On Sept. 8, Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com reported that because of Von Miller’s six-game suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, “in a decision that has been simmering for weeks, the Denver Broncos are going to attempt to reclaim $1.25 million of Miller’s original $13.77 million signing bonus...” To consider that the young Texas Aggie former student and football star received a $13.77 million signing bonus is beyond belief.
How times have changed. At one time, Miller was a truly talented defensive player who garnered massive college attention playing high school ball for DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas and carried a 3.0 GPA. Smart kid. It’s no secret around Aggieland that some of our best collegiate athletes in football, and especially women’s basketball, have come from DeSoto directly to Texas A&M and some on into the professional ranks. It’s an unofficial Aggie pipeline of sorts that exists.
At Texas A&M, Von Miller was “the man.” The man with the plan on defense, at 6’3” he broke into the national spotlight on consistent plays, brilliant plays, and all the plays he made. The Denver Broncos web site currently describes his accomplishments as:
1. Named NFL Defensive Rookie of the year and a Pro Bowl starter in 2011 after tying the franchise rookie sack record.
2. One of just two Bronco players since 1994 to have 15 sacks, 25 tackles for a loss, and five forced fumbles in a single season. (That stat is one more reason the Texas Aggies miss “their” Von Miller on a bigtime basis).
3. The first player in Broncos history to earn a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first two NFL seasons.
ESPN notes that “Miller will not be paid during his suspension; Miller’s base salary is $1.478 million this season, or $86,941 per week over 17 weeks,” translating into a six-game total salary loss of $521,647 already.
Another forboding fact of Miller’s pro football career per ESPN is that “Miller is in Stage 3 of the league substance-abuse program. According to the policy, he will always be in Stage 3, which means random testing up to 10 times a month for the remainder of his NFL career, and the next suspension is, at minimum, for a calendar year.”
So, his first penalty is two-fold, he doesn’t get to play the game he loves and excells at and his teammates are without his capable and effective defensive play, the kind that breaks old records and sets new ones. That’s one.
He’s also treated to a grand anointment in the sports media columns, which personally impacts every single friend, family member, teacher, coach and fellow player he’s had rooting him on, in just his young 24 years. That’s two.
It’s an NFL rule, and it’s one that every player has to follow. And there’s no spin machine out there to suggest that the rules should be changed because of how it may or may not be fair or right or just or unjust. The rules are the rules if you want to play in the NFL.
How does this personally affect Miller where it hurts him the most? In the wallet. $12.420.14 per day base salary loss. If the Broncos are successful in getting Miller to return $1,250,000 of his signing bonus, then add to that return a savings to them of 42 calendar days for a six-week suspension, times the $12,420.14 per day base salary loss, or $521,645.88. That winds up with a grand drive-out total of $1,771,645.88 that Miller just "potentially" cost himself, depending on the outcome of current negotiations.
Of course, Miller’s attorneys will step in and work with the Broncos to find a meeting in the middle on price tag, yada yada, but the bottom line is this: Von Miller is the same quality player that he was at Texas A&M with even more talents and skills from playing in the NFL where he has already made a tremendous mark in just two short years of playing time. Those million dollar salaries have to last him the rest of his life.
You only have a fixed number of years to get everything you can get financially in the bank because after everyone takes their piece of your pie—agents, attorneys, hangers-on, and others—you’ve got left what you’ve got left and that’s it. You hopefully have a Plan B, whether it’s broadcasting, coaching, or whatever else. But, the gravy train eventually runs out and all you have to fall back on is your street smarts and your college degree if you got it. The entourage fades when you can no longer give them access to the places you’ve let them grown accustomed to entering. They’re history and you’re old news.
After the six weeks are over and all the money is settled, Von Miller has a golden opportunity in front of him to start over—fresh, clean and to find his satisfaction in being an important part of a football organization that excels because he does, who embraces him as “theirs” and he carries on his shoulders the pride of Texas Aggies, DeSoto High School Eagles as he is now and hopes to continue to be a Denver Bronco.
Everyone laughs when you share the phrase, there is no “I” in team. But when one person who is part of a greater organization wins, the entire organization wins. The same is true of a loss. Somewhere along the road, coaches beginning at the high school level need to reinforce the realization for young superstars that it is never just about them in sports, whether high school, college or pro ranks.
Miller is missing, and missed, on the Broncos’ team right now and will be for weeks to come. When he returns, he’ll be the wiser man, and the far poorer man, for the lesson. Just like it says in the opening of the accompanying video for the Denver Broncos: "Even though we stand alone, we stand together." The good news is that he has the rest of the year to reclaim his rankings, stats, and maybe even break a few new records. Gig ‘em Von. "The family that plays together stays together." Or at least that's how the song goes.