ENGLEWOOD — When Eminen stepped to the mic to roar "Lose Yourself," he was, ostensibly, speaking to rappers. He might as well have been talking to NFL players. Training camp longshots to be specific.
If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
Terrell Davis realized his dream in 1995. As a sixth-round pick, he climbed from eighth string on the depth chart. He received little chance before training camp, an ordinary back with pedestrian numbers at Long Beach State and Georgia. Then came the hit on special teams, and he still feels the repercussions to this day.
"It changed my life forever," the Hall of Famer told Denver7.
Placed on kickoff duty in Tokyo against the 49ers -- something Davis had never practiced other than metal reps -- Davis stormed downfield after 49ers returner Tyronne Drakeford. Davis collided with Drakeford at the 19-yard line, turning him into Flat Stanley with a vicious tackle.
"I had to do something to make them remember me," Davis said.
Davis revealed a secret about that smash on Monday. Turns out he was a kicker in Pop Warner for several years, and prided himself on making the tackle on his boots, racing to beat this brother to the ball carrier.
"I hadn't done it for years, but it all came back to me," Davis said with a smile.
Monday, Davis and Phillip Lindsay talked shop at UCHealth Training Center. Both provide motivation for rookies trying to stick as longshots. Davis became a starter in Week 1. Lindsay turned in one of the greatest performances by a undrafted free agent last season, rushing for 1,037 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. I asked Davis what he would tell those waking up with butterflies -- or pterodactyls -- in their bellies as they attempt to make the team.
"When you get a chance to make something happen, you have to make yourself known somehow," Davis said.
Lindsay scaled a higher mountain, like a 14er in Crocs. The former CU star went undrafted, a tattoo he now features on his chest. Former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall told me he last week he knew Lindsay was a lock after the first practice. Lindsay did not see it that way, though he brimmed with confidence.
"When I stepped onto that field I never had a doubt. You can't doubt yourself because no one is there to help you out," Lindsay said. "You have to prove yourself. You can't stop working. You've got to stay consistent everyday. You have to outlast guys, and stay healthy. It's a long camp."
Lindsay looked up to Davis growing up. He read his book to inspire his own journey. Lindsay is now a walking example of defying the odds to players like former CU Buff receiver Juwann Winfree and Colorado State inside linebacker Josh Watson.
"Seeing how he works and that mindset he carries, it definitely carried over to me. He's a dog. And he's not taking no for an answer," said Winfree, who was limited in practice on Monday after getting his calf and ankle rolled up on Sunday. "Having that mindset, and having that confidence, that can get you where he's at. Before camp, even now, he said his spot is not solidified. Nothing has changed with him. He still has that chip on his shoulder."
Watson earned one of the 90 roster spots with the Broncos after a strong local combine. He has received time with the starters in recent days following Todd Davis' calf injury.
"I am definitely aware of Lindsay's story. Being an undrafted guy, it's up to me show up, be coachable and make plays," Watson said. "It's about controlling the controllables. And doing my job everyday."
Longshots, by definition, require imagination. They require stubbornness, and the ability to ignore critics and doubters. But the carrot dangling in Denver is realistic. Somebody will reach it. Fourteen of the last 15 years an undrafted player has made the final roster, and countless late-round picks have stuck.
"I still see it in (Lindsay). When I first talked to him about wearing my number, it was apparent he wasn't a kid just happy to be here. He was different. And he still has that attitude. He's pissed off (over the doubters)," Davis said. "When you are in the position (as a longshot), you can't take anything for granted. I knew I was doing well, but I didn't allow myself to believe I had made it until the final cut."
Tight end Jake Butt missed his second consecutive practice as he recovers from knee surgery. He's coming back from his third ACL procedure, and facing a battle to make the team. ... Receiver Trinity Benson, speaking of longshots, continues to turn heads. He caught multiple passes on Monday for big gains, and is the mix for the punt returner's job. He is quick and elusive. His ability to make the team will likely fall on his special teams acumen. ...