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Broncos' Shane Ray 'can't wait' to prove he was the right pick at No. 1

Falling down in the NFL Draft due to off-field concerns surfacing early in the week, Missouri's Shane Ray says he couldn't be happier to be at the Broncos - and the defensive end intends to prove he's everything he was hyped up to be.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Aiming to put any critics at ease, the Denver Broncos' No. 1 draft pick, Shane Ray, wants his new coaches, teammates and fans to know they've got nothing to worry about.

He's going to live up to his potential and not down to his recent mistakes - namely being cited for marijuana possession just four days before the NFL Draft.

Choosing to own up to his clear lack in judgment was Ray's first move to endearing himself to interested NFL teams, including the Broncos.

"At the end of the day, I still should have made a smart decision," Ray said, noting that he let someone close to him influence his decision-making. "I put myself in that position, and I understand that. I've owned that, and I can accept that. ...I'm not going to let that define me as a person. I'm not going to let that define my character."

In discussions with Ray, Broncos GM John Elway was also confident the Missouri defensive end would more than prove his worth to the Broncos.

"I just got a good feel with him in the time that I talked to him," Elway said after the pick on Thursday night, adding that the support system from the Broncos will help keep Ray on the right track. "I think he's a 21-year old kid that made a mistake and realized it. ... We got a guy that plays with his hair on fire, rushes the passer, loves the game of football, is competitive and is going to be a great fit for us."

I can't wait to come to Denver. I can't wait to be a sponge and learn from two greats on that defense, to play with somebody like Peyton Manning and hopefully help lead the team to a championship. -Shane Ray, Broncos' No. 1 draft pick

That's exactly what Ray intends to show the team - he can play. Oh, and he's pretty hyped up to help the Broncos win too.

"I just ensured the Broncos that if they made the decision to give me a chance, I would give everything plus more and show them that they made the best decision in this draft," Ray said, noting the commitment Denver made by trading up to get him. "I can't wait to come to Denver. I can't wait to be a sponge and learn from two greats on that defense, to be able to play with somebody like Peyton Manning and hopefully, you know, help lead the team to a championship."

Those "greats on defense" are going to be invaluable to Ray - on and off the field - and Ray already knows it.

"I can't wait. Von Miller's somebody that I've been watching and learning from. He's also somebody I've already had contact with and talked to," Ray said. "I can't wait to come in as a little brother almost and have them be my mentors, learn from them. I'm just so excited."

For Ray's critics who believe he's a "one-trick pony" only able to pass rush, the 6'3, 245-pound DE has some words for them - go back and watch some film.

"I'm more than capable of doing everything that the Broncos require of me, especially in the run game, more so in the pass game," he said, adding he can still improve. "I don't have any issue dropping into coverage. There's no question about that at all. I think I'm more than capable of doing anything that the Broncos ask for me to do, including being the best pass-rusher in this draft."

That confidence and excitement should be making you swoon, Broncos fans. It certainly has impressed head coach Gary Kubiak.

"I wouldn't like to practice against him from an offensive standpoint, I'll tell you that," Kubiak admitted, adding that in the NFL it is crucial to "get to the quarterback" even when you have as talented a secondary as the Broncos do. "Looking at him from an offensive standpoint, though, you see the effort down-in-and-down-out; you see the chase, the passion in play. That's what you want on your team. You look at him as a starter."

I wouldn't like to practice against him from an offensive standpoint, I'll tell you that. ...We definitely got better tonight.  -Gary Kubiak, Broncos head coach

Ray suffered a turf toe-like injury New Year's Day during the Citrus Bowl. Ray contends that the injury will not be an issue now that he can get the rest and rehab he needs - something he says he couldn't do while preparing for the draft.

"It's going to take some time for me to heal," he said. "I haven't had the time, but once I get to the Broncos and get the proper treatment and rehab I'll be ready to go."

Elway said the team got the green light on Ray after head trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos thought Ray would be fine.

"He's played with it up to this point. And I think if there were any issues with it, the key thing is it can be fixed," Elway said.

All "issues" aside, the pick came down to getting the best player the Broncos could - and Elway and Kubiak believe that is exactly what happened.

"It's all about getting better, however you do that," Kubiak said. "We definitely got better tonight."