate your guys to play to a level they wouldn't normally play at, man, that's what makes special teams and you need that," Miller said. "Every single championship team has had that. In 2015 we DeMarcus, and sometimes DeMarcus would just be talking about nothing, but he just talked. And just by him talking and being vocal, it worked and it motivated us. The speeches that he gave and the things that he would say – he would stop the team meeting and he would just say little stuff like, 'Hey guys, we need to be focused.' Everybody already knows that we need to be focused, (but) just hearing DeMarcus stop the meeting and just say, 'Hey, everybody lock in, everybody be focused,' it just went a long way having one of your best players speak up and really just refocus you."
A conversation with a Rams teammate – running back Sony Michel – reminded Miller of the importance of taking advantage of the moment, and further reinforce his own experience.
Miller said Michel told him he won the Super Bowl so early with the Patriots, it "spoiled him" because he thought it was going to be like that every year. The Patriots lost to the Titans in the Wild Card round the following year, then missed the playoffs entirely in what would end up being Michel's final season with the team in 2020.
Miller likewise had a similar experience with the Broncos. They reached the playoffs in each of his first five seasons and appearing in Super Bowls, winning one (Super Bowl 50) – but failed to qualify for the postseason in each of his next five seasons.
Miller said the things they talked about from the 2015 season didn't resonate with the players on the following years' teams. It wasn't anybody's fault, according to Miller – it just didn't strike them the same way because they weren't a part of it.
Whereas coming to the Rams, a team that's "ready to win, a couple players away from being a Super Bowl team," suddenly it hits differently, Miller said.
"The past experience you had in 2015, everybody wants to hear about that," Miller said. "Everybody wants to hear about what Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware – What did y'all do to win? What do you have to do to have success? What do you have to do to win a Super Bowl?"
Miller's words are clearly resonating – especially with Donald.
"Having them conversations with Von, and certain things he's telling me to motivate me, and things he's trying to do to help not just get me a ring, but get us a ring, and be world champions, it's definitely been special," Donald said during a video conference with reporters Friday."
On Friday, Miller also talked about how life-changing winning a Super Bowl is, with the plays one makes in the game being remembered forever as a part of history.
Leaning on those experiences from six years ago, he's doing everything he can to help his Rams teammates share the same experience.
"He's won a Super Bowl. He's done at the high level. He's been in these positions. He understand the excitement, the urgency, everything that everybody should bring to the table every day, and he constantly reminds us," Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morrris said Friday. "And the big reminder when you walk through our locker room right now, with Von letting us know what this is and what this is about, and what it's been about from the beginning, has absolutely changed some of the dynamics of our football team. And that's what great football players do. They walk in, they have a presence, and they absolutely back it up on the field when they're making plays. Playoff Von has done a big job of that in this last stretch."