ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Not quite two years after fighting for his life from the bottom of a ditch, Denver Broncos third-round pick
The former N.C. State linebacker missed the Wolfpack's 2009 football season after falling asleep at the wheel, flipping his truck off the side of Interstate-40 and suffering a compound fracture in his leg, a seperated shoulder, a broken rib and a collapsed lung. After a full recovery, Irving started every game for N.C. State last year and tied for the team lead in tackles.
Despite a combine experience that included as much time in the MRI machine as on the turf, Irving was selected with the 67th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.
"It was just a blessing," Irving said. "I felt like God had better plans for me than to sit in that ditch and die. I am embracing every chance I can get to live life and enjoy this opportunity the best that I can.”
On Saturday, Irving visited the Broncos team facilities along with the team's other day two selections, safety
Elway indicated the team will utilize Irving at middle linebacker, where he started during his senior season.
"He is another guy that has great, great instincts inside and really knows how to get to the football,” Elway said.
Brimming with natural ability, Irving said his traumatic experience motivated him to take no day for granted.
"I noticed that within a snap of a finger it can all be taken away," he said. "I want to go out and play every play as hard as I can, every practice as hard as I can, be at every meeting and do every work out. Just to be out there and take full advantage of it and appreciate the game for what it is really worth.”
A cross is tattooed across the undereside of Irving's left forearm, and the inscription "6-28-09" runs perpendicular to the bottom of the cross. The mark holds meaning for him, but Irving did not get inked as a self indulgence.
“It is not a reminder to me. It is a day I will never forget," Irving said. "It is just part of my story. When someone asks what it is about then I can share what I went through and maybe they are going through something and realize that if I could make it through that, then they can make it through whatever they are going through.”
READY TO LEARN
On the night when the Broncos drafted him with the 45th overall pick, Rahim Moore placed a call and looked at his cell phone in disbelief.
"They are my favorite athletes," Moore said. "I knew this was the right place for me because I want to be in the situation that they are in. I have to learn the ropes from players who have already paid their dues."
Dawkins told Moore to embrace the time after being drafted, and the safety from UCLA sounds ready to work. He personally thanked Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen, Head Coach John Fox, Elway and General Manager Brian Xanders for helping him realize his NFL dream.
"I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for 21 years," Moore said. "When I was six or seven years old, I used to pray to God that I wanted to be a difference maker for my family, and I wanted to put on one of these jerseys.
Humbled by the moment, Moore pledged to give "105 percent" to the organization and develop himself with the help of his new mentors.
“It is like what Ray Lewis says, it is a man’s game," Moore said. "I think it is the best of the best and the greatest. It is time where you can put all of your guts and everything -- sweat, blood and tears -- into it.”
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Orlando Franklin arrived at Dove Valley later than Irving and Moore, but the former University of Miami (Fla.) offensive tackle could not be missed at 6-foot-6 and 316 pounds. Jamaican-born and Canadian-bred, the offensive lineman said he doubts any other man in the NFL has a similar lineage. He moved to Toronto at 2 years old before moving to South Florida at 15 to pursue American football.
During his visit, Franklin admitted the events leading up to the draft made him think his international journey would not include the Broncos.
“I spoke with (Offensive Line Coach Dave Magazu) and he was supposed to come see me, but something happened where he never came to see me, so I never thought I would be ending up here," Franklin said. "But, he did tell me that he was interested in me and he called me yesterday. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was the happiest person in the world.”
Brought into the fold to play right tackle, Franklin said he has no qualms potentially protecting the blind side for lefty
Franklin started his first three college seasons at guard before becoming a tackle, so he's ready to perform at any of the five spots on the line if needed.
“Definitely mix it up," he said. "It makes football a lot more exciting.”
Elway has praised Franklin's size and nasty demeanor between the lines, and while the tackle said he would argue with an assesment of his play as dirty, he mainly just "likes to get after it."
“I am a physical player and I am going to play hard for 60 minutes,” Franklin said.