"I was either going to get released, switch positions because we were loaded at linebacker, or I was going to get traded," Mays said. "He told me I got traded. I had to hurry up, get back home, pack up and get back here."
Just a couple days later, Mays was on the practice field in Denver sporting No. 96 and getting a feel for his new teammates.
"They welcomed me with open arms," Mays said. "The one thing that they can really show me is just the different tempo here. It's a fast tempo here. The fans love you, so you know you've got to go out, work hard and prepare. Preparation, getting ready for the game and knowing what the coaches expect, those have been the things that they've been telling me so far. I'll make sure I take that into consideration and continue to be in their ear whenever I need some help."
But Dawkins and Buckhalter weren't the only Broncos who remembered Mays -- the linebacker left quite an impression on Head Coach Josh McDaniels after the Broncos' narrow defeat against the Eagles last season.
"He killed us last year in the kicking game," McDaniels said. "(He's a) very physical, fast linebacker that can absolutely play and factor in the kicking game to a strong degree. A young kid who we feel may have some really positive upside to him."
"He's a physical player and he kind of looks like Mike Tyson," he continued with a laugh, "and hopefully he'll play like Mike Tyson."
While Mays said it was "bittersweet" to be traded, he enjoyed the comparison to a physical presence like Tyson -- "I enjoy hitting. Not a lot of people do, but I do, and I'm one of the select few that can do it all day," -- and appreciated the faith McDaniels and the Broncos showed in him with the trade.
"I'll make sure in return I go out there and play hard and do the things I need to do to help this team," he said.
MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF
Virtually every deep bomb, acrobatic reception and contested catch so far in training camp seems to have one thing in common -- No. 12 has been on the receiving end.
"The first two days he's been awesome,"
Fans caught a glimpse of Willis late last season, when he entered the starting lineup against Kansas City in Week 17. Though he didn't record a catch, he notched a special teams tackle, and his first career start was the culmination of a year of grueling work on the practice squad.
On the strength of that "stepping stone," Willis has dedicated himself this offseason to improving every facet of his game.
Since the start of the team's offseason conditioning program in March, Willis has been at Dove Valley. He ran every day during the team's break between the end of OTAs and the start of training camp, spending time with Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Tuten working on "everything -- routes, quickness, hands, strength, power, everything."
His teammates saw that dedication, voting him an Offseason Award Winner, one of 10 players who worked the hardest in preparation for the season.
"Matt, he's a sleeper,"
If the first two days of training camp are any indication, the work is paying off.
"It was 100 percent my goal to make a statement the first day, and hopefully I did that," Willis said. "Now I just have to build off it and make sure it happens every day."
After being acquired by the team off waivers from Kansas City in June, Smith is in the midst of a crash course in learning the offense, so it would come as no surprise if he wanted to fly under the radar at first.
But that's not the way the fourth-year back sees it.
"If I do that, I set myself up for failure," he said.
His career started quickly with the Chiefs, as he started six games as a rookie and compiled 407 yards rushing and two touchdowns, tacking on 148 receiving yards. He started three more games in 2008, but played in just four in 2009 after being hampered by injuries.
With a new set of circumstances, Smith is excited to do what it takes to produce and help the team win.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said. "I come from another team, you have two great backs in front of me and then it's unfortunate that they both go down on the same day. But I just come in and that's what they brought me in for, to help out when the time is needed."