The last time Colby Wadman suited up for a competitive football game was Nov. 19, 2016. He was a member of the UC Davis Aggies, punting against Sacramento State, at Aggie Stadium, which holds about 10,000 people. He punted three times for an average of 48.3 yards — including a 61-yarder — in a 48-30 Aggies win.
Then he was left to hope that he'd get a shot at the next level.
Wadman gave himself three years to pursue his dream — and he may have achieved it just under the wire, as Wadman could suit up for the Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Broncos starting punter Marquette King is officially listed as doubtful with a thigh injury, and Wadman is the next man up.
Back then, though, he sold pizzas when he wasn't training.
"It was just something where I was trying to pay the bills, pay the rent while I was living with my teammates," Wadman said Friday. "I had a plan: three years after graduation. That’s what I was going to give it. I was just going to devote everything to football, work a small job like that just to pay the rent."
In December 2017, Wadman moved back with parents in Thousand Oaks, California and redoubled his efforts. He'd kick every day, often by himself, but he also would text with other specialists in the area who were also looking for a chance among the professional ranks.
"I was just kicking, going out by myself, kicking every single day," Wadman said. "I’d find some guys maybe I knew around town and just kick with them. Pretty much just mostly by myself."
After months of dedication to his football craft, he could be just days away from getting that chance. Though Wadman has never kicked in an NFL game — regular season or preseason — he's prepared if his debut does indeed come at MetLife Stadium this week.
"I’m just doing everything I can to stay ready, whatever the coaches are telling me in meetings [and] out on the field," Wadman said. "I’m just doing whatever I can to be ready, stay confident with my punts, and when and if my number is ever called, I’ll be ready for it."
Wadman, who was signed to Denver’s practice squad on Sept. 26, feels that he has earned the trust of his teammates and coaches.
"Obviously, I haven’t kicked in two years, but being out here in practice, working out with the team, everything like that, they’re all telling me how much they believe in me," Wadman said. "They have confidence in me. If I do end up getting the call, I feel ready for it."
He's earned the confidence of Special Teams Coordinator Tom McMahon, too.
"Very high confidence," McMahon said Friday. "He does a great job hanging the ball up — good, directional punter. I like his mindset, he’s very calm here. Consistent production is what we’ve seen so far [from him]."
If he does indeed debut on Sunday, Wadman has a tough challenge outside of possible first-game nerves. Jets punt returner Andre Roberts has the league's second-highest return average, and he returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown in Week 1.
"He’s a bigger guy, he’s a powerful runner, he breaks tackles," Head Coach Vance Joseph said Thursday. "When you’re facing a guy like that, the game plan is critical — where you punt, how you punt, hanging the ball high. The punter is always a critical part of the game plan, but especially when you have a guy like Roberts returning."
Still, Joseph, like McMahon, is confident that Wadman, if called upon, will execute the plan against Roberts.
"He’s been good," Joseph said. "He’s obviously a young guy, but he’s got talent and he’s a smart guy. If he had to go for us, I’d be comfortable with Colby."
But punting is only part of a punter's duties. Wadman will also be counted on to hold the ball on Brandon McManus' placekicks on Sunday if King is unable to play. Wadman held throughout his college career and as a high schooler as well. He feels that the group workouts he did during his time between UC Davis and the Broncos helped him stay sharp in that area, too.
"We’d just meet up at some local high school, get some snaps in, get some kicks in, keep each other in shape," Wadman said. "Because it is different going out by yourself, trying to stay in game-ready shape if you have a full snap, a full hold and everything, so that was really the biggest reason to do stuff like that."
McMahon called Wadman "a very good holder." Even in limited time with long snapper Casey Kreiter and McManus, Wadman thinks the trio has developed solid chemistry.
"It’s been good," said Wadman of the communication among the trio. "Brandon feels comfortable with me holding. Casey’s getting the ball back there, getting the laces up for me. We feel good about it."
Making a professional debut in a crucial game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday may seem like a far cry from tiny Aggie Stadium, and an even farther cry from the high school fields he was practicing on just a few weeks ago.
But Wadman isn't fazed. To him, it's just another day doing what he's done for his entire football career.
"I’m just kicking, no matter where I’m at," Wadman said. "If it’s 10,000 people there or 60,000 people, I’m just kicking the ball. It’s the same thing at the end of the day."