It’s not often the No. 1 and No. 2 pick in the NFL draft go on to win the NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards.
It had only been done twice in the 43-year history of the award before Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Broncos linebacker Von Miller accomplished the feat last season.
On Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, Newton and Miller — Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2011 NFL Draft — will face off.
“Him being No. 1 and me being No. 2, I definitely want to win,” Miller said. “And I’m sure he would say the same thing, too. I’m Cam’s biggest fan, but Sunday, I definitely want to win.”
In 2011, Newton’s 14 rushing touchdowns were an NFL record for a quarterback, and he became the first player in league history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 500.
Miller, meanwhile, has compiled 20.5 sacks in his first 23 games in the league. On Sunday, he could become the only Bronco to surpass 21 sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL. In 2012, he is tied for first in the league in tackles for loss with 17 and is tied for second in sacks with nine.
With the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, Head Coach John Fox and the rest of the Broncos personnel staff spent time analyzing several players as they prepared. Fox remembers thinking that Newton was a “terrific talent,” but snatching Miller with their pick has worked out exactly how they had hoped.
“We had to react to what Carolina did in front of us, but we felt like we were going to get a good player at that No. 2 pick and we’re really pleased with who we took,” he said.
Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera said the decision to take Newton over Miller was “very close.”
“If certain things had come up and allowed us to, then we would most certainly look at Von and say ‘Wow, this kid’s a special football player. He’s got some great ability,’” Rivera recalled. “He deserved to be picked where he was by Denver. The young man is a heck of a football player.”
Looking back, Miller wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m happy to be a Bronco,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to change it for anything else.”
But after the game, he hopes to leave with a little bit of Carolina blue.
“Hopefully we can switch jerseys or something,” Miller said.