By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – He was known for sacks and tackles, chickens and deodorant. Von Miller sported a cowboy hat and endeared himself further to fans during his years in Denver.

Visions of the strip sack of Cam Newton of Super Bowl 50 may be his most famous moment, but there was a lot more to Miller. He was a character and the face of the franchise. His departure leaves Brandon McManus as the only player remaining on the team from that Super Bowl.

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That makes it sound like a long time ago.

“I think that the loss of him during this time just amplifies the way that the fans already feel,” said Brandon Spano of DNVR Sports, which he describes as a digital media and lifestyle company for Denver sports fans.

(credit: CBS)

“It makes it tough for companies, like us, I mean we have a we have a van filler shirt in our store that we probably aren’t going to be able to sell anymore of.”

Near the stadium, Derek Friedman of Sportsfan had already cut back on Miller shirt orders.

“He certainly did a ton for our business in Super Bowl 50.” He knew Miller might not finish out his career in Denver.

The Broncos, since the departure of Peyton Manning, have relied on Miller.

“For example, if the Broncos have to come out with some sort of promotion to get people excited, Von Miller is on it,” said Spano. With the team’s fortunes turning in recent years, the trading of that franchise player can turn fans. “People generally, especially in this social media climate, they’re looking for reasons. As soon as soon as you get on the bad side, the fans right now are looking for reasons to write off the team.”

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It’s not likely to last forever.

“Over players, fans will always buy the horse head, they will always buy navy and blue. And they’ll be sad to see the players go, but the next year comes.”

Spano was hard pressed to name a Broncos player who is a top five name in Denver sports post-Miller. Nikola Jokic is tops.

DENVER, CO – AUGUST 28: Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos celebrates a second quarter touchdown with Courtland Sutton #14 during an NFL preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams at Empower Field at Mile High on August 28, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

“Nikola Jokic is One A, One B and One C and then you know, somebody else is four.”

With names like Jamal Murray, Nathan McKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog around, football players are not as big.

“Justin Simmons would be close,” said Spano.

The NFL is worth somewhere around $15 billion a year figure the experts. Players like Miller, who was finishing a $114 million contract, can supplement their incomes with millions more in endorsements. The Broncos will try to develop the fame of their newer stars and some will stand out.

People will miss Miller, but keeping him was likely a price the Broncos cannot afford, in spite of what he does to help sell the team.

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“You just keep Von Miller and you say hey we’re going to ride it out with this guy and he’s going to retire as a Bronco. They just don’t have that luxury you know,” said Spano.

Alan Gionet