DENVER -- Six weeks after free agency started, a few days after the draft ended, the Broncos made a stealth signing.
Coach Vic Fangio eschewed plant-based ideas for his defensive line, adding beef upfront. On April 28, the Broncos signed 6-foot-2, 305-pound Christian Covington to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with $625,000 guaranteed.
Covington is a big man with a reputation for holding blocks to create lanes for pass rushers, while also have the bulk to stuff the run. As a rotational piece, he brings experience in this scheme and a desire to adapt quickly after spending the first six years of his career with the Texans and Cowboys.
"Honestly, having that call from (coach) Fangio, that really sold me on what his team had to offer and what direction they were headed," Covington told Denver7 in an exclusive interview Tuesday. "In my time in Houston, I spent four years this in this system. So this is a blessing. The first thing that comes to mind when looking at the defensive line is versatility. It doesn't matter what position you put guys in, literally every single guy has played every position. You really don't see that. You just don't."
Covington boasts a resume that is atypical. He was born in Vancouver, Canada, and eschewed hockey to follow in his father's professional footsteps. His dad Grover is the Canadian Football League's all-time sacks leader with 157, starring for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Football made sense. And hockey didn't fit -- at all.
"First of all, they didn't make skates big enough for my feet. I grew to a size 17 in high school," Covington said with a hearty laugh. "I tried, but just realized this is too uncomfortable."
Covington, only 26, found at fit in football, beginning in eighth grade. His father coached him. Covington, however, credits both parents for making his NFL dreams crystallize.
"My dad truly had influence on me. Everybody growing up in Canada knew who he was. He was my defensive line coach in high school since I began playing there. But he really never pushed me to play football. Or to continue his legacy. He knew how hard it was to reach that level. That's what I really appreciated about him," Covington said. "My mom (Natasha) was the catalyst, now. My dad was over there watching the D-Line, and she was the one who lit the fire under me."
When searching for a new home for the first time outside of the state of Texas, Covington was drawn to the Broncos because of former teammates. He played with cornerback Bryce Callahan at Rice, and was a teammate with cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Kareem Jackson in Houston. In talking about the trio, he described them thusly: "They have that dawg mentality. They are fighters. ... It seems like a pattern going on. And that's just with guys in the secondary. That's why I can't wait to get on the field and see what this defense looks like."
This is, admittedly, not the easiest time to switch teams. Offseason OTAs have turned into virtual events, though that could change next month. Veterans don't mind, but eventually the newcomers -- veterans and rookies alike -- will need field reps. For now, Covington remains impressed with his new team's discipline in zoom gatherings.
"This team is hungry. Very hungry," said Covington, aware of the Broncos' four-year playoff drought. "You can tell there’s a serious approach. The level of intent and level of concentration that I am seeing from everybody in meetings, during installs, during film study, it’s really unlike anything I have ever seen. Everyone is very intent on changing what has happened the last few seasons."
For Covington, he wants to prove himself, and yes he knows of line coach Bill Kollar's reputation as a no-nonsense boss. He received intel from J.J. Watt, including the story about how Kollar once wrestled a bear decades ago.
"Given what I have heard, I have no doubt that happened," Covington said. "J.J. Watt let me know all about him. I have heard nothing but good things. Obviously, he's a tough coach, he's a hard coach, but that's OK. I look forward to it."
Covington has played in 66 games, starting 15, including a career-high six a year ago. He also set a new personal mark with 28 tackles last season. Talk to Covington, and it's easy to see why he has been well-respected in previous stops. He is true to himself, and his craft.
Now, he is eager to see how that translates in Denver.
"To come to a team with some familiarity (with the scheme) and some familiar faces, that was a big selling point. It was huge for me," Covington said. "To be able to join this defense, I am excited. I can see myself playing anywhere on that front where they see fit. I want to do what I can to help this team be successful."