ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As a pair of rookies get settled in Denver, they'll share a connection with the team's past.
When tight end Greg Dulcich and cornerback Damarri Mathis recently selected their jersey numbers, they chose numbers that have a lasting meaning in Denver.
Dulcich, the Broncos' third-round pick, selected No. 80 in part because it's the same number that Ring of Famer Rod Smith donned during his career in Denver. Smith wore the number as he built a stellar career in which he broke nearly every receiving record in franchise history. More than 15 years after his career, Smith still remains at the top of the record books in receiving yards, receptions and receiving touchdowns.
And for Dulcich, who was a walk-on at UCLA, Smith's path provides inspiration.
"[He's] a guy that did it as a free agent and reminds me of how I was a walk-on," Dulcich said Friday. "You've got to carry yourself with a mentality that … everything you've got to take."
Dulcich will learn more about Smith as his career unfolds, but he already has a sense of Smith's standing in Broncos history.
"He's one of the greats," Dulcich said, "and it's really, truly an honor to wear the same number as him."
Mathis' selection, meanwhile, was inadvertent. When he chose No. 27, he wasn't aware of its legacy in Denver. Since choosing the number, though, he's become aware of its history — which is shared by Hall of Famer Steve Atwater and the late Darrent Williams.
Mathis deflected the expectations that could come with wearing the number, saying he'd let the media handle the comparisons.
"I just control what I can control to the best of my ability and just come in, like I said, ultimately being a team player and being able to come in and want to win," Mathis said.
The Broncos' rookie minicamp, of course, is about more than new jersey numbers.
Denver's draft class, crop of undrafted free agents and tryout players hit the field for the first time, and Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said he presented the 80-minute practice as a learning session, of sorts.
"These guys have been training for a Combine," Hackett said Friday. "They've been living on a circuit. They've been so excited to get drafted, they've been celebrating. Some of them might, so I don't want to speak for everybody, but not necessarily [be] ready for an NFL practice. I think that for us it's, one, learning — learning the system, learning the building, learning their teammates, learning their coaches — and then just how to be a pro and get out here and practice every day. I think it's just all those things and the techniques. We don't want to throw them in there and just start doing team right away. We want to be sure they understand the techniques of each route and all those little details as they get to know those things. And we're going to keep pushing those and hopefully they get a nice little head start to be [integrated] in with the guys next week."
The Broncos will be back on the field for another rookie minicamp practice on Saturday.