DENVER -- Jamaal Charles never lacks for confidence. He grew up as a nationally-ranked sprinter, attending meets that included world record holder Usain Bolt. He starred at the University of Texas, and rushed for 7,260 yards in nine seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
At 30, he has reached a crossroads. He has a new baby boy, a new team, and old criticism that he is finished as an impact player. Charles joined the Broncos in May, stung after the Chiefs "fired" him. While expectations remain tempered, Charles flooded the conversation with optimism Tuesday. In an exclusive interview with Denver7, Charles revealed that he sits ahead of schedule in his recovery from left knee surgery.
"I am doing everything. I have been cutting the last couple of days with the guys during the offseason workouts. I feel like the way I am cutting that I am back to the normal me, man. It feels good to be moving around again," said Charles, who was limited to eight games the past two seasons because of knee injuries. "I have been knowing this the whole offseason (that the knee was fine). Nobody can take nothing away from me except God when my time is up. I am still 30 years old. I still have a lot of special stuff to do."
I told Charles I might have undersold his signing. Given his age, usage and leg issues, I viewed him as a complementary third down back. He might end up in that role. But he's not buying it. Charles, echoing what former teammates have told Denver7, remains driven to write the proper ending to his career.
"When people say you can’t do something, you want to prove them wrong. That’s always been on my mind since I signed with the Broncos," Charles said. "The last time I had to prove people wrong was when I came back from ACL (surgery) and when I came back from hurting myself here in Denver (on Sept. 14, 2014). We played New England (next) and I had an incredible game (92 yards rushing, 15 receiving, three touchdowns). I like proving people wrong. It keeps the fire going, it keeps the spark going. I am excited about just getting back to where I was before."
Charles couldn't stop smiling Tuesday as he provided instruction at the Broncos Moms Football Safety Clinic. His wife Whitney held the couple's three-month old son -- born as Charles was joining the Broncos -- as his two daughters participated in drills. Charles stared around the stadium, practically hearing the cheers he anticipates this season.
"Can I get your autograph?" a mom asked. "I am so happy you are in Denver."
The conversation turned back to track. He believes it makes him different as a player. It also provides a subtle reminder. Charles has never run from any challenge, his career defined by crossing the finish line on his terms.
"I have that chip on my shoulder, man. But why am I still playing? It is to get that ring. I am on a nice team. I really think we can make a run," Charles said. "We have a nice schedule. Our defense is nice. Our offense is going to be nice. We've got the coaches. I know a lot of people are probably not counting us in. But we know behind the scenes. We are definitely counting ourselves in."