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Draft Memories Fuel Three Broncos

Posted Apr 17, 2013

For Eric Decker, Derek Wolfe and Wesley Woodyard, the draft doesn't always bring back positive memories. But all three use it as motivation.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The 2013 NFL Draft kicks off in just eight days. But one of the most exciting events of the NFL offseason doesn't always conjure fond memories for the players involved.

"It's one of the most stressful times of your life as a player, going through that," said defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, a second-round pick in 2012. "It's hard to put into words the feelings that you get. Because you have no clue what's going to happen, what's in store for your future. So you're just waiting around to see who wants you."

Wide receiver Eric Decker agreed that the actual draft weekend was the most stressful aspect of the event, but the leadup to it was even harder for him.

After suffering a foot injury in his final season at the University of Minnesota, Decker wasn't able to showcase his skills at the NFL Scouting Combine or a Pro Day.

But when he finally got the call that he was headed to Denver in the third round, the whole process was worth it.

"It was a big relief," he said. "I was excited for the opportunity to play the game that I grew up loving. To be with such a great organization, I cherish that moment every day that I'm here."

For linebacker Wesley Woodyard, the actual draft never brought a happy ending.

After earning first-team All-SEC honors in each of his final two seasons at Kentucky, where he ranked eighth in school history in tackles, Woodyard waited seven excruciating rounds but never heard his name called.

"I thought I would never get to play this game again," he recalled. "I think that set in to me. I remember when I drove out here to go to the airport. It was dark, raining. I shed a few tears."

"Thinking about not having a chance to play this game pushes me every day," he said. "It's always there. And my thing is: being undersized and being undrafted, those chips will never go away for me, man."

Woodyard didn't let the snub hold him back. Instead, he made the team as an undrafted free agent, going on to start six games as a rookie. Fast forward to last season, and Woodyard was a team captain for the fourth consecutive season, starting 14 games as the only player in the league to record at least 100 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions in 2012.

Now, some incoming draft prospects are even compared to Woodyard.

"I think that's what everybody wants to be -- compared to somebody," he said. "Especially if you respect the game of football, you want guys coming after you to look up to you."

For better or worse, draft memories never go away for many NFL players. And for those that feel they should have been drafted sooner -- or at all -- it can serve as fuel for a long and successful career.

"When somebody does something like that to you or something like that happens in your life, it always has a special place in your heart -- it kind of sticks with you your whole life," Wolfe said. "It kind of puts a little chip on your shoulder. But all that really matters is where you're at now. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. But you can definitely remember that feeling."