Today, That’s Good Broncos brings you an exclusive interview with current Denver Bronco (and past local University of Colorado Buffalo) G/T Ryan Miller.
If you follow the NFL, you no doubt heard the story. On July 27, 2013 in Cleveland Browns training camp, a guard went down with a concussion. The incident sent shockwaves through the NFL community as the unnamed player was strapped to a stretcher and rushed to a nearby hospital. Only later was the name of Ryan Miller released.
It has been an up-and-down journey for Miller to the NFL, from being a multi-year starter at the University of Colorado, to being selected by the Browns, to the concussion and his subsequent release, to signing a futures contract and becoming a member of the Denver Broncos. Ryan sat down with journalist Lucas Polglaze to discuss facing Ndamukong Suh in college, the significance of his number 73, concussions in the sport of football, and much much more….
Luc Polglaze: First of all, thank you for speaking with us, Ryan!
Ryan Miller: Thanks for having me!
LP: Let’s just go back to when it all started for you in the NFL. When the Browns picked you in the 5th round back in 2012, what was your reaction? What did that feel like?
RM: Oh man, it was incredible. A childhood dream was coming true. I was so thankful to get drafted…it’s still kind of surreal for me.
LP: Obviously, you played your university ball for the University of Colorado Buffaloes and attended Columbine High School in Littleton. Did you grow up a Broncos fan? Or did you support another team?
RM: No, I was most definitely a Broncos fan growing up.
LP: So now, considering that you’re on the roster, what is it like putting on the orange and blue for your childhood favorite team?
RM: This is a type of experience that is very difficult to put into words. It’s kinda come full circle, if you will!
LP: What was the process like, joining Denver? Were you approached by the Broncos?
RM: So, last year, after Cleveland waived me injured, I had to get cleared and then it took me...shoot, a couple of weeks to actually get cleared. And then after that I had tryouts with multiple teams during the entire season. So I would fly out on Monday, spend the night in a hotel, try out Tuesday morning, and then I’d be home in the evening on Tuesday. And Denver was among the teams that had tried me out for a futures deal.
LP: So you made it back here!
RM: I did! Well, at the end of the regular season, I got to choose between the teams that had offered me futures deals, and it would have to be really difficult for me to say no to Denver.
LP: How would you describe your playing style? What do you bring to the Broncos?
RM: I’m a nasty player, I like to think. I like to think that I’m pretty gritty, kind of a crud-in-your-neck guy. I’m gonna get the job done. It may not be pretty, but I’m going to get it done.
LP: Who was a model for you playing offensive line growing up?
RM: Oh boy. The Bengals, Anthony Munoz. I really liked his style. And then, the more I got into the inside, the interior, I was watching guys like Tom Nalen and Matt Lepsis, actually.
LP: What’s not to like about those guys?
RM: Exactly, right?
LP: Obviously, you have the opportunity to work with Coaches John Fox and Adam Gase, quarterback Peyton Manning and players like Louis Vasquez and Ryan Clady, all among the best in the league at what they do. What’s it like working with them?
RM: Every day is a learning experience. Every day is trying to see how these guys go about what they do. How these professionals hold themselves, what their routines are, what can I take from these people, to become the best player I can possibly become.
LP: Why #73? Any special significance to that?
RM: Actually, in Little League, I was 80, and I had the very short dream of maybe being a tight end or a receiver.
LP: Then that ship sailed?
RM: It didn’t necessarily sail, more so I just came to a realization but, it was the number given to me in high school. Some guys bond and really feel a connection to their number, other guys don’t. And for some reason, I really became attached to 73. I guess just being at Columbine and CU, it really stuck with me, I was really thrilled to get that number back.
LP: What was it like growing up in that environment at Columbine High School?
RM: Fantastic. I wouldn’t change a thing about it if I had the chance. Andy Lowery was a phenomenal coach there. My old line coach, Bruce Stoklen, I still keep in contact with those guys to the day. And a lot of that coaching staff at Columbine is still at Columbine and the family that they have, the community over there, I talk with them on a weekly basis. They want to make sure that you’re doing alright as a human being more so than a football player, and I owe a lot of the man I’ve become today to those coaches.
