ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Guard Zane Beadles prides himself on his commitment to the Denver community and his charitable work off the field.
But in a locker room full of players similarly devoted to using their status as prominent athletes to make a positive impact on the lives of others, Beadles didn't consider himself the favorite to be named the Broncos' recipient for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. But sure enough, it was Beadles who took home the recognition, rewarding him for his work with, among other initiatives, the Cakes for Cancer program and the Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists.
"I was definitely surprised," Beadles said. "I thought it was going to be a guy like (linebacker) Wesley Woodyard or (safety) David Bruton that do a lot in the community, but they said my name and it was a big surprise but a great honor."
Like the other Broncos who put forth time and effort for their favorite causes, the purpose of Beadles' efforts is not to gain attention. But that doesn't mean the recognition fails to create a special feeling.
"I think people don't understand that we don't really do it for awards like that," said cornerback Champ Bailey, who has received the honor twice in his Broncos career. "Everything comes from the heart. He's been consistent in the community since he has gotten here so he's well-deserving. I'm happy for him. It kind of rubs off on your teammates, and that's really what it's all about."
"That's a huge honor," Beadles said. "It's not the reason why I do it but it's great to be recognized and I think we, as athletes, are put in a great position and it's kind of our duty and a good thing for us to be able to give back."
In addition to Beadles' work off the field, he has drawn praise for the strides that he has made at guard in his third season in the NFL. He is currently the AFC's second-leading vote-getter at his position for the Pro Bowl, which would mark his first career appearance. His improved play has been a result of his increased comfort level within the Denver offense.
"Third year in the league, getting more comfortable with how the game's played in the NFL, playing with the same guys for multiple years now is huge and just getting more and more comfortable in this system – all those things combined definitely help," Beadles said.
Beadles' progress has also impressed Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy.
"Zane is someone we've had here for a couple years and I think every game that he's played, he's gotten better," McCoy said. "I think the way they're gelling up front is really -- they're doing a nice job."
A year after helping the Broncos lead the league in rushing, the Denver offensive linemen are once again performing at a high level in 2012, as the offense has averaged the second-most points per game in the NFL. For Beadles, a key factor has been lining up next to All-Pro tackle Ryan Clady, who is also in the running to be a Pro Bowl starter thanks to the fan vote.
"I'd like to think we help each other out but obviously he's a great player and it's a huge help for me to be able to play next to a guy like him," Beadles said.