ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Melvin Gordon provided pointers, called out the signal and handed off to a running back chugging forward. Ninety yards away, Tim Patrick quizzed a camper on his favorite NFL team.
"You are about to say something crazy, and I am about to stop you," Patrick said with a laugh.
And Momma Gordon, Carmen, kept it real with her son as she eagerly looks forward to this season.
On the shiny turf at Englewood High School, the Melvin Gordon Youth Football Pro Camp buzzed with energy, instruction and optimism. In his second year with the Broncos, Gordon feels like he's meeting the community for the first time.
This event provided another opportunity for the former Pro Bowler to move forward after an uneven first year in Denver. Gordon was in his element working with kids, something he's long done in his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
"Kids would have loved this when I was growing up. I would have loved it. We weren't fortunate enough to get this. So, I am trying to give back and make a difference," Gordon said. "You never know what kid might be moved by this. You never know the next Tom Brady could be out here. It's about giving them something to smile about."
Gordon wanted teammates to help out, while recognizing most are on vacation or out of town. When he asked Patrick, the Broncos receiver was delighted. It was a first for the former Utah standout, who relates well to kids with his cool demeanor and sense of humor. Both were on full display during a demonstration on how a receiver should create space from a defensive back at the line of scrimmage.
"Chop, Whip. Stack. And sauce. Give them some sauce at the top," he explained to cheers.
The Broncos remain on speaking terms with hope. It's June. They are healthy, buoyed by new additions and a gnarly defense. Gordon is motivated to regain star status after finishing with 986 yards on 215 carries with 10 touchdowns in 2020. He enters camp as the starter even as praise for second-rounder Javonte Williams continues to percolate.
Gordon loves working out and was able to follow his normal offseason routine without COVID-19 training limitations. He showed more burst during mandatory minicamp earlier this month, something Momma Gordon wants in 2021.
"This was the first year I kind of watched him at home on TV and wasn't in the stands. So, I could see what he's doing and not doing, believe it or not," said Carmen Gordon, a regular at her son's games for years until COVID-19 restrictions prevented it. "I told him, 'You look slow. You need to work on that in the offseason. When you are coming out of that hole, you are looking a little slow. And the little things with the footwork [need to be done].' I just see things probably nobody else sees because I know how he moves."
When I posted the interview with Carmen on Twitter, Gordon liked it and quote tweeted, "Omg nick saban at it again (with laughing emojis)."
Omg nick saban at it again 😂😂😂🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/bRulqozyES— F L ⚡️ S H (@Melvingordon25) June 29, 2021
Gordon and Patrick ran the camp seamlessly but could not escape questions about the quarterback. Teddy "Two Gloves" Bridgewater and Drew "One Sleeve" Lock are competing for the starting job. Patrick hinted that the receivers and the quarterbacks would gather for a throwing session before training camp, something Bridgewater suggested would happen.
The reality is that until the Broncos find stability and better production at the position -- Denver boasts 10 starters since Peyton Manning -- they will struggle to end their five-year playoff drought and four straight losing seasons.
"The little kids are asking about the quarterback," Gordon said. "I don't know [who will start]. Your guess is as good as mine. They are asking about Aaron Rodgers. Is Teddy starting? Is Drew starting? Geez, I feel like there are reporters out here. It's cool, though. It just shows that they love Denver football."
Patrick is not focusing on the quarterbacks, admitting, "It's our job to make their jobs easier, to make whoever is out there look good." Even after a career year, humility clobbered Patrick over the head when Pro Football Focus forgot to list him in their best hands stats after a season when he had zero drops.
"There's certain things I do to keep the edge, certain things I see. There's things I take from quotes. Basically, I look at how people talk about me and if I don't like it, I get mad. I don't want to be known as a role player," Patrick said.
"I want to be known as a great receiver in the league. I want that respect. And even when I get it, I want that Super Bowl. I haven't had a winning season since I have been here. We are hungry. We all know we have an elite receiving corps. Top to bottom, I don't think teams have four receivers that have taken over a game like us [with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Patrick]."