Von Miller resurrected his career by focusing on energy and visualizing the future

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USA TODAY Sports/Bob Donnan

Both on the field and off, Von Miller is everywhere.

The 27-year-old Denver Broncos linebacker and reigning Super Bowl MVP currently leads the NFL in sacks (12.5), and in 90 career games he’s logged 85 sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller right now tops the league in quarterback pressures (with 60), and is graded as a top-5 edge rusher.

By just about every metric, Miller is the best defensive player in football (sorry, JJ Watt). If this isn’t the year he wins Defensive Player of the Year, it still feels like a safe bet that he will win the award at some point in the future. And so long as Miller is anchoring the Broncos defense, the team will be a threat to anyone in the league.

Off the field, meanwhile, Miller seems to have swiftly taken over for former teammate Peyton Manning as the most marketable player not just in football, but perhaps in all of sports. If you have turned on your TV this year, you have no doubt caught a glimpse of a bespectacled Miller, grinning for one reason or another. Here he is in an Old Spice commercial, there he is rocking Beats By Dre. He’s on the cover of Madden ’17, sponsored by Champs Sports, and Adidas, and – proving he’s more than just a spokesman – he’s also an investor in and strategist for a new, healthy beef jerky startup, Chef’s Cut.

Oh, and after he tormented Cam Newton to secure the Lombardi Trophy, he signed a six-year, $114.5 million contact with the Broncos over the offseason, which included $70 million in guaranteed money. Life for Von Miller, it’s safe to say, is going pretty well.

But it wasn’t always.

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Dustin Bradford/Getty

It’s easy to forget now, but for a moment in 2013 Miller was something of a liability. He was always supremely talented on the field – the no. 2 pick in the 2011 Draft, with 30 sacks in his first two years – but issues off the field threatened to put his career in jeopardy. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and around the same time was arrested after failing to appear in court for a prior traffic violation.

Looking back on it today, Miller said during these lower moments he realized that his opportunity in the NFL was too big – and too short – to squander.

“You gotta take advantage of the opportunity, especially in the National Football League,” Miller told Business Insider at an event in late November to promote Chef’s Cut. “We have a short window to do what we need to do. If it was the NBA, where you have 20 years for the great ones, in the National Football League that’s about three years. So you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get.”

So how did Miller do that? He relied the same thing that’s always carried him on the field: energy.

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Justin Edmonds/Getty

“I’ve had my ups and downs, and when I was going through that phase I told myself that if I was ever presented with these opportunities I was going to take full advantage of them,” he said. “I have energy. That’s the key. Energy really shows you how involved that you are with whatever it is that you’re doing. Everything I’m doing I like to present a lot of energy because this is a true blessing.”

Visualization was a big part of it, too.

“I believe in the law of attraction and I believe that your thoughts and that what you transmit out is what you receive back,” Miller said. “Through the whole time I visualized myself really making those plays in the Super Bowl. I visualized myself being a great pitch man for whatever brand wanted to be endorsed. I imagined these things, I thought about this stuff, I imagined how it felt to have it even before I had it. So when the opportunity really presented itself I had already been there and could have energy.”

That energy, it should be noted, is unmistakable even when he’s promoting beef jerky. At the Chef’s Cut event, which happened during Denver’s bye week, Miller worked his way through a handful of easy exercise routines, working hard and having fun – not exactly subscribing to the idea of taking it easy on your day (or week) off.

“I didn’t used to work out during my days off,” Miller said. “But then I started thinking of my body like a Ferrari race car. You wouldn’t just show up on race day. You would take it to the test track first.”