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Hard work, playing tough comes naturally to Matt Paradis

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Growing up on a ranch means you are contributing to the family's work at a young age and working hard to do it. So blocking 300-pound defensive linemen for 65 snaps a game isn't really anything new for Matt Paradis.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Being an offensive lineman often means a pro football life of relative anonymity - until something goes wrong.

The only time you get noticed is when you do something bad. -Matt Paradis, Center, on being an offensive lineman

"Part of being an O-lineman is being criticized," jokes Broncos' center Matt Paradis. "The only time you get noticed is when you do something bad."

But this week, the second-year center out of Boise State got one of the biggest compliments an O-lineman could get.

His quarterback - future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning - compared Paradis to six-time Pro Bowler Jeff Saturday, Manning's center for 11 years at the Indianapolis Colts. A center, by the way, who was on an offensive line that gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2004, 2005 and 2006. That last year, the Colts won the Super Bowl.

"I really enjoy playing with Matt. He really reminds me a lot of Jeff Saturday," Manning said this week, adding that the first-year starter is off to a great beginning for his career.

"He is smart. He's a student of the game," Manning said, joking that the only dissimilarity is Paradis' lack of a "unibrow and O-Line tattoo. "Matt is a tough guy. He is a guy you like having in front of you. You know he is going to fight for you."

Although there aren't sexy stats to quantify good offensive line play like there are at other positions, Paradis says he doesn't need stats to tell him anyway.

"You know how you played no matter what the stats say," he points out. "You could give up zero pressures and have an awful game."

But among the Broncos' offensive line's growing pains this year, Paradis has been one of the consistent bright spots - often in the green on Pro Football Focus weekly grades and coming out No. 15 among all centers by PFF rankings this season. In  1,125 snaps this season, Paradis gave up one sack, nine quarterback hits and 19 hurries. He posted a +3.3 in run blocking, second only to Evan Mathis on the squad.

It's no surprise to Paradis that his strength is run-blocking. While that tends to be the favorite call among all O-linemen because of the lineman's ability to control the defenders rather than react to them, Paradis loves it because of his 8-man football background growing up in a town of 800.

"You run ball 70 percent of the time," says the Council, Idaho, native. "If you aren't averaging 8-9 yards per carry, you aren't doing that well. There are fewer people on the field, so there's a lot of open space. It's a completely different game."

Paradis got the attention of Boise State coaches as a high-schooler attending their camps. He joined the team as a defensive lineman but was asked to move to the offensive line as a redshirt freshman.

Paradis' father recalls his son not being too happy about it at first.

"When Matt told me he was switching to O-line, he said, 'well, it will be all right. Nobody ever notices you until you screw up,'" said Mike Paradis. " But he took to it like a duck to water."

Boise State finished in the top 15 in the country in red zone offense, 15th in first downs, and in the top 20 in scoring offense in 2013.

Drew Roberts of the Boise State blog, One Bronco Nation Under God, told Mile High Report two years ago that those stats were largely due to Paradis.

"He had played nearly every lineman position on both sides of the line-of-scrimmage, and coming from 8-man football to a walk-on spot to being a two-time all-conference performer says a lot about his work ethic, drive, and football IQ," Roberts said, adding he believed Paradis would definitely be motivated to prove critics wrong who said he was too small for the NFL.

Paradis has most definitely done that as he has played every snap for the Denver Broncos this season and has been a key to its improvement in QB protection over the season.

It's just a way of life; everybody is expected to help out. And they had to do a good job or do it again. I think it instilled a good work ethic.   -Mike Paradis, father to Matt Paradis

A practice squad player last year, Paradis won the starting job over veteran center (but Bronco newcomer) Gino Gradkowski in Training Camp.

This did not surprise the elder Paradis who has been watching his son find success from hard work since he was a kid working on the ranch. In the Paradis household, as soon as you're big enough to pick up hay, you're big enough to contribute.

"He always gave 110 percent," Mike says of their youngest of four. "He always got it done to the best of his ability."

Both Paradis and his father credit Matt's football success to the work ethic his parents instilled in all the kids at a young age.

"It's just a way of life here. Everybody is expected to help out," Mike said, explaining the three boys had to stack hay by age 12. Matt even drove the tractor at age four ("just a few miles per hour."). They got paid for the work and had to save 90 percent for college. The remaining 10 percent was theirs to spend.  "And they had to a good job or they had to do it again. I think it instilled a good work ethic in them."

Paradis took that with him to Boise State where he graduated with a double major in finance and business economics while earning first-team All-Mountain West honors in 2012 and second-team in 2013.

When Paradis snaps to Manning for the first time this afternoon, he will be the sixth Boise State player since 2005 to play in a Super Bowl.

While the magnitude is a big deal to both his college and high school alma maters, Paradis looks at this as just another game to "play tough."

"It's a big game, everyone knows that, but in your mind it's still just football," says Paradis, who will be squaring off against defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a third-year starter.

Every player has has his own way of staying grounded before such big games, and for Paradis it goes back to his upbringing - he put in the work, so he can be confident in his preparation.

Sound like a very successful quarterback we know?

It's a big game, but it's still just football.I know I can rely on my preparation. I'm confident. I know I put the work in.  -Matt Paradis

"I know I can rely on that. I'm confident," Paradis says about today's game. "I know I put the work in. It's football, it's fun."

Mike also believes the Super Bowl stage will not be too big for his son, whose college coach used to have a saying about bowl games - "This is a great vacation for your families, but we're here on business, here to work, here to win."

The father and son always liked that advice.

As a lifelong Denver fan who admits to getting nervous during Broncos games this year (something he calls "ulcer-makers), Mike is beyond ecstatic to be watching his son play in this game today.

The entire Paradis clan - wife Janice, kids John, Ben and Liz plus a host of other relatives - will descend on Levi's Stadium this afternoon all donning their No. 61 jerseys proudly.

"I watched the first Super Bowl in 1967 and never dreamed that I'd be watching the Super Bowl in person, and that I'd get to watch my son," says Mike, noting it's been quite a journey watching his youngest reach this point.

"Ever since he was a little boy Matt wanted to be a special player," Mike said. "Now he is."

But now it's time to get down to business.

To work. To win.