ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --On Wednesday, cornerback Champ Bailey was named to his 12th career Pro Bowl. He is the only defensive back and just the 10th player in NFL history to reach that number.
But how many Pro Bowls has he helped his teammates reach? His knowledge and leadership have been pivotal in the development of Broncos players that came into the league after he was already an established veteran.
"He has been tremendous for me on and off the field," said defensive end Elvis Dumervil, Pro Bowl-bound for the third time. "He is a great person off the field. I've learned a lot (from him). He has been a good mentor. It was great to come in and have a leader like that to show me the right way. He has helped me so much, man. I definitely appreciate Champ."
Bailey's brand of leadership relies on showing his teammates the right way to go about their business.
"It's not about being loud and doing a lot of things," Dumervil said. "He just leads by example. I always thought that was the best way to do it."
While Bailey's talent is undeniable, it's impossible to earn the accolades that he has piled up based on sheer talent. He has mastered the mental aspect of the game, as well. That was evident in a recent defensive meeting inside the walls at Dove Valley.
"I even called him up the other day," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "Some of the younger guys were struggling on the board drawing up our defense. I called him up, and it was like-it was meticulous. He's paying attention. He has been for a long time. That's one of the reasons, I'm sure, along with God-given ability, but he's worked hard like a pro and been a great example of how to do it."
The team captain is tied for fourth in team history with 34 interceptions in orange and blue. After earning his eighth Pro Bowl bid in nine seasons as a Bronco, he joins John Elway and Steve Atwater as the only Broncos with that many selections. Since entering the league in 1999, Bailey leads all cornerbacks with 52 interceptions.
His numbers speak for his success. So do his teammates.
"He does things right," Dumervil said. "He handles business. He practices right. He comes to work day in and day out. That's what you want to do."
Having a player like Bailey, who said there are several others in the locker room that play a similar role, has been a huge part of Denver's consistency and focus throughout the year. It would have been easy to have a letdown game at some point during the Broncos' 10-game win streak, especially after locking up the division and playing teams with below-.500 records. But veterans like Bailey know better. He knows what the Broncos are capable of.
"When you have guys that have been around the block a few times, 10-plus years, there's several in our locker room that can tell them these opportunities don't come," he said. "A lot of guys get close and they don't get back. You've got to take advantage of these opportunities."
Along with Head Coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning, Bailey has made sure that nobody on the team gets sidetracked or loses sight of the ultimate goal. The Broncos have been able to stay on path, and as a result, they are in prime position to reach that goal.
"I think guys get confused about how this league works," Bailey said. "You can't just go out trying to chase it, because you never know when your opportunity's going to come, wherever you are or wherever you end up. So you just have to keep playing football hard and believing in your teammates, your organization, and things will work out."