ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –
After signing with the Broncos as a college free agent in April 2010, he served two years in the U.S. Air Force.
Garland returned to Denver in 2012 and earned a spot on the team’s practice squad as a defensive lineman.
Now he’s made another jump – to the other side of the line. Instead of pass rushing as a defensive end, he’ll be pass blocking as an offensive guard.
“We joked about it last year when I was running practice squad offensive line,” Garland said. “It was always a joke until this season. They thought it was a real possibility, so we went for it.”
The coaches approached Garland about the position change at the beginning of Phase One workouts this offseason.
“I think he’s a very powerful guy, very smart guy," Head Coach John Fox said. "Offense tends to be a little more assignment oriented and so he’s not going to blow assignments. We’re just trying to give him the best opportunity we can to help him make our football team.”
The first-year player had no reservations about making the move.
“I was just humble to have the opportunity,” Garland said. “I’m going to work hard in this position. I’m going to study my plays and know the offense. I think the offense is a lot of an intellectual game. I love that aspect – training, working and learning it.”
After watching his unit work against Garland, and even seeing Garland stand in as a scout team offensive lineman in practice last year, Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu saw traits in Garland that he thought could translate to the offensive side of the ball.
“We practiced against him all the time,” Magazu said. “He’s a big, athletic guy. He has a great motor and works really hard. He’s really smart and he’s a tough guy. When you’re evaluating players, some of the things you’re always looking for are that you’ve got to be smart, you’ve got to be tough -- and he is that.”
Having played defensive tackle during his college career and spending time as both a defensive tackle and end in the beginning of his NFL career, Garland will have a good idea of what it takes to play on the offensive line.
“He knows how the defense is going to react and he has a feel for what they’re trying to do on defense,” Magazu said. “He knows how to respond. That is a plus for him. The hard part for him is going to be putting it all together where it’s a little bit more natural for him. That’s going to take time.”
Garland is no stranger to hard work and is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed at his new position.
And hard work is what it is going to take for him to be able to play a brand new position against NFL-level opponents.
"I know our coaches are very impressed with him," Fox said. "He’s smart, he’s tough. I think he’s got great willpower to succeed and so regardless of what position, Ben Garland’s going to compete and do well."
While he is just starting to learn the nuances of his new position, Garland is confident that he will be able to play guard in the NFL.
“I think I can be a good guard because I am going to work hard,” he said. “And I’m going to know my plays back and forth. I’m just going to work as hard as I can.”
With his military background, Garland is no stranger to change.
During his two years of service in the Air Force, Garland has gone from Colorado Springs, Colo. -- where he worked as a strength and conditioning coach at the Air Force Academy, his alma matter -- to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, to defense information school in Maryland and back to Scott Air Force Base before finally rejoining the Broncos in Denver.
“In football and in the military, they always teach that you have to be adaptable and flexible,” Garland said. “As long as you can adapt and flex and continue to work hard, you are able to take on new challenges.”