When you have 27.5 sacks in two seasons you're quickly going to earn the label of a pass rusher. Texas A&M's Von Miller did just that en route to earning All-American honors and the Butkus award as the nation's best linebacker. What he also got was knocked by some critics for being a "one trick pony." That's why participating in the Senior Bowl did nothing but help to prove those critics wrong.
With no blitzing allowed during Senior Bowl practices or in the game, Miller, who lined up at strong side linebacker for Chan Gailey's South Team had the opportunity to showcase other parts of his game.
"I came to the Senior Bowl to play linebacker," Miller said. "I went to receive excellent coaching from the Bills coaching staff. If they wanted me to rush the passer I was going to rush the passer. If they wanted me to drop into coverage that's what I was going to do. I didn't go there to hide anything. I was there to compete. I think if you watch film the eye in the sky doesn't lie and I show those qualities on film."
Miller put together a strong week showing an ability to drop into coverage and anticipation skills that left NFL scouts in attendance largely impressed. His performance in the game only confirmed things as his four tackles included a pair for loss.
"I just wanted to come and compete with the best," he said. "The Senior Bowl is where I wanted to be. I don't have anything to hide. I want to improve and get better. I want to be with the best."
That's why Miller watches film of some of the more productive linebackers in the NFL in an effort to pick up aspects of their play and apply it to his game.
"I've watched Clay Matthews. I like the way Ray Lewis plays. I like the way John Abraham plays," said Miller. "I had a coach that coached Derrick Thomas, when he was in college and he said I played similar to him. That day I went and got film and studied his film and watched all his interviews. His point of view that he had on the game is similar to the way I feel. I can never ever be like Derrick Thomas. I could never play like him. He played with a fanatical effort, a relentless effort and that's what I try to do, play with that same attitude."
Blessed with speed in the mid-4.5s Miller (6'3" 237) projects as an outside linebacker. Some NFL scouts might wonder if he has enough height and bulk to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Miller doesn't worry about it. He's got bigger goals in mind.
"I want to the best defensive player on the board," he said. "I don't want to just be in the category of 3-4 linebacker or 4-3 linebackers I want to be the best defensive player on the board."
Bills head coach Chan Gailey doesn't seem to be worried about Miller being a fit either.
"Von Miller could fit in any defense," Gailey said. "He's one of the few guys that I happened to see watching T.V. this season and he's an explosive football player. I think he's going to be a good get for whoever gets him. He'd help us just like he'd help a lot of people."
Miller is likely to be a top 10 pick come late April provided he remains on track at the NFL Combine and the remainder of the pre-draft process.
And what if he became the third overall pick of the Bills?
"It'll be a true blessing to go play for the Bills, but whatever team picks me up I'll be happy to play for them," Miller said. "What God has for me He has for me."