ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** You can call Jacob Hester a fullback, as he is listed on the Broncos' official roster. You can call him a running back, too. But neither of these position descriptions would be completely accurate – at least not with the role he has right now.
"It's hard to find guys like that – to be able to play halfback, fullback. We throw him on the wing every once in a while; we can spread him out," explained Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase. "It's been a big point of emphasis this offseason to figure out how we get him on the field and use him a little more, whether he's playing tailback, fullback, an F-tight end and H-back.
"We're going to try to use him as many ways as possible."
That represents an expansion of duties for Hester, who worked almost exclusively in the backfield last year after signing with the Broncos last Nov. 26. He didn't play until his third game on Denver's 53-man roster, but remained in the lineup after that and ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the final three regular season games.
But the two games he spent on the inactive list were crucial. It was in that time that he took a crash course in the Broncos offense.
"When I got here, they were like, 'Hey, in two weeks we expect you to play.' So, you have to learn it," Hester said. "I think that helped me learn it faster and even better. So, I really enjoyed the accelerated version I got."
Day after day and night after night, Hester had cram sessions, studying the offense with the two backup quarterbacks on the 2012 roster.
"I didn't see my wife and kids. I mean, I was me and Brock (Osweiler) and Caleb Hanie, when he was here, we were meeting here at 5 in the morning and then after practice we were meeting again," Hester said. "We didn't get home until 8 o'clock.
"It's a big offense and it can take a long time to learn."
And just when he learned one role, his responsibilities expanded. If they persist into the regular season, he becomes a crucial component of the Broncos' offense – and one uniquely suited to it. Someone who can play that many positions – and play them well – can single-handedly change the formations from play to play without necessitating a change in personnel. That represents a unique asset when the offense looks to accelerate its pace.
"If that's my role, I'd love to do it," said Hester. "It's been fun so far and any time you can change it up and do different things -- because a lot of defenses will treat me as a fullback at first and then you split out wide -- that creates problems and it gives you a lot of different things you can do.
"It's been fun so far, and hopefully we can continue doing it."
At LSU, where he played from 2004-07, he was usually lined up in the backfield, but was moved around by then-offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, now Florida State's head coach.
"When I was in college with Jimbo Fisher, the same kind of thing, I was always moved around. I played receiver, tight end, running back, fullback, even safety a little bit," Hester said. "So, it's something I've done before, something I'm comfortable with. I love the challenge of having to learn it all and do it all. It makes you better because you really learn the whole offense, not just your position."
Head coach John Fox described the 5-foot-11, 238-pound Hester as a "tweener." That term is often used as a reason why some draft prospects drop in value, but in the case of Hester, Fox clearly meant it as a compliment and a salute to his versatility.
"He's smart, he knows protections, he's got good hands, so he's been a tremendous addition for us," Fox said.
NFL coaches have been known to tell players to create their own role if an obvious one doesn't exist. If Hester sticks on the 53-man roster, his job will be one of the most unique in the sport – and to the Broncos, one of the most important, even if it can't be described by one position title.