ENGLEWOOD—It is not a stretch to say Derek Wolfe is a Denver Broncos because of Jack Del Rio.
“I’ll always be indebted to Jack,’’ Wolfe said. “I would not be here without him.”
It was the 2012 NFL Draft and Del Rio, as a freshly hired defensive coordinator, was a voice of influence during the Broncos’ evaluation process.
Del Rio so-called “banged the table” for Wolfe, a defensive tackle from the University of Cincinnati.
“I was a fan of his, still am,’’ Del Rio, now the Oakland Raiders’ head coach, said this week in a conference call with the Denver media. Del Rio’s Raiders play Del Rio’s former Broncos this Sunday night in Oakland. “I think that he’s a really good football player. Guys that are smart and tough and really love the game, you just can see that on the tape. He can do a lot of different things for you. He’s come in and had the career that I hoped he would and that we hoped that he would.”
I still remember Del Rio telling me what sold him about Wolfe, over other defensive tackle prospects like Kendall Reyes and Jerel Worthy, was the Bearcat had a “meanness” about his play. Played with a nasty streak.
Boy, did he nail that.
“Oh, absolutely,’’ Wolfe said with a smile. “I mean I’m already (messed) up, anyway. I get to be myself on the field. I don’t have to be this other guy off the field.’’
The Broncos traded back from their No. 25 overall draft pick to No. 31, then No. 31 back to No. 36 in the second round where they took Wolfe.
Wolfe is now listed as a defensive end – which is an interior position in the Broncos’ 3-4 front.
Wolfe had a promising rookie season with Del Rio in 2012, registering 6.0 sacks, but it wasn’t until last season, when Wade Phillips became his defensive coordinator and Bill Kollar his defensive line coach that his career took off.
Wolfe had 8.0 sacks in his final 10 games, including playoffs, last season, and 4.5 sacks plus 15 quarterback hits, through eight games this season.
“Jack’s defense was a two-gapping defense, built to stop the run, built for the outside linebackers to get sacks,’’ Wolfe said. “I made a lot of tackles. It was just hard to get pressure. But then I got injured (his second season). They year after (2014) I was trying to get back, had to gain like 50 pounds, basically.
“But his defense was very similar to this one.''