PARKER, Colo. — As Ron Leary stood near the entrance of a King Soopers during Monday's 'Back to School with the Broncos' event, a handful of kids huddled around him.
The Boys & Girls Club members peered up at the 6-foot-3, 320-pound lineman, and they shifted as they waited to go buy school supplies when Leary finished his media session.
"It's great to give back," Leary said. "I love doing stuff like this. I'm glad I'm a part of it."
Starting Thursday, Leary will look to lead a different group – one that comprises hulking offensive linemen rather than eager school children.
EVP/GM John Elway led a revamp of the unit this offseason, and perhaps no player embodies the Broncos' desire to get tougher and nastier than Leary. In Dallas, he was a key piece of the best offensive line in football, and the Broncos will look to replicate that success in the coming weeks.
"We've got a group that's real prideful and they weren't satisfied with how things were last year at all," Leary said. "They took that … on this offseason [by] working. [We] got a new O-line coach [in Jeff Davidson], and we're just working to get better. But I definitely … know [we've] got a chip on [our] shoulders, and we're ready to show them that we're a lot better than what people think."
Leary is certainly not the only piece. Center Matt Paradis played every snap the previous two seasons, and Pro Football Focus tabbed him as his position's best player following the 2016 season.
First-round pick Garett Bolles hopes to be the left tackle of the future, and former Oakland Raider Menelik Watson has the talent to excel at right tackle. Guard Max Garcia returns in 2017 after starting all 16 games last season.
But Leary's tasted success, and he's eager to find the same results in Denver.
"It's going to take some work, but that's just like any position in the NFL," Leary said. "We all gotta get together [and] start playing with each other. Matt's healthy now, so that's big. [Reserve center] Connor [McGovern] did a great job [during OTAs]. So we've got two guys there. We've just got a good group. So I'm looking forward to getting together with all the guys, just getting back to work."
He's not just talking. Through offseason workouts and the summer break, Leary made decisions to put himself in a position to succeed when training camp arrives.
In place of a long vacation away from Denver, Leary left the Mile High City for only about a week before he returned to train at altitude.
On the field, he's made similar choices for the good of the team. As OTAs wound down, Head Coach Vance Joseph announced Leary would move to right guard away from his longtime spot at left guard. As Garcia moved back to his former position at left guard, Leary took the move in stride.
"It's going to be an adjustment [like] anything else," Leary said, "but I wouldn't have made a switch if I didn't think I could do it. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"It was just one of those things: whatever's best for the team. I'm a big team guy. I was that in Dallas; I'm going to be that here. I talked to Coach Joseph and Coach Davidson, and they brought it to me. They gave me the option, and I wanted to do whatever to help the team. So I made the switch."
And with that answer on Monday, Leary looked down at his group of kids ready to find their backpacks and pencils.
Thursday could wait. Leary had another group to lead.