Ahead of the Broncos’ game against the Chargers in Week 5, Head Coach Vic Fangio decided to make defensive lineman Mike Purcell active to give the team’s run defense a boost. It worked. Purcell, a veteran player who bounced around the NFL before signing with Denver this offseason, helped shore up the Broncos’ run defense and has been a major piece of Denver’s defense over the last month. Now a starter, Purcell has taken advantage of his opportunity. We caught up with Purcell before a recent practice about his high school alma mater, reuniting with Fangio and his plans for the future.
Aric DiLalla: What does it mean as a Highlands Ranch High School alum to be back in Denver and get to play for the hometown team?
Mike Purcell: “It’s just a great feeling. I think anybody would like that opportunity to play for their hometown team or their favorite team growing up.”
AD: What’s it like for your family and friends?
MP: “They loved it. Me and my family live in Idaho now — it’s where my wife’s from — so being able to be back here for most of the year, especially for football season, is a cool feeling.”
AD: Have you gotten to get back to Highlands Ranch?
MP: “I went once at the end of training camp. I got to talk to the team, and they’ve done well the last three games. I think they’re on a three-game win streak.”
AD: What was it like being back?
MP: “It was different. Nothing much has changed in the high school itself. Any time anybody gets to go back to their old stomping grounds, it’s a cool feeling.”
AD: What have these past few weeks been like for you to get back on the field and to establish yourself as a starter?
MP: “Every week I’m going to prepare like I’m going to play, and the last [few] weeks my number has been there to start. It’s just that much more that I have to do to help this team win.”
AD: What does it mean that Head Coach Vic Fangio put that kind of faith in you?
MP: “I’ve been with Vic for a long time. I came into this defense when I was a rookie [in San Francisco] and stayed with him a couple years. I even spent some time with him in Chicago. He believes in me. Being able to play this defense, play what I need to — I feel like my football smarts have gotten that much better since my rookie year [in regards to] blocking schemes, how offenses want to attack his defense. He has faith in me, and I’ve just got to go out there and prove it.”
AD: Was reuniting with him one of the appealing things about signing here?
MP: “Yeah, [but] I was playing in the [Alliance of American Football]. As a free agent last year I played in the AAF. So any team that would’ve [given] me a chance, I was all for it. But Denver happened to be the one that came first.”
AD: How difficult was it to keep the faith that you’d get back to the NFL when you were in the AAF?
MP: “I’m just always going to keep working. I’ve played with a chip on my shoulder since high school. I always play with a chip on my shoulder. It’s not only to prove people wrong but to prove myself right. I’ll just keep fighting no matter what.”
AD: What do you think you need to do to keep improving your game?
MP: “We’ve just got to keep attacking every week. We can’t get down if we lose one game like we did [against Kansas City]. We’ve just got to keep fighting and keep rolling and keep growing in this defense together and as a team, as well.”
AD: There’s a sentiment that you have to be tough to stop the run. Is there a sense of pride involved with that toughness and being able to stop the run?
MP: “It’s always big, especially if the team has good running backs [or] if they’ve got dual threats. To stop the run and force the offense to be one dimensional one way or another, it’s huge. That’s my job to stop the run. That’s what I do.”
AD: How hopeful are you that you can carve out a long-term future here?
MP: “I’m always hopeful for it. I’ve just got to keep working, but we’ll keep it one week at a time, one game at a time and what comes from it all will come eventually.”