Bron­cos’ Lan­g­ley re­calls small time on way to big

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider

Be­ing the high­est NFL draft pick in the his­tory of La­mar Univer­sity is a cher­ished feat for Bren­dan Lan­g­ley.

When the Bron­cos se­lected the cor­ner­back in the third round of the draft in April (No. 101 over­all), he im­me­di­ately thought of those at the Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion school who dot­ted the cir­cuitous path to his dream.

And not just his team­mates and coaches.

“La­mar’s done a lot for me, the univer­sity as a whole,” said Lan­g­ley, who played his fresh­man sea­son at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia be­fore trans­fer­ring to the much smaller school in Beau­mont, Texas. “It was down to the lunch ladies, the class­room teach­ers and ev­ery­body else. La­mar will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart, and it means a lot to me to be the high­est draft pick from there.”

Now, Lan­g­ley is try­ing to put La­mar more promi­nently on the map as he fights for the fourth cor­ner­back spot in the Bron­cos’ vaunted No-Fly Zone sec­ondary. He was listed in that spot on the team’s ini­tial depth chart, which was re­leased Mon­day, though coach Vance Joseph said Lan­g­ley and third-year player Lorenzo Doss are run­ning vir­tu­ally even.

“He’s grow­ing,” Bron­cos de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Woods said of Lan­g­ley. “The big­gest thing for him is he has ev­ery­thing you want. He has the size and speed. We know he’s tough. The big­gest thing for him is it’s a learn­ing curve. We’re ex­pos­ing him to dif­fer­ent de­fenses than he ran in col­lege. So for him, each day he gets a lit­tle bit bet­ter. I know from my ex­pe­ri­ence of coach­ing guys like (Min­nesota Vik­ings cor­ner­back) Xavier Rhodes, same type of guy, each day he’s go­ing to be­come a bet­ter player.”

Part of the learn­ing curve is sim­ply grow­ing more com­fort­able as a cor­ner­back. The switch to La­mar from the bright lights of the SEC — a fate­ful de­ci­sion, Lan­g­ley said,

that cen­tered on prayer — may not have been the most con­ven­tional path to the league, but it gave Lan­g­ley the chance to re­turn to his roots as a de­fen­sive back.

Lan­g­ley was a highly rated cor­ner­back com­ing out of high school in Ma­ri­etta, Ga., but he strug­gled at the po­si­tion dur­ing his fresh­man sea­son with the Bull­dogs. He switched to wide re­ceiver and ul­ti­mately stayed at the po­si­tion when he trans­ferred to La­mar, a school that didn’t even have a foot­ball pro­gram from 1990 to 2009.

But Lan­g­ley couldn’t crack a deep ro­ta­tion at re­ceiver and re­quested a move back to cor­ner as a ju­nior. The switch paid off. Dur­ing his se­nior sea­son, he in­ter­cepted six passes, re­turned two punts for touch­downs and earned an in­vi­ta­tion to the Se­nior Bowl.

“It played a big role,” Lan­g­ley said of switch­ing back to de­fense at La­mar. “I mean, I’m here. I just need to be able to adapt to any sit­u­a­tion, be able to play re­ceiver, cor­ner, re­turner or what­ever they’d have me do. You’ve just got to be able to adapt and be ready for what­ever they bring your way.”

The sec­ondary re­mains the sta­ple of a de­fense that has been the back­bone of the team the last two sea­sons. Aqib Talib, Chris Har­ris and Bradley Roby make up per­haps the league’s top trio at cor­ner­back. T.J. Ward and Dar­ian Ste­wart are Pro Bowl safeties.

Yet the un­der­rated as­pect of Den­ver’s suc­cess in the sec­ondary, Woods said, comes from the depth in the group. That ex­tends from Will Parks and Justin Sim­mons at safety to Doss and oth­ers at cor­ner­back.

Lan­g­ley wants to add to that depth. There are still raw el­e­ments to his game. Woods said play­ing FCS foot­ball gave a player of Lan­g­ley’s tal­ent the op­por­tu­nity to make plays sim­ply on in­stinct and sheer ath­leti­cism. In the NFL, his suc­cess is de­pen­dent upon learn­ing de­fen­sive schemes well enough to play at a high speed.

“When you don’t run a lot of scheme in col­lege and you’re ex­posed to a lot of dif­fer­ent schemes in the NFL, it takes you time to learn it, and that’s where he’s at right now,” Woods said. “Right now, they are bat­tling. Doss is mak­ing a lot of plays, Lan­g­ley is com­ing along. It’s just a mat­ter of eval­u­at­ing those guys.”

Steve Nehf, The Den­ver Post

Rookie cor­ner­back Bren­dan Lan­g­ley came to the Bron­cos from La­mar Univer­sity, an FCS school in Beau­mont, Texas.

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