Tuesday, March 8, was already a hectic day for Quinn Meinerz, even before he found out Russell Wilson was coming to Denver.
After buying a condo, he and his girlfriend were moving that day. Movers were in and out of the place they were leaving, and he was handling boxes and helping with the process.
Then his phone started acting up.
"Two of my good friends, Ryan and Joey, they texted me, like, 'Russ, wow, that's crazy! Russell Wilson!'" Meinerz told DenverBroncos.com. "I was like, 'What?'"
In a state of excitement and confusion, Meinerz opened Twitter to see for himself.
"I was like, 'Holy cow! That is crazy news that my friends just broke to me,'" Meinerz said with a laugh. "I guess that's the way news travels sometimes."
For players and fans alike, the news caused a practically palpable excitement, naturally.
"I'm really excited to play with another player like that [who], in this league, is so respected and is such a great quarterback and a great player," Meinerz said. "… As I keep unfolding in my young career, I'm excited to learn and take some piece of his game and see how I can put it in mine and just see what I can learn from him. It's going to be an honor to try to win a lot of games with him this year and be able to protect him."
In his rookie season, Meinerz started nine games and showed great potential with his combination of size and speed, though it came somewhat unexpectedly because of injuries to veteran Graham Glasgow. With Glasgow returning, a starting role is not ensured for Meinerz, but he understood that coming into his rookie season, too.
"I kind of knew coming in last year that I was going to be trying to fight for possibly the center job and see where I can solidify a spot being a backup," Meinerz said. "So that was kind of my role last year, and I'm going to kind of be coming in the same way, trying to find that starting job, see what I can do. Obviously the best five are going to be starting at the end of the day, and I'm just going to do what I can to make sure I'm one of those five."
While Meinerz' regular-season experience has come solely at guard, General Manager George Paton told The Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran in February that Meinerz could compete for a spot there or at center, where he largely worked during training camp and during preseason games a year ago.
"He can be a really good guard," Paton told O'Halloran. "I wouldn't limit him to guard; I think he could be a really good center. He has the size, he's athletic and he's really smart. We'll see what the coaches think of this [offensive line] group, but I think we have some pieces."
The preseason action at center was invaluable, Meinerz said. He had taught himself how to snap during his COVID-canceled 2020 season before entering the NFL, and being able to work at the position and conduct a silent count on the road in Seattle and Minnesota were important developments.
"It was really cool to add that and to show confidence in being able to not only shotgun snap, also do snapping under center and being able to run and pass," Meinerz said. "So, I was just able to add value to myself and also add value to the team. That way, if I'm not one of the starting five, that I can also be an interior swing player in case something does happen."
In a new offensive scheme implemented by Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett, the Broncos are expected to return to the kind of offense that was the template for success in the 1990s and 2000s under Ring of Fame coach Mike Shanahan. The run game is expected to use and outside-zone scheme, which could pay massive dividends for a player like Meinerz, who has an unnatural quickness and mobility for his size in the NFL.
"It's going to add a good phase of the game for us," Meinerz said. "We're going to be stretching the field, and like Coach Hackett said, we're going to make the defense play every inch of that field. So, as we get ready to start watching some film, I'm definitely going to watch some Green Bay Packers film and some San Francisco 49ers film, because I know those are some teams — well, one, we have lots of coaches who are coming from those teams, and that kind of seems like the way that our offense is going. So I'm excited to be able to use the athleticism that I have to stretch the field, get into play-action — and also we have a great backfield, so running the ball is always going to be fun."
All that — a new star at quarterback and an explosive offense — adds up to incredible potential, as Meinerz understands. But what's on paper cannot become what's real just because it's there.
"There's obviously a lot of talk of the potential," Meinerz said. "People are already throwing out the word 'Super Bowl' and everything. And the way I look at it is, there's still a lot of work that's going to have to be done. We're still going to have to mesh together as a team. Every year is a new team, regardless. … You have new draft picks coming in, you have some people that are traded around and stuff. … I think it's a very exciting position to be in, but now there's a lot more work that has to be done to make this next season of Broncos, this next team. To be special, we have to do a lot of work together."
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