ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – In his four seasons at Virginia Tech,
That versatility helped Painter learn what just about everybody on both sides of the line were doing with every snap.
Now that he’s back on the offensive side of the line working at tackle, he is using that experience to his advantage.
"I would say it kind of allows you to get into the mind of a defensive player,” Painter said. “Kind of get an idea of what they're thinking coming off the ball, how they go about processing throwing moves at you or how they read keys off your stance, off of what you're doing. You can kind of counteract that when you're on the offensive side, because you can kind of think how he's thinking."
Originally recruited to Virginia Tech as a left tackle, Painter was switched first to the defensive line, where he practiced during his redshirt-freshman year.
He then flipped back to the offense, where he worked at right guard as a freshman and sophomore. Prior to his junior season, Painter saw time at right tackle before coming full circle to play tackle, the position he was recruited for, as a senior in 2012.
“I feel as though what compelled them to make that move was I was a fairly athletic big man,” Painter said. “So I guess they wanted to test me out on that side, see if I would be able to develop into a player that they could use on defense. I guess they felt as though they needed me more on offense than defense."
As a senior, Painter only had one season as a starter to prove to NFL scouts that he could play tackle at the next level.
That sense of urgency helped, as Painter earned honorable mention All-ACC honors from the league’s coaches after starting all 13 games for Virginia Tech.
"I kind of just approached it as it was my one and only shot I had, this past season, to prove that I am a good player and prove that I can play this game,” he said. “I just wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity and perform to my absolute best and beyond that. I feel as though I did that. I feel like the Broncos and of course the NFL took notice of it and it's starting to pay off."
With only one season of game tape at tackle at his disposal, the NFL Scouting Combine was crucial to Painter’s NFL prospects.
He performed well at the event, tying for fourth among offensive linemen with a 4.95 40-yard dash and 30.5-inch vertical.
"I'd say very important, because going into the season I was basically a question mark,” Painter said of the value of his combine performance. “No one knew who I was. Of course, putting together the season that I had, it kind of raised some eyebrows like, 'Who is this guy?' I feel like the combine was the icing on the cake that kind of — I had to show up there for that to be the ultimate eye-opener."
One of Painter’s top assets was his athleticism, which it takes to play as many different positions as he did in college.
The combine proved to be a critical stage to demonstrate that skillset in front of all 32 teams’ scouts and coaches.
“Where I felt as though going into it I could do what I did at the combine, I just wanted to let it show,” Painter said. “That was my main goal, just to allow the combine to be that opportunity to show up and let the teams know I'm here, I can play, I can perform and I'm just as good as the rest of these guys here. You just didn't know me."
Denver proved to be the final stop of his pre-draft visits and the team wound up liking what it saw.
The Broncos selected Painter with the fifth pick of the sixth round, 173rd overall.
The tackle didn’t waste any time signing his rookie contract, as he put ink to paper the first day he stepped into the team’s facility for rookie minicamp.
“I kind of wanted to get that part of the deal out of the way so I could focus more on mentally being ready for practice and things like that,” Painter said. “Getting myself physically ready and more so focusing on the playing part aside from the business part."
Helping him get ready for the NFL will be Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu.
The 35-year coaching veteran has been quick help Painter get accustomed to the professional level.
"In these two days, I'm not going to lie to you, I've learned a lot in these last two days,” Painter said. “It's been a mental beat-down, but at the same time we just have to stay composed and listen to what Coach is saying and learn from your mistakes every day. There's always something that can be fixed. It's a nice-sized learning curve, but I feel like I'm handling it pretty well."