NORTHGLENN -- Athletic freaks come in all shapes and sizes.
When Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders lines up, he is often the skinniest guy playing in an NFL game.
They don’t make them much tougher than the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Sanders as he seems to catch more between the seams in traffic as when he’s isolated on the outside.
He also has managed to keep his slender frame despite eating like you and I do – in fast-food lines.
“I was eating bad,’’ he said in a sit-down interview Monday morning with 9NEWS during a break from hosting his youth football camp at Northglenn High School. “If I was hungry I would sometimes go through the McDonald’s line and grab me a 20-piece (chicken McNuggets). I would go through Burger King, just fast food because I was ready to eat now.
“But now I’m listening to my body a lot more. There’s something about being able to understand your body. What you can put in your body that gives you a burst of energy, or what you put in your body that makes you go to sleep. That’s what I’m understanding more.’’
By changing his diet, Sanders said he feels better now as he’s 30 years old and about to begin his eighth NFL season than he did coming out of SMU as a rookie in 2010.
“Left that fast food alone,’’ he said. “Left certain things that made my body feel weird. From an energy standpoint, my energy level is high because of what I’m putting in my body. Food is fuel. I started to understand that.
“Not only that my mind has started to slow down. It’s something about when you hit 30. You know who you are and you know where you want to go. You have a sense of direction. My destination is to try to get to the Super Bowl, try to win Super Bowls and try to go for 1,200, 1,300 yards and I understand what it takes to get there. And that’s through hard work and dedication.
“We’ve got this new offense with Mike McCoy. We’re going to be throwing the ball around so my conditioning has to be up and I’ve been working on that.’’
McCoy was the Broncos’ offensive coordinator from 2009-12, then left to become head coach of the San Diego Chargers from 2013-16, and is now back running the Broncos’ offense.
When McCoy left for San Diego, his system was passed down to Adam Gase, who coordinated enormous passing stats for Peyton Manning in 2013-14, and for Sanders, who in 2014 set career-bests with 101 catches, 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns.
McCoy and Sanders now call Vance Joseph their top direct boss. Joseph is Sanders’ third head coach in four years with the Broncos. He had John Fox in 2014 and Gary Kubiak in 2015-16.
“It’s hard to compare because I had a couple years with Kubes and a year with coach Fox and we’ve only had two months with coach Joseph,’’ Sanders said. “But from being around him those two months: Great guy.
“Great guy and he loves football. He loves his players already and he barely knows us. But you can already tell he loves us. He loves what he does. He’s passionate about it.
“I remember the first time he addressed the team and he talked about winning and losing. He goes, ‘If we do everything we can possibly do with this coaching staff and the players on this roster, nobody can beat us. And the way that he looked when he said ‘Nobody can beat us,’’ let us know he hates losing. And that’s the type of guy I want, a guy that hates losing. I hate losing. I’m the most competitive person probably in the world sometimes. That’s good and bad. But I hate losing and I like being around guys like that.’’
Although Sanders still eclipsed 75 catches and 1,000 yards each of the previous two years in Kubiak’s offense, he’s hoping the McCoy system will help increase his individual production back to 2014 levels.
As for the quarterback who will help Sanders reach his goals, about all he’s knows for sure is it won’t be Manning. Sanders also believes regardless of whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, he won’t have trouble catching balls from either.
“Both of those guys throw catchable passes,’’ Sanders said. “When it comes to the deep ball, Paxton loves to throw the deep ball. Big, strong arm. Trevor, he loves to throw the out routes, the in-routes. He’s a checkdown, all-around type guy.’’
Sanders will worry about that soon enough. The Broncos will report to training camp June 26 for a conditioning test, then hold their first team practice the next day. It’s the Broncos’ first, pre-camp conditioning test since the Josh McDaniels’ era.
But the more serious, arduous camp can wait. Sanders was fully engaged with his 300-plus kids at his two-day ProCamp that will conclude Tuesday.
“At first I would be surprised to have this much love,’’ Sanders said. “But they don’t surprise me, anymore, about the turnout I get from Broncos fans and the Broncos’ community and Denver community. I’m forever grateful. This is awesome.’’