ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Two games into the preseason, the Broncos' signing of running back Jaleel McLaughlin has paid immediate dividends. McLaughlin translated his impressive performances from training camp into the Broncos' preseason opener against the Cardinals with a rushing touchdown, then exploded against San Francisco with an 8-yard rushing touchdown, a 9-yard receiving touchdown and a 44-yard kick return.
How did McLaughlin, the NCAA's all-time leading rusher, find his way to Denver? According to McLaughlin, a meeting with Running Backs Coach Lou Ayeni made an impression and solidified the Broncos as his preferred landing spot.
"I had it written down in my notebook different interviews that I had, and the number one thing I had from Denver was, 'This was my favorite interview,'" McLaughlin said. "That's what really led me to Denver, and learning under [Head] Coach Sean Payton, not only does he teach you about football, but my first three days here I had a page and a half of just life-lesson notes. That's how I knew I was in the right place."
Though McLaughlin was not drafted, he said he's embraced his path to the NFL and said the Broncos' coaches and his fellow running backs have helped him acclimate to the league.
"Everything happens for a reason," McLaughlin said. "I'm learning under one of the best coaches ever, so that's what I take from it. I'm in a great running back room, Coach Lou, he's a great running back coach. The brotherhood is unbelievable. I think I landed in the right spot, so I'm thankful."
In addition to highlight-reel plays, McLaughlin has established himself as an early riser and proven his work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field.
While coming in as an undrafted free agent has given him motivation, he said that his family has been his greatest inspiration. He said that his mother, Tonya, and his family will be attending the Broncos' preseason finale on Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams.
"My mom, my family, they're making it to every game, no matter what they have," McLaughlin said. "It definitely motivates me a lot. I may have a down day or say, 'It's early in the morning,' but I think about my family and think about the sacrifices they're making to watch me play. They really look up to me so I'm going to keep working hard for them."
McLaughlin is still looking to improve upon his two-touchdown performance against the 49ers and said his fellow running backs have helped him to identify and correct mistakes. That is sure to be a scary thought for the opposing defenses on the Broncos' schedule.
"There [were] a couple of plays that I left on the field — everything's not perfect," McLaughlin said. "Definitely going to work on that this week, and I won't miss those cuts — those opportunities — anymore."