Ryan Miller isn't old enough to truly remember when the hometown Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns locked up in back-to-back AFC Championship games in the late 1980s. The Drive? The Fumble? They're history-book material for the 23-year-old.
But don't be fooled. He knows all too well about the rivalry, especially now that he's a Cleveland Brown himself.
“I know all about it. People in Cleveland don't exactly like John Elway, so I've learned,” Miller said.
Miller, a 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive lineman from Columbine High School and the University of Colorado, was drafted in April by Cleveland in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
Ironically, the 160th pick was a selection the Browns acquired from Denver in 2010 as part of the trade that sent running back Peyton Hillis to Cleveland for quarterback Brady Quinn. Neither player is still with those teams — both Hillis and Quinn joined the Kansas City Chiefs this past offseason as free agents. But Miller, who signed a four-year contract worth $2.278 million, including a $178,532 signing bonus, on May 10, is hopeful that he'll be a key cog for Cleveland's front line for years to come.
There were no indications, Miller said, that Cleveland was interested in his services until they selected him — one of two offensive linemen the Browns drafted with their 11 picks this season. But there he was at the team's Berea, Ohio, facility last week, lining up at left tackle in his first NFL training camp.
“There's a lot of information to gather in a very short amount of time. If you don't know it, then they go on to the next guy,” Miller said.
But it's not like he doesn't have talent around him to learn from, especially with five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and all-pro center Alex Mack manning the trenches. That said, with 15 offensive linemen in camp — six of whom are rookies — the quest for a roster spot, much less playing time, is fierce.
If Miller, a member of Columbine's 2006 state championship team, has one thing going for him, it's his versatility. The five-time CU letterman started a school-record 48 games, including the 2007 Independence Bowl — 32 of those games at guard and 16 at right tackle. That might come in handy for a franchise that completely overhauled its offense this season with the additions of quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson and wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon.
“It's fun to watch, fun to watch guys compete,” Miller said. “It's a huge change from high school to college, then again from college to the NFL. You wouldn't see a guy jump over two guys to catch the ball off their fingertips. That happens meticulously every single day here.”
It's been almost as big of a change as moving from scenic Colorado to Cleveland.
“It's definitely different from Colorado, as far as the weather goes. It's a lot more humid. You don't have that dry mountain air,” Miller said. “But it's nice a place overall. Normally when you hear of people going to Cleveland, they say its down and dreary. I find it really pretty. A lot of trees, green.”
And, for the foreseeable future, it's home for Ryan Miller.