As the Broncos head toward training camp, DenverBroncos.com is taking a detailed look at several members of this year’s rookie class. And aside from Denver’s coaching staff, who better to call than their college coaches? These players honed their techniques while at school, and their coaches know better than most what to expect from these rookies.
The series continues with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who reflected on Josey Jewell.
Aric DiLalla: Could you offer me a scouting report on Josey and what kind of player he is?
Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz: The first two words that would come to my mind are extremely productive and also, maybe more importantly, extremely impactful. Those are the two things I would think of.
AD: What was it like to coach Josey?
KF: Oh, it was easy. He didn’t require much direction or encouragement, that’s for sure. Probably the ironic thing about it all is he was a guy we weren’t sure whether or not to offer him a scholarship. And it’s funny, we’ve had that with a couple of our really good players here. We offered basically a week before signing, and he was not being heavily recruited. Yet everything he did in high school, he just did it really well. He was always successful [at] any sport that he played and his academics. That’s just kind of how he’s wired. We ignored the obvious and tried to make it a lot harder than it had to be. He got on campus, and right from the first day, we knew we had a really good football player and it seemed like maybe a special football player.
AD: Aside from the outrageous tackling numbers he put up, what sort of legacy is he going to leave on your program?
KF: I think he had a really serious approach. It was clear that he had purpose every time that he took the field in practice. Josey doesn’t say a lot. He’s not necessarily a real vocal guy. But he’s extremely intense, extremely determined. And he just went about his business in a way that made everybody else better, just because of the [standard] that he set with his work ethic. He’s the same way in our building that he was on the practice field or in the weight room. Everything he did — his academics are the same way — he did it with a high standard. The other thing I would share with you, which kind of reflects all that, he’s the first three-time captain we’ve ever coached. Our sports information folks went back and traced it, and they can go back as far as the ‘30s, and he’s the first three-time captain in the history of the program. Our players vote for the captains. We don’t select them as coaches. So at a very early age in his career, his teammates recognized what his value was to our football team.
AD: If there’s room for him to improve at this level, where would that be?
KF: Every player can improve, and you guys have some really good players on your team. I’m sure that the reason they’re good is that’s their attitude. I think that’s the same thing with Josey. I think in the draft process, I’ll just relay a story that came to mind for me. I think some of the NFL people and some of the draft gurus probably struggled a little bit with him as a prospect, much like we did five years ago. And we almost made a huge mistake by not recruiting him. But in the world we live in right now, we all get so hung up on measurables and times. Those maximum performance tests don’t always measure what kind of football player a guy is going to be or how impactful a person can be. My flashback was [about] his 40[-yard dash] time up at the Combine. He tested better here at our Pro Day, but his Combine 40-time was not as good as it had to be, and I’m old enough to remember being a coach here when I would ask scouts about [former Ohio State and Detroit Lions player] Chris Spielman. They’d look at me and say, “Really good player, but I don’t know if he’s fast enough.” And I’m thinking to myself, “He may not be, but every time the ball’s thrown 20 yards down the field, he’s right there knocking the crap out of the guy.” Sometimes those measurables don’t tell the whole story. Josey will get great coaching there, and more importantly, he’ll take the coaching he gets and work hard to get better at the things that they deem important for him to focus on.
AD: A couple of the Broncos’ other draft picks — DaeSean Hamilton from Penn State and Troy Fumagalli from Wisconsin — are guys you went up against. What kind of challenges did they pose for your defense?
KF: They’re just good, productive players. Both come out of winning programs, very good programs. I think there’s a lot to be said for that as well. You’re getting guys that are winners and are used to that. They want to keep doing it. Both of those guys have that going for them. Both of them really had nice college careers and were key players on big teams. Fumagalli, if I’m not mistaken, was a walk-on. Usually those Penn State guys are a little bit more heavily recruited than the Iowa and Wisconsin group. Fumagalli was a walk-on, and all I know is he was a total pain in the neck for several years trying to defend him. I’m not sure we did a great job of it any time we faced him.