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Undrafted CB Tevrin Brandon excited to compete for spot

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A free agent you likely never heard signed with the Broncos doesn't care that you don't know who he is or may not have heard of his college. He's ready to prove he can play at this level - and with this team.

AP Photo/Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

As the sun comes up each morning over the Broncos practice facility this week, dozens of players file in for several hours of meetings, study time and conditioning.

A few weeks shy of the Draft, most of these players are familiar faces to each other and around Dove Valley.

But a handful were not Broncos - not even NFL players - until a few months ago.

Count Tevrin Brandon among those.

Who?

Tevrin Brandon, No. 33, Broncos cornerback. You can call him Tev.

And if things go as he hopes, that's a name you're going to remember in September.

Part of the reason his name doesn't sound too familiar is that there was a lot going on the day the Denver Broncos signed this 5-foot, 10-inch cornerback from Monmouth University.

Having just finished a stint with the Fall Experimental Football League, the 24-year-old Brandon inked his three-year, $1.575 million contract with the Broncos in relative obscurity on Jan. 28 - just over a week after Broncos hired a new coach and in the midst of "will Peyton Manning return?" drama.

But for the Bethlehem, Penn., native, all the buzz surrounding Dove Valley that day could not have mattered less.

The only thing he cared about was officially getting to the NFL - and that that journey was beginning with the Denver Broncos.

"Being in the NFL has always been a dream, so I'm very grateful for the opportunity I have today," Brandon told Mile High Report after the team's second day of offseason workouts on Tuesday.

And to reach that dream with an NFL team known for its championship culture and a locker room full of Hall-of-Famers and Pro Bowlers...well, that was definitely icing on the cake.

After three days with the Broncos, Brandon confirmed what Emmanuel Sanders told the press Monday - another world championship is absolutely the goal for everyone on the team.

"It's great to be with guys who are not used to losing and expect nothing but the best. To be able to come in and play with some of the best of the best...it's just very exciting," Brandon said. "I can't wait to take my game to the next level."

He also admitted it was pretty cool talking to Peyton Manning his first day when the quarterback made the rounds to introduce himself to all the new guys. The fact that he has the chance to be around and learn from a first ballot Hall-of-Famer is not lost on Brandon.

"Somebody as elite as him? Not everybody can say they played with Peyton Manning," Brandon said. "It was definitely cool."

Odds stacked but not a long shot

Brandon knows the odds are against him, that making the roster is no done deal. But he's been down the tough road before - and he's not afraid of it.

In fact, Brandon doesn't consider his chances a long shot at all - just a lot of hard work and an opportunity to show off what he's got.

And when your defensive mentors include Chris Harris, Jr. - himself an undrafted free agent in 2011 out of University of Kansas, who earned a trip to his first Pro Bowl this year and was the top-rated corner by Pro Football Focus - then there's no reason not to be optimistic.

It's exciting and pretty surreal to be in meetings with all these guys who made the Pro Bowl. There are so many great players on this team, I just want to pick their brains.   -Tevrin Brandon, cornerback

"[Harris Jr] is definitely a role model," Brandon said, adding cornerback Brent Grimes of the Dolphins to the list too. "They used what they have to their advantage and are starting in the NFL. I look at what they've done and mold it to my own path and hopefully I'll be in the same position."

In position team meetings, Brandon likes to pick the brains of his fellow cornerbacks including Bradley Roby and Darian Stewart, who he particularly likes to sit next to because "he's smart." Stewart, a former Ravens safety acquired in free agency last month, has also played in Kubiak's offense, which makes him an invaluable asset to the entire group.

"It's exciting, and pretty surreal, to be in meetings with all these guys who made the Pro Bowl," said Brandon. "There are so many great players on this team to learn from."

And that's exactly what he's doing before he goes home and hits the books some more each day.

"If you're paying attention, you can learn a lot," Brandon said. "Every little bit is so important."

Especially when you're trying to prove yourself.

Something to prove

The former Monmouth Hawk went undrafted last May but was offered a UDFA by the Broncos for about an hour before the deal fell through. Brandon kept working out and was rewarded with invites to rookie mini-camps for the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets.

After a workout with the Jets didn't lead to an offer, Brandon signed with the FXFL Brooklyn Bolts, helping the team to a 4-0 season.

The Broncos called Brandon in December about a workout with a handful of other defensive backs. He was more than ready.

"I just wanted to work my ass off to be the best I could be," he said. "That was one of the best workouts I've had. I walked away knowing I had given it my all."

Brandon is not among the bigger corners, but he moves his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame with such agility and quickness that the Broncos took notice. Like most new guys to the team, Brandon knows his ticket to the roster goes through Special Teams - and he's more than OK with that.

Before playing his senior year at Monmouth, Brandon played three seasons at University of Connecticut, making special teams his forté while he waited behind future NFL draft picks Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz. An altercation off campus got him suspended for a semester his senior year, so Brandon transferred to Monmouth, sat out a year, and then picked up where he left off.

Value at special teams

As a red-shirt senior, Brandon had 51 tackles, three interceptions, two blocked kicks and 15 passes broken up at Monmouth, plus three punt returns for 42 yards and 13 kick-off returns for 248 yards.

I love playing inside because you usually play against shiftier guys, and it can be a little trickier.   -Tevrin Brandon, cornerback

"Of course I want to be the best corner I can be, but I'm in a room with the elite of the elite," he said. "I'm just going to work as hard as I can and show the coaches I have value."

Included in his "value," are Brandon's speed (ran a 4.34 40 at his pro day), athleticism and smarts as well as his versatility playing man-to-man or slot coverage.

"I love playing inside because you usually play against shiftier guys and it can be a little trickier," said Brandon, adding he's comfortable playing man or dropping into zone. "I'm very coachable, and I like to learn. I like to study."

That bodes well for the newbie as he and all the others get used to a slightly new scheme under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. But mainly the cornerback is soaking it all in, absorbing as much as he can.

"I'm just taking in all the knowledge around me so I can refine my technique and my craft and have an opportunity to make this team," Brandon said. "I just want to prove I can play in the NFL and be a player teams want."

Even though he hails from a family of Cowboys, 49ers and Eagles fans, Brandon's parents and two younger siblings are hoping it's the team in Denver that wants their son.

After all, they need some orange jerseys in the rotation now.

Brandon laughs when asked if his family can convert. "The Broncos are their team now too."