clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Broncos get 'athletic' contributors in Sambrailo, Heuerman

Both Ty Sambrailo and Jeff Heuerman are expecting and looking forward to competing for immediate contributions to the Broncos - in whatever capacity that may be.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos' two newest team members have several things in common, among them both started in completely different sports before considering throwing around a pigskin.

Colorado State's Ty Sambrailo, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive line behemoth who can run a 40-yard dash in just over 5 seconds, has been a speedy guy ever since his ski-racing days in California.

We always like athletic guys. When they're athletic, it means they're better players; they're more competitive. -John Elway on draft picks No. 2 and No. 3.

And the reason tight end Jeff Heuerman knows how to block probably has something to do with his hockey background, a sport he played for eight years growing up.

While neither skiing nor hockey have direct correlations to football, both players consider their early athletic experiences to have helped shape their discipline in athletics and sharpen skills useful for the field.

Quick reactions necessary for ski racing have translated into faster feet on the field for Sambrailo - a super useful trait for a lineman in the zone-blocking offense head coach Gary Kubiak is installing.

"The ability to go down the ski slope and make judgments, kind of thinking on your feet...," Sambrailo noted, "I wouldn't say it helped me necessarily in football, but it kind of trained me to react to what I see a little bit quicker."

Heuerman, who had some injuries in college football, believes competing in a hard-core, sport like hockey helped him deal with the adversity, something he knows comes in every athlete's career.

"Hockey gave me a great foundation for football," said the 6-foot-5 tight end from Ohio State. "It taught me discipline and the hard work that I needed. My hockey background definitely contributed to my success in football."

The athleticism of both new draft picks was a huge "upside" for Broncos' GM John Elway.

"We always like athletic guys. When they're athletic like that, it makes them better players. Usually guys that are athletic are competitive," Elway said, adding that playing different sports often adds to their competitive nature. "With Ty being a skier and Jeff being a former hockey player, they do have that athletic background. You're always looking for those types. They've got the athleticism, but are also very good players."

The two new additions to the offense will have something else in common, and it's something both are looking forward to - playing with and for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning.

Sambrailo, who has been called upon to compete for a starting spot at right tackle (and perhaps other positions on the line), understands the pressure of protecting Manning but is more interested in how much he can learn.

Protecting [Manning] and being a part of the offense is going to be an incredible experience, and I'm excited. -Ty Sambrailo, OT from CSU.

"It is a lot of pressure, but I think as a young player coming into the league, there aren't a lot of guys that you'd put above him in terms of teaching and someone who can show you how to make it, how to last in the league," said Sambrailo. "So I think protecting him and being a part of the offense is going to be an incredible experience, and I'm excited."

Heuerman has the same attitude - he can't wait to spend time with Manning.

"I can't wait to fly in and learn from one of the best to ever play the game of football," said the Florida native. "I'm ecstatic; I couldn't be more excited to get in there and start learning, contribute and help the team."

I can't wait to fly in and learn from one of the best ever to play the game of football.  -Jeff Heuerman on playing with Manning.

As one of what seems like a dozen tight ends for the Broncos (only six so far actually), Heuerman is fine doing whatever he's asked, even if that means blocking more for Manning and Co. rather than catching the future Hall-of-Fame QB's passes.

"I know that I will go in and be the best possible tight end that I can be," Heuerman said. "I will be any type of tight end they ask me to be."

In his senior year at Ohio State, Heuerman didn't catch as many passes as he might have liked, he admitted, but that allowed him to hone other skills and he has no regrets.

"I didn't catch as many footballs as I wanted to, but we won a National Championship," Heuerman said. "I wouldn't change a single thing. Either way it worked out and got to do a lot of things, a lot of blocking a lot of pass protecting, things that make you a well-rounded tight end."

And being well-rounded is Heuerman's goal as a tight end in the NFL.

"I'm a tight end that likes to do it all," he said. "I don't like not being able to do everything."

Heuerman's leadership at Ohio State as well as his ability to do more than one thing were both very attractive to Kubiak.

"He's a leader on a national championship football team. That says a lot right there. I love his passion. I like the way he plays. I think he's got the ability to do both," Kubiak said, noting they also liked the tight end's size and his likely contribution on special teams. "He's a very smart player. Anytime you have those types of players, you're versatile offensively, you can do a lot of things."

Contributing in a variety ways is practically a requirement on a Kubiak-led team, and something Sambrailo is completely prepared to do as well. Kubiak stated that Sambrailo will come in to compete at right tackle right away, but he didn't rule out the other positions on the line.

Having played both left and right sides for both guard and tackle at CSU, the big man is happy to plug in wherever Broncos need him.

"That versatility was a big reason I was picked up by the Broncos," Sambrailo acknowledged, noting that he has an open mind to whatever position the Broncos choose for him. "I think at the end of the day, the best five linemen are going to be on the field playing and just want to compete at whatever position that would be to be a contributor and help the team win."

And Elway is happy to say Sambrailo will get that opportunity.

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder and he's tough. He's our kind of guy," Elway said. "We were hoping he was going to make it to us, and we were fortunate that he did."