ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Nearly five years ago, running back Knowshon Moreno was selected 12th overall by the Broncos in the 2009 NFL Draft.
At the end of the 2013 regular season, he stands as the only Bronco in team history to finish a season with more than 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.
But the road between those milestones has been anything but smooth.
"I think it says a lot about his makeup and how he just stuck to it," Head Coach John Fox said of the running back's 2013 season – his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign.
"We brought in different backs throughout that time. I wasn't here for his whole five years so I can't speak to when I wasn't here, but since I've been here I've seen a remarkable change in just how he prepares and how he performs."
In his first season, he led the Broncos with 947 yards on 247 carries and had nine total touchdowns in 16 games. He led the team in rushing again in 2010 and pulled in a then-career high 37 catches, but an ACL injury shortened his 2011 season.
At the start of the next season, Moreno was behind Willis McGahee on the depth chart, and by Week 3 he was listed as inactive and stayed there until McGahee suffered a season-ending injury in Week 11 against the Chargers.
After eight weeks of scout-team and special-teams duty in practice, Moreno was re-activated.
Since that time, Moreno has been one of the best running backs in the NFL. From Week 12 of 2012, when he took over as the starting back, through the 2013 season, he ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards and fifth in rushing touchdowns.
"I guess it did (motivate me) a little bit, but at the same time, it's a business," Moreno said earlier this season of his inactive status in 2012. "Sometimes you can't control everything that happens. You only can do what you can do just to make yourself better. At that time I was just trying to make the team better by doing special teams and doing scout work for the offense.
"I never got down or anything. I have some great teammates that had my back at all times."
In the final six games of the 2012 season, Moreno tallied more than 500 yards and three touchdowns and despite missing some of OTAs recovering from injury, he came back in 2013 even stronger.
Not only was he the team's leading rusher, he finished the regular season with the fourth-most rushing yards in the AFC. With three receiving touchdowns in addition to his 10 on the ground, Moreno tied for fifth in the NFL for touchdowns this season.
Moreno's fifth NFL season has been, unquestionably, his best.
Eight times this season Moreno had more than 100 combined yards and he set a new career high at New England with 224 rushing yards. Twice he had a multi-touchdown game, including in Week 6 against Jacksonville when he found the end zone three times.
When the dust settled on the 2013 regular season, Moreno had set new career highs in starts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, catches and receiving yards while tying his career mark for receiving touchdowns.
And through all of those touches, he didn't lose a single fumble.
"I think I've said it before," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "He has just been just a rock for us back there. He has been a downhill runner, has run hard, has been excellent on the screen, he catches the little 5-yard passes and turns them into 10-and-12-yard gains. He is always going downhill and my opinion is that that is tough for a defense when a guy is downhill as opposed to side-to-side.
"I think he's delivering a lot of blows and he's been just rock solid for us all season and I'm very happy for him."
But now, the regular season has expired and the Broncos have turned all of their attention to the postseason and all those numbers, stats and records from the regular season have been rendered meaningless.
"It's like the first game all over again," Moreno said. "Beginning of the season, things are sped up that much faster. It's a one-game elimination."
Moreno said that the key for the success of the running game this year has been focusing on consistency and not trying to do too much. Taking what the defense gives was another point of emphasis.
As simple as they sound, those can be challenging for a player who plays with a high amount of energy and emotion. No moment better exemplifies Moreno's intensity than when cameras caught tears streaming down his face in the minutes leading up to the Broncos game in Kansas City.
But that emotion is part of what makes him a great teammate – that and his unselfishness.
"I still think he has his moments on the field where he gets a little fired up, and that's a good thing though," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "We want to see that out of our guys. We can tell he cares a lot about (football), it means a lot to him. He wants to make sure he does the best he can for his teammates—he's such a team player. He never says anything about, 'Hey give me the ball,' or 'Can I get more touches?' He never says anything, and I know there have been a few situations where we probably should have stayed with him or gone to him more.
"He's always just done what we've asked him to do and that's really been impressive."
Gase went on to praise Moreno's maturity, something that has been evidenced by both his increased production on the field and his role as a leader off of it.
Moreno said earlier this season that whatever question the younger running backs have, he's answered.
But the next question he must answer will be asked by the Chargers defense Sunday in the Divisional Round of the AFC playoff. Moreno acknowledged that it would be a tough game, but that's exactly what the team is preparing for.
Moreno's only other playoff experience came a year ago, but that game is the last thing on his mind.
"I'm not worried about last year, to tell you the truth," he said. "I'm ready for this year, ready for this new season. Last year is last year. Let's get it going this year."