On a sweltering July afternoon in DeSoto, a sleepy suburb just outside of Dallas, the chicken farmer sweats through his Texas A&M T-shirt as he tends to two dozen of his feathered friends in the backyard of his parents' home.
"Chickens," says Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller, "are dope."
Despite the oppressive 100-degree heat here in Texas and increasingly heated contract negotiations with his team back in Denver, Miller, 27, is beaming like a proud papa. This chicken coop, which is no bigger than a tennis court, is the four-time Pro Bowler's happy place, his refuge from the spotlight that tends to follow a Super Bowl MVP with charisma to burn. There's Miller on "Dancing With the Stars" and the Academy of Country Music Awards. There's Miller, nude save for his ubiquitous eyewear and fur hat, in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue. There's Miller at the White House, where the champs were feted by President Obama -- and this champ, at least, botched the greeting.
"I thought I just would, like, get a handshake, but he kind of held my hand, and he talked about how cool he thought my shoes are and my dance moves," Miller explains. "I was just in awe, thinking this is so surreal. Then he let go of my hand, and I'm looking at my hand -- and I just tripped on the presidential rug.
"It's the story of my life, man," he adds with a chuckle.
It's a funny anecdote, anyway, in a story about a self-described "geek" with a dream, one that was born in College Station, Texas, and, if the Aggie has his way, could soon be fully realized with a moneymaking poultry operation. Miller is in talks to potentially acquire a commercial chicken farm not far from his childhood home, but make no mistake, it's passion, not profit, that powers Miller's poultry game.
Here, presumably, is ESPN's first Q&A with a chicken farmer. And check out the SportsCenter feature above for more.
ALIPOUR: How did you get into the poultry game?
MILLER: I'm not even gonna lie, man, it started off by taking an easy class in college. [Laughs.] My professor, Dr. [Morgan] Farnell, he wouldn't let it be an easy class -- you know how these electives can be, you just go in there and sleep through it. But he made it a point to make sure I knew my information. And then I learned about it and really enjoyed it. Before you know it, it's my major.
How passionate are you about this?
I'm very passionate, especially when it comes to humanely raised chickens. I take pride in healthy birds. You got all these other big-time commercial farms that raise, you know, 30,000 birds. Me, it's a whole lot smaller operation, but it's a lot of bang for the buck.
When did you acquire your first flock?
I started building this chicken farm my sophomore year in college. As I got a little bit more money, it just got bigger and bigger. I got my first flock like five years ago. And then this current flock right here, it'll be three years in November. It's like family. They're more like pets. We got a lot of natural predators out here, so we got to watch them as well. Hawks took a couple of birds from us, and there are snakes and coyotes. But other than that, they really don't have to worry about much here at Miller Farms.
Wait, let's back up. Where are the snakes at?
We got a little creek.
We're not visiting the creek.
So, let's say I'm a chicken. What kind of life can I expect on Von Miller's farm?
You can expect a long life, a lot of space, great food and you'll get along with your teammates. All our chickens, they get along pretty well. It's just a great environment, like a great organization that you want to play for. For example, they get to go out in the pasture in the afternoon and the morning. I like to bring them out to natural, solid grass, their natural setting in which they're picking up worms rather than the litter and the dirt we have in the coop. That's what it's all about for me. It's not about the commercial aspect of it. Of course, there's money involved, and being able to make a buck off of this is what makes everything go, but that's not at the foundation at Miller Farms. It's about happy, humanely raised chickens.
Should I expect my owner to eat me?
I'm not out here to eat the birds. Now, the eggs, that's a different story. Oh, yeah, I eat eggs all day [laughs]. I think you can taste the difference between a pasteurized egg and a commercial egg.
How many eggs do they produce?
We've got 10 [chickens] laying eggs, so about 20 eggs a day. We take them in the house, wash them off, put them in storage. My mom [Gloria], she has a whole system. She's really the mastermind behind the eggs. So it's really like a family operation for me and my little brother [Vince], my mom and my dad [Von]. It was something that I brought home and they just ran with it.
Are the birds cool with you taking their eggs and eating them?
Oh, yeah, they're cool. I don't even think they know what's going on.
Do the birds have personalities?
Yeah, they definitely have personalities, especially the rooster. The rooster is the man. He's the leader of the pack. He's watching out for everybody. I call him Peyton. We had five of them originally -- he was the toughest one out of the whole flock. It's only one of him, so he's just chillin' around. You know, if it's you with 30 females, you'll be pretty chill, too. But they all got personalities. I thought about creating a little TV show for the birds. You know, you have a celebrity do voice-over for the chickens, like, "Mine, mine, mine, get away!" [Laughs.] But if you just sit and watch them, they all work as a team. They find food. One will alert the other one to come over here. It's pretty dope.
So when did it become an insult to call somebody a chicken?
I think when we were little kids, you know? "Oh, you're a chicken. You're afraid." When you think about chickens, you think about them being cowards and, you know, running away. That's what it looks like. But when you actually look at them, especially the rooster, he's one of the toughest guys in the animal kingdom.
So, what happens if I call you a chicken?
[Laughs.] I'm going to be OK with it.
Hey, Von. You're a chicken.
I mean, I understand it. I'm a chicken. Chickens are dope.
Rocky trained by chasing chickens. Is that Hollywood fiction?
No, it's not Hollywood fiction. I tried it. But, you know, I'd rather chase quarterbacks. Chickens are way more athletic than the most athletic quarterback you could probably go get.
What do your teammates think about all this?
When they first started hearing about me raising chickens, they thought it was a joke, another one of Von's tricks. But once you really get to know me and where I'm from, then you get it. And when you come see my farm and the way I raise my chickens, you get to know me a lot better as well.
I know you're in talks to acquire a commercial chicken farm. What's the next step in your poultry empire.
I want to create a different lane. You've got all these big companies that do it other ways. I want to create a lane where there can be happy, healthy birds -- and that'll be my whole slogan. You'll see the bird with a smile, saying, "Hey, I'm living with Von Miller and we're living great, man!"