Becoming a Bronco: Will Parks recalls the big moments and emotions from his draft process

“I didn’t go to the Combine and I didn’t get a Senior Bowl invite. I didn’t get an East-West Shrine [Game] invite. The only game I played in was the NFLPA [Collegiate] Bowl. I went crazy out there — a lot of built-up anger from not getting those invites. Obviously everybody wants to go on a big stage and things of that sort, but I kind [of used] whatever platform I had to the best of my ability and made do with it. …

“They give you a number to call the Combine guys to see if you have an invite. …

“I called every three days. I called the fifth, I called the eighth, I called the 14th, and I called the 21st. By that time it was right before the NFLPA bowl game, which was the 23rd. I made my last phone call and I went so crazy at the NFLPA bowl game, my agent was like, ‘Hey, man, you probably should get an invite to the Senior Bowl [and Combine]. And that didn’t happen. …

“At first, I was crying for, like, two days. I thought the only way I probably would make it was to get on the big stage, get on TV and showcase my talents to all 32 NFL teams. He was like, ‘You know what, man. You’re a grinder. I’m going to make sure you’re good. You just need to make sure you keep putting in the work. Nobody outworks you in the world.’ That’s always been my mindset growing up, and I kind of just stuck with it throughout the process. …

“After my Pro Day, I probably went on 10 visits, the Denver Broncos being one of them. I remember going into the meeting room with [former defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach] Joe Woods and [former assistant defensive backs] Coach Samson at the time, after they won a Super Bowl.

“Joe Woods said, ‘Hey, man, what is your agent saying as far as the round? What round do you think you’re going to go in?’ And my agent said the fifth. And he was like, ‘Nah, you might be gone before that.’ And when I heard that, I was like, ‘What?’

“I went upstairs to meet John Elway, and I sat in his office. He was like, ‘Hey, man, I had to get you in here. I didn’t want anybody to know that I was looking at you, but I think you could help us win a Super Bowl right now.’ I was like, ‘What? Naw, John Elway didn’t just tell me that!’

“That kind of boosted my confidence. I mean, I didn’t lose any confidence, but when you don’t have an invite to the Combine or the Senior Bowl or to the big places that everybody goes to — when you’re like me and you know you can do something — it’s kind of like a slap in the face.

Sixth-round pick S Will Parks in action during his collegiate career at Arizona. (AP Images)

“We celebrated at the Clarion Hotel, right outside the King of Prussia [shopping center]. … My dad said, ‘Hey, man, even if you don’t get drafted, we’re going to celebrate you being alive and being able to go through this kind of process. Who would ever think that from where we come from that you would ever be in this position?’

“Obviously I waited until the third day: Round 6, pick 219. I got the call from the Denver Broncos, and that’s when my life changed. …

“Before it happened, we walked through the hotel. Everything was calm. And that was the first day. I looked at the first day, and I was like, ‘Hey, man, somebody might come and get be on the first day.’ And the first safety selected off the board was, I think, Keanu Neal or Karl Joseph. One of those two guys were selected, and I was like, ‘OK. Well, whatever.’ …

“Then the second day came around and I’m like, ‘OK, now it’s my day. Someone is going to call me.’ And that’s when the Broncos took Justin Simmons. I was like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’ And he was the eighth safety selected. I was the 16th safety selected. …

“The third day came around, and at that time, I started to get the free-agent calls. I got calls from the Packers, the Chicago, Redskins, Cowboys — a whole bunch of teams.

“Then a different number called me. It was a 720 number. It was John Elway. He goes, ‘Hey, Will, how are you doing?’ I was like, ‘I’m doing good, sir. How are you doing?’

“I was like, ‘I already know what you’re about to say, man. I’m going to consider visiting you guys as a free agent.’ … And he was like, ‘Wait, what? What do you mean? No, we’re drafting you.’ I was like, ‘What?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, we’re taking you right now. Look at the screen.’

“I looked at the screen, and I don’t know. I thought I’d seen a bunch of fish just circling my head. I thought I was in a dream, like I bumped my head and woke up. … And it was true. [Former head coach Gary] Kubiak got on the phone at the time, and Joe Woods got on the phone, … Wade and all those guys. I felt like right then and there, there was that family energy. That atmosphere — that ‘We want you here’ feeling. And that’s what you want as a player. …

“Everybody [in my room] was crying. And everybody kind of was mad that I went that late. When you have a family that understands that, it goes to show how much they pay attention and how much they understand what’s at stake here. They knew I shouldn’t have went that late, but it happened. And I’m thankful for it, because it makes me hungry to this day. …

“The day of the draft, I trained that night. I talked to [Executive Vice President of Public and Community Relations] Pat Smyth and I did interviews and talked to some lady in the front office, and she was like ‘You have to report out here in a week and a half. May 6.' … They booked a flight and I came out here with just two suitcases. After I got out of college, all of my clothes from Philly were with me. … I had all my clothes and my toothbrushes. Everything that I had in my life was in those two bags. I boarded out here and I was like, ‘I ain’t going back.’ …

“We definitely are forever thankful for God for putting us in that position and the opportunity that this great organization, starting with Pat Bowlen, all the way down to the janitor, has given me and my family to this day.

“But as far as the draft process, I don’t really care too much for it. I feel like if you can play football, or if you can make plays and put an organization in the best place possible to win a Super Bowl, then they’ll come and find you. It don’t matter where. These guys have been around for numerous years. John Elway, probably the best quarterback to play the game of football, he sees talent. And guys around the league see talent, so if you can play football, they’ll come and find you.

“And if you don’t think you have an opportunity, then make one.”

Will Parks poses for a photo after signing his rookie contract in 2016.
Will Parks poses for a photo after signing his rookie contract in 2016.

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