ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In four years at the University of Alabama, Triandos Luke was the victim of bad timing, participating in perhaps the most tumultuous four years of that school's hallowed football history.
A program once known for national championships and dead-bolt stability at the top watched as a revolving door of coaches and systems paraded through the campus during Luke's years there. Four years. Four head coaches. Four different offensive schemes. It kept Luke from becoming the star that his natural gifts dictated he could have been, leaving him with relatively modest career totals of 90 catches, 1,072 yards and nine touchdowns. But it did give him vast experience in one key aspect of becoming a pro -- quickly grasping a system and a playbook.
Good timing blessed Luke when he moved from college matriculation to draft preparation. He turned in a solid week of work at the Senior Bowl, often outshining more prominent receivers by sprinting past cornerbacks for deep receptions on a daily basis during the hard-fought, tightly scrutinized practices.
A month later, he stunned the Scouting Combine by scorching the RCA Dome turf in the 40-yard dash.
"Four-three flat," Luke recalled.
It wasn't even his best time.
"Actually, I was training up in (New) Jersey and ran a 4.29. But it surprised me that I ran a 4.3. It was a blessing," he said. "I think it boosted my stock a whole lot. I think I surprised a lot of people.
"A lot of people didn't know I could run that fast because in my opportunities at Alabama, I didn't get to show my speed and my vertical ability."
Good timing helped him on the field, and vaulted him from an overlooked wideout into one who was projected by some publications as being worthy of a first-day pick. But perfect timing away from football yielded a lifelong bond.
Midway through his college years, Luke visited a children's hospital in Birmingham, Ala., a routine piece of altruism for Crimson Tide football players. As he walked through the hospital during one visit, he happened upon Jensen Jones, a young girl hospitalized because of injuries suffered in a car accident en route to a Crimson Tide home game.
But she was unaware of the visitor at her bedside. The injuries were so serious they left her comatose. As she gradually recovered, her parents told her of Luke's visit, and a friendship blossomed through letters and telephone calls.
Jensen soon healed to the point where she could watch her beloved Crimson Tide in person once again. When she returned to Tuscaloosa to watch Luke and his teammates face Mississippi State, the result seemed to come straight from a screenwriter's laptop.
"I hadn't scored a touchdown the whole year and I scored my first two touchdowns that day," Luke remembered. "She seemed to think that I was my lucky charm."
The two kept in touch, but did not actually meet again until last month, when Luke returned to Alabama between offseason camps. The Jones family invited Luke to their home in Smiths Station, Ala., for a barbecue.
"She asked me some personal questions. She asked me, 'Do you have a girlfriend?'" Luke recalled, smiling. "Just (to) sit down and get to know what she likes to do ... It was a blessing to meet her. She's a strong little girl."
And one with whom Luke maintains a bond, even as they are separated by a time zone and 1,000 miles. The Broncos' decision to draft Luke means the team has some new die-hard fans in eastern Alabama.
"I was kidding around a little bit with her saying, 'You should move to Denver so I can get in the lineup and get some more touchdowns,'" Luke said.
An extraordinary friendship, to be sure. But to Luke, it's nothing more than what his faith calls upon him to be.
"I believe that God put us here for a purpose," he said. "Any way we can help somebody, that's what we're supposed to do."
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