Before Phillip Lindsay was No. 30, he was No. 2.
Just another rookie with a mostly random number that maybe the vets would pay attention to, maybe not.
Domata Peko especially remembers No. 2 for the way he introduced himself to the team: “I’m Phillip Lindsay, I’m from Colorado and I went Colorado.”
“It’s stuck in my head forever,” Peko said yesterday after the game, laughing as he retold the story.
But the funniest part is that NO ONE on the opposing team is laughing at this kid from Colorado now.
This quote about @I_CU_boy from @DomataPeko is all you need to know:— Doctor of Words (and tights and positive thinking) (@docllv) December 3, 2018
"Oh man, big shout out to Phillip Lindsay, man. I'm so happy he's on our team. I remember at training camp all the guys were like 'Who the hell is No. 2? He's making plays on us, man.' And now the world knows." pic.twitter.com/dVsmmYg6nH
In fact, Peko remembers how the Broncos’ own defense first realized what the kid had.
“I remember at training camp and OTAs he was wearing No. 2, and all the guys were like ‘Who the hell is that No. 2? He’s making plays on us, man,’” Peko said. “And now the world knows, it’s Phillip Lindsay, man.”
It’s impossible to find a teammate without glowing praise of the undrafted rookie running back.
“He’s just out of this world. He’s a great running back and a great teammate,” said Von Miller. “It’s really no surprise to me especially, because I’ve seen it time and time again at practice. I can see the aura around him when he’s walking through the locker room. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be great.”
That aura - or his ‘moxie’ - has endeared Lindsay to fans like no other rookie.
But it’s his genuine humility that makes this kid so likable in the locker room.
Coach Vance Joseph gave No. 30 a game ball for his 157-yard, two touchdown, 8.3 ypc performance against the Bengals.
And then Lindsay gave it to the O-line.
“It was the offensive line’s and mine,” he said after the game. “It meant a lot to all of us. They’re doing a great job. I can’t stress that enough, about how well they’re playing right now. They actually get mad if I don’t get five yards. They’re always telling me to stay behind them — ‘Don’t do your own thing, let’s stay the course.’ I’m proud of them, and I’m going to keep on following them.”
He’s particularly happy to follow Garett Bolles, who Lindsay claims has “the fastest meter time we’ve ever seen (laughs).”
“They love me, man. And I love them. They do a lot for me. They put their bodies on the line, and Garett’s out there chasing people down. So I follow them,” Lindsay said. “I follow them, I make the right reads, and my job is to make people miss, get to that next level, and use my speed to take it to the house. That’s my job.”
And he’s doing that job really well, averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season - the best average in the league of all running backs - with 937 yards total through 12 games.
.@broncos @I_CU_boy is averaging a League best 6.0 yards/rush. Let that sink in. No one averages 6.0 in the @NFL. But how many have “Cheetah” speed. What a rookie class of the #Broncos leading this late season surge. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/VpZyrZb95W— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 3, 2018
But despite being a rookie, Lindsay doesn’t believe in the so-called “rookie wall” - something running backs coach Curtis Modkins instilled in his young backs. Instead, it’s about preparing, about treating their bodies right, about acting like a veteran.
“I told you all before, it’s a mindset,” he said. “When you’re trying to win games and get into the playoffs, you don’t have time for a rookie wall. Everybody has your back.”
For such a superstar, Lindsay has learned - no doubt by being one of five kids - that the spotlight isn’t the thing to seek; it’s just a thing to be appreciative of and move on.
“I don’t like that attention. It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” Lindsay said, adding that’s how it’s always been in his life. “When you have family, and you’re in the middle of two older sisters and two younger brothers, it’s about them. It’s about your family. That’s what it’s about. ...It’s not about (any) of us, it’s about all of us together. We work as a unit.”
Family has always been a big deal to Lindsay. After all, it was his mother who convinced him to stay home and play for the Broncos when picking a team to choose as an undrafted free agent.
And that family has taught him a lot about respect - which is why he praises his offensive line, why he called Terrell Davis to ask permission to choose the No. 30 jersey, why he waited until he had earned some cred before pulling out the Mile High Salute after a touchdown.
Though he has learned the correct hand to use now.
“I got a lot of stuff, because the first game, I saluted with my left hand. I was more ramped up and stuff. It was my first time doing it — a little jitters,” he said, noting he does the salute out of respect - for the soldiers as well as the players who have done it before him, including former teammate Demaryius Thomas. “It’s a big thing, and it’s about doing it right. I’m excited and proud that I could do it.”
The “little dude from Colorado” (as Peko says) - who gives his game balls to the offensive line and calls Terrell Davis to ask if he can wear the No. 30 - has now earned a new nickname from the defense.
“Now we call him the pit bull, man. Teams are starting to see he’s a pit bull, man,” Peko said. “He plays with a lot of energy. I love that guy, man.”
And “pit bull” is not about to change that name.
“Yeah, I like it. I like it. The defensive line gave me that name. When the defensive line gives you a name, you take it,” he said, laughing. “So we have this couch, and rookies aren’t supposed to be on it, but I’m on it, so they try to kick me off of it. They throw me off of it. But when they turn their back, I get on (laughs).”
Who the hell is No. 2?
It’s No. 30 you need to pay attention to.