Cody Latimer endeared himself to Denver Broncos fans almost immediately after he was drafted in the second round last May.
And for good reason.
Arriving in Denver sporting an orange shirt and tie - plus orange shoes - the wide receiver out of Indiana couldn't have made his debut any better in Broncos Country.
But then he did with an incredible showing in Training Camp and the preseason - boasting five catches for 116 yards and a killer block to boot.
The rookie's debut was so impressive, many fans expected to see Latimer on the field a lot come September. Probably so did Latimer.
But in fact, the former Hoosier only played eight games and caught just two of the four passes for which he was targeted.
"It was a long transitioning year for me," Latimer told Mile High Report in an exclusive interview Thursday.
Adding that the complex offensive scheme was not an easy adjustment from college ball, Latimer said having to learn the playbook from every position on the field was only part of the challenge. Playing for No. 18 was another.
"Peyton has so many checks, and he makes so many calls on the field, you have to be ready. He wants you to be on cue with him, and if you make a mistake, he doesn't like that," Latimer added with a chuckle. "But he sees so much."
But make no mistake, No. 14 loves the idea of Manning coming back.
And the quarterback is looking forward to bringing along his young receiver as well. Latimer said he and the Broncos veteran QB - who officially announced his return yesterday - have been texting back and forth in the offseason, and No. 18 told Latimer he was looking forward to playing with him.
"It is exciting," the Ohio native said of having another year under the tutelage of a future Hall-of-Famer. On his Instagram account Thursday, Latimer wrote: "Welcome back, P!!! I get another year to play and learn from the GOAT."
And the opportunity to practice every day with Pro-Bowlers such as Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, or go up against Chris Harris, Jr. and T.J. Ward is and was the perfect introduction to the NFL - even if not so easy.
"This year was a great learning experience," Latimer said. "But it's not a learning year anymore."
No it isn't. While there will always be learning, this year will Latimer's season to show off those skills we caught a glimpse of last summer.
And though the young receiver was disappointed in his lack of playing time at first, he "understood his place" in a typical John Fox team where rookies don't often start - and now he's ready to really make that place on the field next season.
Broncos' GM John Elway said as much is likely, especially given Gary Kubiak's penchant for starting young players.
"I think there's no question that [the coaches] are going to train them," Elway said recently of his new coaching staff. "They're going to have expectations for those young guys to come in and step in and be able to contribute early. That's this coaching staff's mindset. They're not afraid to play young guys. And they'll get them trained up to play, which is going to be beneficial to us."
That certainly sounds good to Latimer.
"I'm just looking forward to contributing more," Latimer said, adding that he gained the trust of many teammates, and now he has to gain that with his new head coach Gary Kubiak. "He's a great coach, and I think his offense will be easier for me to fit into."
Latimer's strength and physicality should definitely be a plus for Kubiak, who likes his offensive guys to block for the run game - something Latimer actually enjoys doing and is more than ready to offer.
Recalling his massive blow to the Niners' Antoine Bethea during the Broncos' preseason game last August, Latimer just said coolly, "it was a good hit."
Watch the top left of your screen to see just how good:
"Football is a tough game and you have to be tough to play it," said the wide receiver, agreeing that blocking for the runner and opening up the play-action has always been a strong suit. "I want to do whatever I can. Whatever I've got to do, I want to do."
Latimer just launched his website this week and is donating all proceeds from T-shirt sales this month to the American Cancer Society. Latimer lost his father to cancer in 2005, and a favorite aunt died last week after a long battle with the disease.
"Now that I'm on the bigger stage, I'm just really glad to give back," Latimer said.
But the website also includes an email link so fans can contact Latimer, and he can interact with them directly.
Noting that he "loved" playing for Broncos fans this year, Latimer said the support the city gives the football players is "a big motivator."
Whether it's impressing Manning or the fans in Broncos Country, it's no wonder Latimer has been in Florida the last two months getting ready for the upcoming season.
"I want this year to be a good year," Latimer said. "I've just been grinding. We all just want to get better."
That desire to get better is made easier by a strong locker room, Latimer says. Though the team was understandably down after the Indy playoff loss, all the guys support each other and the goal to improve on that one-and-done performance last season.
Going to the playoffs as a rookie was a highlight, but even though Latimer was just six the last time the Broncos won a Super Bowl, he knows just "going to the playoffs" is not good enough in Broncos Country.
"I'm looking forward to going to the Super Bowl next year," he said matter-of-factly. "It should be a good year."