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Von Miller's history with No. 40 now extends to Bills

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Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller, wearing No. 40 in the Super Bowl.

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“Is 40 open?” Von Miller asked in his first message to Buffalo Bills fans Wednesday night as he announced his surprise signing of a six-year deal with the team.

Miller will become the most accomplished player to wear No. 40 in Bills history, surpassing wide receiver J.D. Hill, who was selected fourth overall in the 1971 NFL Draft. Robb Riddick and Ed Rutkowski are other notable players to wear No. 40 for the Bills.

The number is unique for veteran defensive players and wasn’t allowed to be worn by players at Miller’s position for much of his NFL career.

It dates back to his days at DeSoto High in Texas, where Miller was ranked as the No. 15 weak side defensive end in the nation by recruiting website Miller had 37 tackles as a junior, but exploded with 76 tackles as a senior and was named the District 8 5-A Defensive MVP. He received a framed No. 40 jersey when DeSoto held Von Miller Day in 2015 and it was officially retired at the school during a homecoming ceremony in 2019.

Miller kept No. 40 at Texas A&M, where he would become an All-American and be named the nation’s top linebacker in 2010.

He was drafted No. 2 overall by the Denver Broncos in 2011 – the Bills used the following pick on Marcel Dareus – but at the time linebackers could not wear numbers in the 40s.

Miller switched to No. 58, in honor of former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.

"One of my college coaches coached him and just told me to watch him," Miller told the Chiefs' website in 2018. "I had access to all kinds of film in college, so I could do that. I would watch some of his interviews, too, and just thought that he would answer things exactly how I would have said it. It's been a wrap ever since."

The NFL Competition Committee changed the uniform number rules in 2015 to allow linebackers to wear numbers in the 40s for the first time in what was known at the time as the “Brian Bosworth rule.” The Boz wanted to wear the No. 44 that he wore at Oklahoma with the Seattle Seahawks, and even filed a restraining order so the league could not prevent him from wearing it. He would switch to No. 55.

Miller hinted at the possibility of changing to No. 40 with a Twitter poll in June 2020. Nearly 74% of the 22,000-plus respondents wanted him to keep No. 58. 

Before the 2021 season, the NFL allowed linebackers and defensive backs to wear numbers between No. 1 and No. 49

When Miller was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in midseason last year, the No. 58 was not available because it was being worn by Justin Hollins, a former Broncos teammate.

That opened the door for a return to No. 40, with one problem. The Rams had retired No. 40 in honor of Hall of Famer Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. The Rams said at the time of the trade that Hirsch’s family had given Miller their blessing to wear the number.

Miller wore No. 40 for the remainder of the season with the Rams and now will wear it with the Bills.


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