LP: And to the average person, Columbine has a different meaning.
RM: And it’s part being on the inside as well.
LP: In college or the pros, have you had any tough one-on-one matchups? Players that you just don't like to be assigned?
RM: In college, it was always a battle against Ndamukong Suh and Von Miller. Suh is the only person that’s ever picked me up with one hand and tossed me. But, to my credit, I think I’ve played some of my best games against Suh. And, we always just had a good gameplan and I thought if I could match up against him, I could match up against anybody.
LP: That begs the question...what’s the story behind that?
RM: Oh, we were running an inside zone play and just put his hand on my chest and then just threw me around like I was nothing. It was terrifying. The first time I’d ever been picked up and thrown.
LP: Now, let’s turn the tables, on the flip side, are there any players that have you licking your chops when you line up against them?
RM: None immediately come to mind. I mean, in college, there wasn’t necessarily a player, it was a team. In the league, there’s a reason you’re in the league, and it’s because you’re a heck of a player. You’re not going to find a bunch of slaps [scrubs] around the league.
LP: What was that team in college?
RM: I loved strapping up and playing against the Rams. You know you were always going to get their best, because they were the in-state rival. And I don’t know, it’s like the neighborhood street hockey game. You always wanted to beat the kid that was down the block.
LP: Offensive line is kind of an undersung position in this league, with fans often overlooking the big guys in the trenches. What do you have to say about that?
RM: It’s true. [Laughs] But I say that, because you kind of have to know it as an offensive lineman. You’ve got to have cohesion with those four other guys around you because otherwise, you can be diddley-squat. Nothing against receivers or running backs, but you can make a heck of a play as a receiver or a running back and you’re going to get all that glory. Nobody sees the double-team on a huge power play where the running back breaks free. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You know the victories that you have, and you take pride and solace in that.
LP: And nobody sees Suh throw you around.
RM: [Laughs] This is also true.
LP: In training camp last year with the Browns, you suffered a head injury, a concussion. I can actually recall when this happened and seeing the reports coming out on Twitter. Obviously, your name wasn't actually released until later in the process, but that was certainly big news in the NFL community. What are your thoughts on concussions in the NFL?
RM: It’s not just the NFL. It’s high school, it’s college, I mean, concussions are serious things. I’ve had my share, and I don’t wish them upon anybody. And they’re just as serious (if not more serious) than a knee or a shoulder or something because your brain, they haven’t really figured out how to do brain transplants yet, or something like that. The more stuff you can do to protect your noggin, the better. And I’m fortunate enough that I don’t really have any residual effects with it. But it’s a scary place to be.
LP: Do you have any kind of special pregame routine? Walk me through what it’s like, preparing to step out onto that field.
RM: I like to spend a little more time to myself a lot. Some guys will get to the field a few hours early and do their stuff. I like to get there maybe two hours maximum. I don’t like to have a lot of time to sit in my locker and wait. I would rather take that time, wake up, get a good breakfast in, kinda relax a little bit. I know when that two-hour time period starts ticking, it’s just like a fuse. Just that fuse that’s burning, ready to go.
LP: What song really gets you going? What’s your pump-up song?
RM: “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent, is definitely one of the top played as well as AC/DC, “Thunderstruck,” “If You Want Blood.” Kinda that old classic rock is what really gets me going.
LP: Good taste!
RM: Thank you.
LP: If given a choice, would you prefer run blocking or pass blocking?
RM: Run block. No question.
LP: Why is that?
RM: Mass moves mass. I’m pretty good in that category. [Laughs] To put your hands on someone and drive them into the ground, assert your dominance over them...it’s a rewarding feeling to just manhandle somebody.
LP: If the offensive depth chart were released today, you'd be listed as a backup G. Where do you see yourself fitting in on this roster?
RM: I’m absolutely going to do everything in my power to earn a starting spot.
LP: Ryan, I don’t doubt it. Thanks again for speaking with me, and best of luck to you out there.
Broncos Country, keep an eye out for #73 throughout training camp and the preseason as Ryan Miller fights for a spot on the Broncos’ roster.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @Rmiller73