ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — KJ Hamler's recovery has been even more impressive than previously understood.
It was already shocking to see Hamler doing toe-tapping footwork drills during the team's voluntary veteran minicamp sessions; one video posted to Twitter caused a fan to reply, in all caps, "doesn't even look like he got hurt."
But as Hamler revealed Wednesday, it wasn't just a torn ACL that he was recovering from; he also had his hip repaired, as he also hurt it on the same play.
"It was kind of a double whammy, really," Hamler said. "That was probably the hardest part. You have to be really careful because of the hip and then the knee, and it's all on the same side."
This isn't the first time the young Broncos receiver has dealt with a serious injury rehab process, as he recovered from an ACL tear during his senior season in high school. But now, with more advanced technology and greater resources, Hamler said he feels like he's able to improve more quickly.
"I'm not starting from scratch; I'm starting from experience," Hamler said. "When people saw me running routes at 19, 20 miles an hour seven months out and I'm running 25-yard outs and stuff like that, it's just — it's a mentality. Twenty percent is mental. After you get past that hump, it's fine. So I really wasn't scared to go out there and do any routes or cut any type of way. I just try to do it how I used to, and it just felt normal."
The process, however, was much more difficult emotionally because while he was going through the physical challenge of rebuilding strength and motion in his knee, he lost one of the most important people in his life in his grandmother.
"Man, that was my rock, really," Hamler said. "Nobody else really took care of me more than her, besides my actual mother. I used to take her to get her hair done, get her food every time I come home. And she was going through struggles. She had Parkinson's disease and things of that nature. It was days I didn't want to show up to therapy, and I always thought about her. She's doing therapy, so I've got to go do it. I know she wouldn't give up, so I ain't gonna give up."
In the early months of the recovery, Hamler was in "a dark spot" in his life, he said, but what will finally get him out of there is simple.
"Just playing ball again," Hamler said. "I feel like when you take something that you love away, you kind of figure out, like, 'What am I gonna do?'"
Since being able to return to football activities, Hamler has focused on figuring out what he's going to do on the field with the Broncos' new quarterback, Russell Wilson.
To best identify his potential given Wilson's arm strength and accuracy, Hamler has spoken with Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett. Like Hamler, Lockett is a speedy receiver and was able to capitalize on those skills; over the past four years, Lockett has caught 36 touchdowns.
"Just being in his ear, always asking him questions," Hamler said of the advice he received from Lockett. "Just basically being a sponge and absorbing stuff, because Russ wants stuff very specific. 'I want it at this spot at this time, this area.' So just picking his brain. I kind of see myself playing that Tyler Lockett role this year, so just trying to be a sponge and just listen to him."
While Hamler is not yet 100 percent — he said he plans on being back in time for training camp — he said he's "progressing every day" and "well ahead of schedule."
It may have surprised people, but perhaps they should have expected his recovery to have gone this quickly. After all, speed is what Hamler knows best, and once he's fully back, that's what he expects from himself.
"My speed ain't going nowhere," Hamler said. "I should be faster."