ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** Case Keenum has long fought past expectations.
The Broncos' newest quarterback had only one scholarship offer out of high school and became a historically proficient college quarterback at Houston. And then after NFL decision-makers let him go undrafted, he fought for spots on multiple teams before making his case as a dependable quarterback in 2017 with the Vikings.
So as the Broncos evaluated Keenum's fit, his determination proved to be a factor in why they ultimately decided he'd be the team's top target in free agency.
"If you look at Case's history and what he's done, he's come through a lot being undrafted, but he's battled his way through everything," President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said.
Now as Keenum begins the next chapter of his career, he has his eyes on his next battle: proving himself as a consistent, long-term starting quarterback.
"I think the two years is an opportunity for me to continue to prove myself as a starting quarterback, as a franchise quarterback and as someone that a team and a franchise can count on," Keenum said. "… For me, I've earned everything I've gotten. Nothing has ever been handed to me and I want to continue to earn everything from this point on."
For that to be the case, Keenum's breakout 2017 season that saw him pass for 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions must be just the beginning.
A day after signing his contract, Case Keenum was officially introduced as a Bronco at a press conference with John Elway and Vance Joseph on Friday. (Photos by Gabriel Christus)
On Friday, as Keenum reflected on his growth, he emphasized that his progression has been consistent from year to year, and that wouldn't stop just because he had the best year of his career thus far.
"I'm not the same player I was five years ago, four, three, even last year," Keenum said. "I'm going to be a different player this year — and by different, I mean I've gotten better each year. I understand the pro game better, I understand pro defenses better, I understand how the flow of the game goes and knowing as a quarterback what's important — third-down, two-minute, red-zone and those crucial situations that as a rookie you're just trying to get the play off and get the ball downfield.
"It's a craft, and I've really worked every day of my entire career on being the best quarterback that I can be and taking the things from all these coaches that I've ever had and all the players that I've ever been around. I'll be different, and I'm going to be better."
As Head Coach Vance Joseph sees it, that mindset was a result of the circumstances that Keenum fought through at various steps in his career.
"Most guys like Case Keenum, when they play and survive, they get better and better each year," Joseph said. "He said it, he's going to be better this year. To have a chance to finally be 'the guy' walking into the building — this is his first time being that guy — and he's excited about it. Those guys who play and survive, they get better. Most guys who play and don't survive, they're out of the league. For him to be here at this moment and be our guy, with what he's gone through as a free agent out of college, and the work he's put in with four or five teams, he's hardened because of that process."
That kind of drive will be a welcome addition to the Broncos' offense, which greatly struggled to limit turnovers and sustain drives in 2017. But Elway knows that his and the rest of the front office's efforts will be instrumental in facilitating further improvement and success for Keenum.
"I think he may just be hitting his stride right now," Elway said. "… Obviously Case was in a great situation last year with the Vikings, and my plan is to put him in that same situation this year to where he can be successful and have the [same kind of] year — if not a better year this year than he had last year and continuing on."
If that happens, Keenum may finally have fewer things to prove in his future.