Virgil Green earned the respect of Broncos Country all last season with his unselfish attitude on the field and hard hits against opponents - two things his former Bronco counterpart often failed to do.
That respect was reiterated by John Elway and Gary Kubiak yesterday when the Broncos signed the 6' 4" Green to a three-year, $8.4 million deal - making the exit of fellow tight end Julius Thomas not so tough to swallow.
In fact, in many ways the skills Green brings to the table are every bit as promising - if not better - than what Thomas added to the offense.
While Green was targeted only six times last season, he caught all six for 74 yards. He even added a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Brock Osweiler on a Peyton Manning-designed play.
But it was Green's blocking ability that made him such an asset. When Green was in the game, the run attack prospered.
Pro Football Focus rated him the fourth-highest run-blocking tight end in the NFL and 11th overall for the 2014 season.
Just for comparison, Thomas was 33rd and 13th respectively in those same categories.
Stats aside, Elway was impressed with the impact Green had on the team's success last season.
"Virgil's been a big part of what we do, and he's been one of those guys that [hasn't] necessarily been out in front of the scenes, but behind the scenes he's been a tremendous worker," Elway said before introducing Green yesterday in a press conference. "He's blocked, he's caught, he's been a tremendous contributor on special teams and [I'm] really excited with what we're going to do offensively."
Green noted yesterday that he's relieved to have the contract negotiations over and excited to get into Kubiak's offense.
"I've watched what Kubiak's offense is all about. I've respected it for a long time," Green said. "I kind of know zone schemes and different kinds of passing schemes. He gets the tight end the ball quick. That's all the kind of stuff I did in college."
In fact, it was college where Green first experienced doing the dirty work so other players in the offense could shine - and he's OK with that. While at Nevada in 2009, three running backs put up 1,000-yard seasons the same year (one of those was 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick). That doesn't happen without some good blocking behind the scenes.
"Our run game [at Nevada] was so successful and we won a lot of games, and just being in that kind of environment and understanding what springing somebody for a touchdown truly means, I think that's where it all began," Green said, adding that his college coaches united the team by giving everyone credit for that running success.
And that may account for the pride Green feels in his blocking skills. While many tight ends recognize it as just part of the job, Green sees it as a great opportunity.
"I am a big physical guy. When you move somebody against their will and they're stronger than you and you know that, but they still can't do anything about it, I get huge gratification out of that," Green said about blocking. "I go home, I watch that on film and tell myself that's what is acceptable from here on out. Anytime you get beat, it's not acceptable. I really feed off that physicality. You see me smiling talking about it because I really like to hit.
And that is good news as much for Kubiak as for Manning and C.J. Anderson, who will be counting on Green to deliver.
But Green is absolutely ready for that challenge - especially when it comes to working with Manning.
"Me and Peyton have a reputation, not just in games but in practice," Green said. "Peyton has thrown to me quite a bit in practice. He knows what kind of guy I am. He knows I'm going to be in my playbook. He knows I'm going to be accountable, and I think it's going to be good for us."
Green was also excited to learn that Owen Daniels would be joining the Broncos too. The former tight end with Kubiak at the Ravens last year and Texans previously also signed a three-year deal yesterday with the Broncos.
Green actually asked for film on Daniels a few years ago because he heard that Daniels was a guy "who knows how to get open." Now Green won't have to use film to get tips.
"I think it's great," Green said. "I've studied him; I feel like I can pick his brain, learn some things and better myself as a tight end."
Green noted that he often considers how fortunate he is to still be playing in the NFL and he doesn't like to spend time complaining but rather putting his energy into working hard.
"I've taken advantages of opportunities that have come my way and I'm not much to complain about things. I just go out and do," Green said. "I feel like until I earn the right to say something, I just need to keep my mouth shut and do my job. To me, that's the only important thing."
That approach should resonate quite well with coaches, teammates and fans - as will Green's excitement about continuing his involvement in the Denver community.
"It was like a breath of fresh air really to finally have things set in stone," Green said. "I can't wait to get in the community again and do things with United Way, go to different middle schools, elementary schools and things like that. There are so many things here in the Denver community that just tell me that for me not to come back here would be silly. I think I can build on what I've been doing the last four years and grow from there."
Elway and Company are certainly looking forward to that.
"Virgil has really worked his tail off for the last four years. He's a type of guy that we want on the Denver Broncos," Elway said. "We think the sky is the limit for Virgil and we think he will flourish in what we're going to do offensively now."
Green is excited about that opportunity and the chance to prove he was worth his contract, even joking that he'd play Guard if the Broncos put him there.
"It is a true honor. I realize that they understand how hard I work," he said. "That was always the goal for me; to let people know at the end of the day regardless of what's happening, Virgil Green is going to work hard in practice, in the film room, in the weight room and on game days. That's just really my motto, just to work hard all day every day."