DENVER -- The play became lost in the gold confetti and the defense's flurry of fists.
The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 because of Von Miller and his wrecking ball teammates. But would Denver have been victorious without Jordan Norwood's Super Bowl record 61-yard punt return? His stop, start, and flash toward the end zone flipped the field and led to a field goal, increasing the Broncos' first-half cushion to six points.
It can be argued the Broncos have not had a meaningful return since.
Which brings us to rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie. He stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 173 pounds. His size suggests he can disappear sideways or slip under a door. He vanishes from defenders when in space. Taken by the Broncos in the fifth round of this spring's draft, McKenzie has opened eyes. Miller predicted last week McKenzie would make plays, admitting, "It's what we've been missing, a big-time return man."
In an exclusive interview with Denver7 Wednesday, McKenzie explained how much Miller's praise meant to him.
"He’s a big-time player. He’s a Pro Bowler. He’s done so many great things in this league. For him to say he thinks I am one of the missing pieces, it’s great to know he has my back and wants me to do well," said McKenzie, who provided instruction at the second day of the Moms Football Safety Clinic. "Coming from him, it's an honor. I thank him for that. Hopefully I can come in and show the world I can do what he said I can do."
McKenzie represents an intriguing weapon. He returned a school record six touchdowns at Georgia. Broncos fans can be excused for letting their minds wander. The Broncos lost their grip in the AFC West and on a playoff berth because of the exploits of Kansas City's diminutive dynamo Tyreek Hill. He scored 12 touchdowns last season -- six receiving, three rushing, two on punt returns and one on a kick. He reached the end zone four times against the Broncos, most against any opponent.
If McKenzie matched half of Hill's production it could caffeinate the lethargic offense and improve field position. He was dubbed the "Human Joystick" at American Heritage High School by teammate and Florida State cornerback Tarvarus McFadden after returning two punts for scores in a single game.
"He's a guy that that we are going to use obviously in the slot and in the return game, and maybe in the backfield a little bit," coach Vance Joseph said recently. "He has a skillset where we could use him in a lot of places. He's a smart guy. A tough guy."
More salient, McKenzie features an iron gut. Eleven players chasing after him fills McKenzie with adrenaline.
"Just being fast," said McKenzie on how he makes an impression and creates misses on returns. "I have no fear. I like having the ball in my hands and making plays."
A stellar spring is just that in the NFL. It matters only when it translates to training camp and exhibition games. McKenzie, nonetheless, is off to a strong start with a verbal push in the back from Miller.
"We have a lot of rookies that are going to help us win games," Miller said. "He's dynamic."