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Bronco notes: Peyton, Ashley Manning set up scholarship in Demaryius' honor

Wilson lengthy post-practice meeting with receivers. Three players signed to Broncos' roster. Coordinators Stukes, Outten bring Hackett-like confidence to podium.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Peyton Manning is touched to his core, he doesn’t just sit in the front row of Nuggets games and think about doing something.

He does it.

Manning and his wife Ashley, through their PeyBack Foundation, have set up a scholarship fund in the name of Demaryius Thomas, the great Broncos receiver who died unexpectedly Dec. 9, just before his 34th birthday.

The scholarship is for incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech, D.T.’s alma mater, who come from Laurens Country, Ga., where Thomas was born and raised.

Thomas was the Broncos’ first-round draft pick in 2010 and played eight and a half seasons with the Broncos, including all four from 2012-15 when Manning was his quarterback. Thomas is the No. 2 receiver in Broncos history in receiving yards and touchdowns and No. 3 in catches.

“Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend,” Manning said in a statement. “My family and I miss him dearly, and we wanted to honor D.T.’s memory by partnering the PeyBack Foundation with Georgia Tech to establish the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment.

“An important part of Demaryius’ legacy was the way he inspired the next generation to pursue their dreams with the same perseverance and determination that defined him. Through this scholarship to Georgia Tech, Demaryius will have a lasting impact on deserving youth from his hometown area who can follow in his footsteps and accomplish great things in life.”

Peyton meets with Hackett and coaches

When Manning is inspired to lend a little advice to those who could benefit, he doesn’t just sit in the front row of Nuggets games with his good friend and former teammate Brandon Stokley and think about how to do it.

He lends it.

Per Stokely on his radio show Friday with Zach Bye on 104.3 The Fan, Manning met earlier this month for two or three hours with head coach Nathaniel Hackett and his offensive coaching assistants to discuss how to help star quarterback Russell Wilson with his transition from Seattle to the Broncos. Manning went through a similar transition from Indianapolis to Denver in 2012.

RELATED: Russell Wilson takes the field for 1st time in Broncos practice

The Russ-receiver summit

Following the final minicamp practice Wednesday, Wilson met in the middle of a practice field with all the team’s receivers. The meeting lasted a good 20 minutes. Teddy Bridgewater would meet with his receivers after practice last year, too, but never for as long as Wilson’s school session was Wednesday following a minicamp practice.

“At the end of the day, our job is to go out there and put on a show and win football games,’’ receiver Tim Patrick said. “So we’ve got to do everything possible to make sure when it’s game time we’re on our P’s and Q’s because nobody is going to feel sorry for us if it doesn’t work. It’s all on us.

“So if we have an extra 20 minutes after practice to talk about things that happened at practice or things we plan on doing tomorrow, we’re going to try and do it. It’s not just meetings that the coach gives us. It’s meetings that we have on our own to make sure we’re on par to our expectations.’’

Three players win minicamp audition

The Broncos gave three-day minicamp tryouts to five players, and signed three following the final practice Wednesday, including cornerback Blessuan Austin, who started 17 games the previous three seasons with the Jets and Seahawks.

Also added to the 90-man roster were receiver Trey Quinn and cornerback Donnie Lewis. Quinn had a combined 35 receptions in 15 games for Washington in 2018-19. Lewis was a seventh-round draft pick of the Browns in 2019 and has spent time on the practice squads for Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Counting running back Melvin Gordon, who signed his one-year, $2.5 million deal Wednesday afternoon, the Broncos have 71 players on their 90-man roster entering the draft that begins Thursday. Denver has nine draft picks, starting with No. 64 overall in the second round Friday, which means they could sign another 10 undrafted college free agents this weekend.

RELATED: Why bringing back Melvin Gordon makes sense

Stukes shoutout

New special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes said he wants 8 to 10 core special teams players – meaning those who would be involved in the four major areas of punt coverage, punt return, kickoff coverage and kickoff return.

Does he have any in mind right now?

“That’s easy. It’s Aaron Patrick, it’s Tyrie Cleveland, and without going into a whole bunch of names for guys getting sensitive because I didn’t mention their names, I’ll just stop it there,’’ Stukes said. “We do have core players on this squad. … I named two, I don’t want to continue naming more because I don’t want guys, ‘Hey coach, you didn’t mention me the other day.’ Ah, sorry. I apologize.”

Stukes is a fascinating interview subject in large part because he seems less filtered than most football coaches. Because the Broncos were so bad on special teams last year and in recent years, he was asked if he watched film of the Broncos’ special teams play last season.

“Is that a serious question? You don’t think I looked at last year’s special teams?’’ Stukes said. “I just feel as a special teams coach and knowing the other coordinators across the league, I’m not going to disrespect anybody’s scheme and what they did. Is there room for improvement? We all know there’s room for improvement. We were 32nd in a couple categories. We’re trying to address that. But to talk about what they did last year is not really going to help us moving forward.

“I want to cultivate and build a standard around here with guys who want to be a part of special teams. I’m going to keep saying that also. I’m not going to be chasing guys around the building, ‘Oh please, please, special teams! Oh please, please special teams!’ That’s not my mentality, not my mindset. I was a special teams player. I never started in the league, so I relate more to the guys that have to grind to earn a position. That’s who I relate to more.

“So to answer your question, yes. There’s a lot of things that we can improve on from last year, but to keep harping on last year is not going to get to where we want to be. The thing that I try to get these guys to realize is that we want to win a Super Bowl. That’s our goal, to win a Super Bowl—not to just go from 32nd to 31st, that’s not my goal.’’

The Hackett protégé

As Nathaniel Hackett moved up, so did Justin Outten. Hackett was the Packers’ offensive coordinator the previous three years and is now the Broncos’ head coach. Outten was the Packers’ tight ends coach the previous three years who is now the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

“It’s kind of like we’re finishing each other’s sentences a lot of the time as far as structure and what he’s looking for in each and every period—mixing in the play pass, the quick game, the drop back, the outside zone, the inside zone,’’ Outten said. “He’s very comfortable with how we are programming everything. As far as watching practice, we do that as a group with all the offensive coaches and kind of talk the lingo to make sure everybody is on the same page.”

RELATED: Bronco notes: Kareem Jackson may be lighter in wallet, but he still packs a punch

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