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Montee Ball Meets Hero Terrell Davis

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- What would you say if you came face-to-face with your childhood hero?

Would you stammer and stutter, overcome by awe? Would you genuflect or bow, like early 1990s public-access slackers Wayne and Garth? Or would you talk to him man-to-man and pick his brain, doing your best to hold back the childlike amazement that pounds within your heart?

Montee Ball chose option No. 3. Not that he wasn't a bit awestruck, but he's grown up now, and wanted to show a professional's diligence to his craft. This wasn't an autograph opportunity; it was a chance to learn.

"Honestly, what I told him is just how much pride he took in pass protection, and he told me, 'That's the quickest way to get on the field,'" Ball said. "Like he said, 'That's a lot of money right there, No. 18 (Peyton Manning),' so you've got to protect the pot of gold."

Blocking, Davis recalled, was how he first made himself useful and usurped a cadre of veterans to win the starting job as a rookie in 1995 after being buried on the depth chart when training camp began.

"That was really the reason why I started to play, or got in," Davis said. "Most running backs can run, most running backs can catch, but blocking is the key. If you can block, you will in the game. You will be that guy who becomes that complete back.

"For him, he seems to have every asset known to man, he seems to do everything pretty good. Now it's just a matter of him staying consistent with it, blocking, knowing how to catch, picking up the defense and really getting comfortable with the offense."

Which doesn't happen overnight, Davis said.

"A lot of times that takes a lot longer than we all think," he said. "But he seems to be grasping everything fairly quickly, to be honest with you."

Ball first came to adore Davis when his Bronco fandom took root in the late 1990s. Ball's father was a Broncos fan, and Montee simply "jumped on the bandwagon."

"I watched the Broncos because my dad watched them," Ball said. "Then I saw No. 30, and I'm like, 'Man, I want to be just like him.'"

For years, Ball's adoration was the boundless love of a childhood fan. But in recent days, he knew Davis would be coming to Dove Valley on an NFL Network assignment. The primary focus was Davis and Ball together on camera, the past and future of the Broncos' running-back lineage together as mentor and protege, teacher and student.

Imagine your emotions if your icon was rearranging his travel schedule just to see you -- and you'll know what Ball felt on Friday.

"It's surreal," Ball said.

"I've been thinking about this moment since I've been seven years old about meeting Terrell Davis and I finally did. It's crazy right now for me."

The same was true in reverse.

"For him to come full circle, to come back and say, 'Hey, you're the reason why I started watching the Broncos,' -- it kind of hits the heart a little bit," said Davis. "You start to get choked up a little bit.

"I think, more importantly for that, he talked about how he watched my interviews and he watched me away from the football field. That just goes to show that my parents raised me right and that there's people out there who are watching us, and we are role models. It's good to see that it rubbed off on somebody.

"For me, it's good and now I'll get a chance to watch him and hopefully he'll be able to inspire some kid who's seven years old watching him play. It's kind of like a pay it forward-type thing."

Someday, Ball hopes to do that. But there are three immediate tasks in front of him. One: call Mom and Dad and tell them about meeting your hero. Two: become adept at pass protection. Three: prove you can carry on his legacy.

The first one is done. The next two are in progress.

"He's Montee Ball for a reason. He's not a guy who came out of nowhere. He's Big Ten-this, Big Ten-that, got all the records," Davis said. "He's got a great pedigree behind him and now he just needs to go ahead and put this thing to work."

Friday, Davis and Ball met as hero and devoted fan. When they meet in the future, they and the Broncos hope it's as equals -- running backs who led the way to wins and championships.

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