Coming out of the University of Colorado as an undrafted free agent, Phillip Lindsay and his abilities on the football field were relatively unknown to those outside the state. But to Lindsay, a Denver native, that didn't matter. He knew he had the talent to contribute at the NFL level, and he never doubted that, even after his named wasn't called in any of the seven rounds of the NFL Draft.
As soon as he joined his hometown Broncos, Lindsay started putting that confidence in himself to work. He quickly became an offseason standout, serving as both a running back and a special teams contributor as he battled to make an NFL roster. A strong preseason guaranteed him a spot on the roster, and he starred in his first NFL game by scoring a touchdown and gathering 102 total yards against the Seahawks in his debut. Now, 12 games later, he's one of the top running backs in the NFL, a key part of the Denver offense and a top candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year. As Lindsay helps the Broncos make a late-season playoff push, we caught up with him to discuss his record-breaking rookie season, his favorite play so far, the best piece of advice he's received and more.
Zach Pereles: What's the biggest difference between when you came into the NFL and where you are now?
Phillip Lindsay: "Game speed is the biggest difference. It's slowing down a little bit. The game speed has changed most. You can't really change anything about the size of other players or anything like that. The size is always going to be there. But the game speed has slowed down, for sure, as I've gained a little more experience."
ZP: You have the chance to break some pretty impressive rookie records. You've always been a team-first guy, but are those numbers ever in the back of your head?
PL: "No, I don't ever really focus on that. Like you said, it's about the team. It is what it is. You just roll with it. I don't think about it."
ZP: John Elway said that he'd love to have 53 Phillip Lindsays on his roster. What does him saying that mean to you?
PL: "It means a lot. It's an honor to have him say that about me. If you have 53 Phillip Lindsays, then the locker room is going to look good. Like, we're going to look good. We're all sexy. I can't say the same right now looking at some of our players, my teammates."
ZP: Do you have a favorite NFL play so far?
PL: "Right now, it's probably my first touchdown of my career. Case [Keenum], he hit me on a diagonal route, and I was able to run. I had some good blocks from DaeSean Hamilton and the linemen, and I was able to have my first career NFL touchdown. I still have the football back at home, and that's the play I remember most so far."
ZP: Do you have a welcome-to-the-NFL moment?
PL: "The big hit from [Texans cornerback] Kareem Jackson for sure. Kareem hit me pretty hard on that one. The ball was in the air, I didn't know he was as close as he was, and I got a welcome to the NFL. He told me that was my welcome-to-the-NFL moment after the play, too."
ZP: What's the best piece of advice you've received so far in your NFL career?
PL: "The biggest thing came from my running backs coach, Coach Curtis Modkins. He told me, 'You stay the course through everything. Don't flinch.' That's probably one of the biggest things I've learned is just 'Don't flinch.'"
ZP: Do you get recognized when you go out in the community now more than you did in the past?
PL: "I get recognized a lot more, but me being from here and going to the University of Colorado, I've been pretty well-recognized because of my hair. So that makes it easier to recognize me. That's probably why. So I'm used to it. I have to sign a lot of autographs and take a lot of selfies with people, but it's OK."
ZP: There was a point after the NFL draft where you almost decided to sign elsewhere, even though you grew up a Broncos fan. But your mom convinced you otherwise. How did that process play out?
PL: "It was all just listening to her. It was listening to her gut and telling my gut to listen to her. It was mainly just that she felt like it was the right thing — the right situation for me. And when she feels a certain way, it's usually right. So far, I'd say it's worked out. It's been pretty good."