ENGLEWOOD, COLO. --Less than 24 hours after they were drafted from around the country, the Denver Broncos' first three picks — defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Ronnie Hillman — visited the team's Dove Valley headquarters Saturday for the first time. There, they met with Owner/CEO Pat Bowlen, Head Coach John Fox, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and the rest of the Broncos staff. The turnaround was so short, Wolfe said the fact that he is now an NFL player still hasn't sunk in.
"It hasn't really hit me yet -- it's starting to with those cameras around -- but I think when I actually put the pads on, then I'll really feel it," Wolfe said. "I slept at the airport last night because I had a 6:30 a.m. flight. I got on the plane and flew out here from Pittsburgh."
Osweiler was in Arizona Friday night when his name was called. He knew the Broncos had some interest in him but that still didn't prevent him from feeling stress as Denver's second round pick approached.
"I had no idea I was going to get that phone call," Osweiler said. "Before Denver called me, I think we were around pick 53, 54, and I knew I wanted to be a Denver Bronco. I started getting anxious and nervous that they might not select me. It was getting kind of quiet and next thing you know, '303' (area code) pops up and I really couldn't control my emotions. I did a couple fist pumps and ran around the yard a little bit. It's such an honor to be here and I don't really think things could have worked out any better."
At 6-foot-7, Osweiler will be one of the tallest players in the league, while his fellow draft classmate, Hillman, will be one of the youngest. The former San Diego State running back doesn't turn 21 until the second week of the regular season, but he said he thinks that his age could be an advantage at a position where players can wear out relatively quickly.
Hillman said he has no regrets leaving school at such a young age now that he has been drafted. He wasn't so sure of himself before he got the call from Elway.
"Once you start seeing five running backs go in front of you, it's like, 'Did I make the right decision?'" Hillman said. "You're kind of like, 'I might get pushed back a little bit,' or you just get a little nervous. I found myself walking around, not trying to watch the draft. Every now and then I'd hear somebody else get picked, but when I got the call, I was excited."
TO GO OR NOT TO GO
Unlike Hillman and Osweiler, Wofle stayed in school and didn't enter the NFL Draft until the conclusion of his senior year.
He realized he had potential to play in the NFL during his sophomore season at Cincinnati, but is glad he waited a few years.
"I almost made the worst decision of my life and left; tried to enter the draft [a year early]," Wolfe said. "I had some smart people tell me it was a bad idea. I was sitting on my bed looking at my last seven dollars. I was tired of asking for stuff, tired of needing favors, I was ready to start doing things on my own. (Bearcats Head) Coach (Butch) Jones kind of talked me out of it."
Even though he had just seven dollars left, Wolfe recalled that Jones told him it would be a lot worse if he left.
"He said you're going to lose a lot of money if you leave [early]," Wolfe said.
So Wolfe stayed and helped Cincinnati win his third Big East championship in his four years at the school. He moved up the draft charts and had expectations of being drafted in the first round.
When he wasn't, he was a little disappointed, and that just worsened when Baltimore didn't take him with the 35th overall selection. But his mood quickly changed.
"I actually had a ton of contact with Baltimore," Wolfe said. "I thought for sure that Baltimore was going to take me with their pick. When I saw that they weren't, I went into panic mode. I started walking away from everybody because I didn't want everyone to see my face turn red and get mad. I started walking away and I see a Denver area code on my phone. It was exciting. I was shocked and just happy. I've heard a lot of good things about the area, the town and the program."
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
Osweiler and Hillman join a Broncos team that boasts talented and accomplished veterans at their respective positions.
Osweiler will watch Peyton Manning's every move while Hillman will look to Willis McGahee for tips.
"I hope that Peyton and myself can spark a great relationship," Osweiler said. "I hope he doesn't mind me looking over his shoulder and trying to take as many notes as I possibly can because that's what I'm here to do. I think I have a tremendous work ethic as well. I'm going to ask him, 'Hey, what time are we getting into the building? What are we doing today? What drills do you have?' I'm just going to try to match everything he does so I can continue to grow as a quarterback."
Fox said Friday night that Osweiler will compete for the No. 2 quarterback position with Caleb Hanie and Adam Weber as all three players will be behind Manning on the depth chart. However, Fox believes that Osweiler has a bright future -- in the future.
Osweiler recognizes that and hopes he can parlay his knowledge gained from Manning and the Broncos staff into success down the road.
"For Mr. Elway to take me in the second round and show that trust that he has in me and the upside he thinks I have, I want to go out and there and prove him right," Osweiler said. "I want to be able to have him look back 10 years from now, 15 years from now and have him be very proud about that selection and let him know that he did make the right selection in picking me and bringing me into Denver."
While Osweiler is taking reps with Manning, Hillman will be nearby working out with a 10th-year veteran in McGahee.
The players are different in size and playing style, but Hillman nevertheless is excited to learn from a player of McGahee's status.
"I'm young, so I've got a lot of room to grow," Hillman said. "I get to learn from a 10th-year vet in Willis McGahee, so I can't wait to get here."
Hillman has been compared to current New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles and Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, whom Hillman passed in many of the record books at San Diego State.
"It's flattering," Hillman said. "He's a Hall of Fame running back, so whenever you get compared to somebody like that, it's a humbling experience. Like I said, he's a great running back. I grew up watching him, and all I can do is be flattered that somebody would compare me to him."