It has been several months since the 2016 Broncos rookie draft class received the most important phone calls of their lives, letting them know they had been drafted by the defending Super Bowl champions.
Those calls signified one big thing: it was time to begin their next quest in their football careers. With the advent of training camp on the horizon and the rookies the first to show up for team activities — that time is now.
"Football has been a big thing missing. Before OTAs and stuff it was all working out and speculation," said rookie offensive lineman Connor McGovern. "I’m ready to play football and prove my spot on this team. I’m excited to just get after it."
Drafted in the fifth-round out of Missouri, McGovern's versatility will be a benefit for the Broncos who return only one full-time starter on the offensive line this season in Matthew Paradis.
In the course of his career with the Tigers, McGovern started at right guard, right tackle and eventually manned down the blindside at left tackle as a senior. Many scouts and draft analysts believe that McGovern’s best fit in the pros is on the interior offensive line due to his brute strength and heralded movement skills. He also believes that his future looks brightest fighting for an interior spot on the teams’ offensive line.
"Right now definitely on the inside. Whether it be right guard, left guard or center. I definitely think I can play all three. Definitely on the inside rather than the outside," stated McGovern.
While doesn’t expect to get acclimated to the center position right away (currently held by Paradis), he does believe he will eventually earn his reps there to make him a more versatile commodity for the Broncos moving forward.
"I think so. Not right away because in any NFL offense the center has such a big responsibility, so I think they want to work me in at guard to make sure I can play, and then once the mental side is really there, move me back to center."
McGovern isn’t the only Broncos rookie eager to show what he can do to help the franchise out during training camp. Defensive backs Will Parks and Justin Simmons are also chomping at the bit to show the coaches and their teammates that they are ready to play immediately.
"I’m excited to get started. I’m excited to finally put the pads on, showcase what I can do and showcase how I can help this team in any way possible," said Parks — the Broncos sixth-round selection out of Arizona. "I’m just ready to get out there and get after it."
Parks may not have elite speed or range, but his football intelligence and versatility are off the charts. While he doesn't have a defined spot on the roster just yet, he certainly has the upside to be a jack-of-all trade player and nickel back hybrid like former Bronco defensive back David Bruton, Jr. If he can fill those shoes and make an impact on special teams for Denver, his most certainly will merit his selection.
For now, Parks is focused on improving in all aspects of the game to ensure he is in top form under the bright lights of the NFL.
"It’s more than football coming in right now," stated Parks. "Everything that they’re telling us, just putting it in your own words and tweaking it a little bit. Doing what I got to do to get where I need to be. That’s the main thing right now."
Teammate and former Boston College defensive back Justin Simmons shares the same aspirations as Parks — to immediately contribute to he squad.
"That's the goal—to come in and play. It's not college. You don't redshirt. You don't just get to take a year and see how things work. It's a job now," remarked Simmons. "You've got to come in and compete for those spots. If you're not (competing), the guy behind you is. That's definitely the goal to make sure I get out there by any means necessary."
In order to achieve that goal, Simmons, like McGovern and Parks realizes he has work to do. In his press conference, Simmons lauded his coaches and teammates and stressed how important the tutelage from coaches and teammates has been thus far.
But most of all, he knows the bar has been set high by his Super Bowl champion teammates and recognizes he has to match their passion, diligence and intensity on the field in order to be successful.
"We have to come in and match that; not come in, feel it out and see how it goes. We have to come in and match that mindset, that mentality and get out there and compete."
Competition is most certainly on the horizon for the trio of Bronco rookies above and the rest of their draft classmates. It is refreshing to see young rookie players approach their careers with such assiduity. McGovern, Parks and Simmons are saying and doing all the right things thus far. If they continue to work hard and put in maximum effort day in and day out, don't be surprised if all three play an important role in the Broncos' pursuit of a back-to-back championship in 2016.