ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --
He set the top two single-season touchdown records in school history. He threw for 300 or more yards in more games than any quarterback in Tar Heel annals and finished as the third-leading passer in the university's record books.
But in what proved to be the final game of his collegiate career, Renner suffered a detached labrum and a fractured shoulder against N.C. State in the middle of his senior campaign.
He displayed his durability when he returned to throw a 9-yard pass just two plays after the injury, but that would prove to be his final pass. On November 6, 2013, he underwent surgery that ended his season and derailed his NFL Draft plans.
"With my injury, getting hurt game week seven, then obviously some things that happened my senior year, I was hoping from fifth-to-seventh (round), and it just didn't happen," Renner said. "Obviously everybody has the dream of getting drafted, but I braced myself for what happened."
What happened was Renner went undrafted.
But the Broncos had their eye on him, and the signal caller received a call from Broncos Quarterbacks Coach Greg Knapp immediately after the draft.
Denver signed him as a college free agent.
"I was on a plane the next day," Renner said. "It was a 24-hour turnaround of my life. I've been here ever since and it's kind of been a whirlwind of just studying the playbook and getting straight into football. But it's been a ton of fun. This whole franchise is really special with all the past history of winning seasons. It's just an honor to be here."
Last weekend, Renner took part in a rookie minicamp along with 36 other players -- including one other quarterback, North Texas' Derek Thompson.
He acknowledged that at times "it was a little rough," but he believes he took advantage of every snap.
Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase agreed.
“They’re doing a good job," he said of the two quarterbacks during the minicamp. "It’s coming fast at them and they’ve done a good job of picking up our terminology and being able to execute out at practice. It gets a little tougher when we’re going on air, then all of a sudden you throw a defense in. (Defensive Coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) does a great job of throwing a whole bunch of different concepts at us. Those guys have done a good job of picking up what we’re doing and then trying to execute on the field.”
Most of all, the rookie minicamp was a chance for Renner to learn.
That chance was a big reason why the quarterback pegged Denver as his ideal destination after the draft.
"I think for a young quarterback, the best transition period is the learning transition. I think sometimes if you're forced into playing right away, or you're forced into a situation that you're not ready for, it can force you out of this league pretty quick," Renner said. "I thought this was the best fit for me to learn. That's really all I'm trying to do -- trying to get my foot in the door in this league. Just trying to make the team any way -- practice squad, any way I can. I think this was the best situation to learn from the greatest to ever play. How could you not want to come to Denver? It's obviously a winning team and a Super Bowl contender every year."
In the week leading up to his first NFL minicamp, Renner had a chance to sit in meetings with
His main takeaway from those meetings and the minicamp? The tempo.
He approached the minicamp like it was a game week -- soak in the game plan as quickly as possible and get ready to play.
"I think if you can put in the coaches' minds that you can handle a lot of stuff in a short amount of time -- that's how I kind of viewed it," he said.
Renner knows that his reps are "probably going to be few and far between" when the veterans join the fray, so he wants to make sure he stays on top of the playbook mentally when he's not getting the physical snaps.
It can be an uphill battle for an undrafted quarterback to make a roster, but Head Coach John Fox said it's hard at any position. And the Broncos picked up Renner for a reason.
"It’s as competitive as it gets in the world as far as the sport of football," Fox said. "A lot of it will depend on how fast he can catch up. We’ve got a lot of smart guys and it starts with the starter. It’s survival of the fittest and he’ll have to learn fast -- and I’m sure he’s capable of it."
For now, Renner will stay buried in the playbook to make sure he's ready, as the club's first OTA practice is just around the corner -- Wednesday, May 28.
And the fact that he went undrafted will only serve to fuel him. He said he has a "linebacker mentality" when it comes to the chip on his shoulder.
"I'm just trying to prove that I'm worthy of a roster spot, if that's available," he said. "I'm going to try to make the most of this opportunity, because it doesn't matter where you get drafted, it's about what you do with your opportunity."