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Broncos' Surtain, Javonte more comfortable entering 2nd seasons

The Broncos' top two draft picks a year ago had fine rookie seasons. Both enter year two with a greater understanding of off-field demands.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ordinarily, the most palpable leap NFL players make is between their rookie and second seasons.

Not as players, necessarily -- although that, too -- but as men.

Even the best rookies, which Pat Surtain II and Javonte Williams were for the Broncos last season, can be timid and uneasy in dealing with others in public settings in year one.

The Broncos put both of their 2021 draft stars before the media Thursday, and listening to them handle questions – both in expanding on answers they previously kept brief and declining to answer questions they understood could put them in danger – it was clear Surtain and Williams are much more comfortable in their own skins entering season two.

“I’d say just being more confident,’’ said Williams, a month after his 22nd birthday. “I feel like the hardest part last year wasn’t football, it was really off the field. Just everything that I had going on off the field, I feel like I’m just better with my time now and know how to manage things like that.”

Both Surtain and Williams are popular with the Broncos’ fan base. Surtain’s No. 2 is the team’s No. 2 selling jersey, behind only newcomer quarterback Russell Wilson’s No. 3. Williams’ No. 33 is fourth in sales behind Wilson, Surtain and Courtland Sutton’s No. 14.

Understand, Surtain, the Broncos’ first-round draft pick last year, and Williams, who was selected early in the second round, are both soft-spoken, laid-back types to begin with. Coming out of college, even major programs like Alabama and North Carolina, respectively, they had football, classes, hanging out with the buddies. They missed the NIL largesse by a year.

In the NFL, life as a star player means big business.

“I knew that when you come to the NFL, you have media and things like that and sponsorships, but I didn’t know that it was so taxing on your schedule,’’ Williams said. “As soon as you finish with practice, people want you here and here and you need to study, so you just need to know how to manage everything.”

Surtain seems to have Champ Bailey-like potential, but first he has to make his first Pro Bowl. He had a Pro Bowl-caliber season as a rookie, but sometimes it takes a year to get notice from around the league. Even Champ had to wait until year two to earn the first of his 12 Pro Bowls. 

Surtain was asked what he hopes to accomplish now that he’s “an old vet.”

“I’m not that old, yet,’’ he said with a smile. “I think that the next step is to keep on building on that, keep on growing and keep on learning every day, because in the league, you learn from experience. That’s the best thing about it—growing and utilizing your time wisely so you can understand what it takes to be a pro in this league. That’s what I’m doing.”

As for their growth as players, it’s unusual for anyone to peak as rookies, Mike Croel notwithstanding. Greater maturity off the field should help Surtain and Williams take another step and avoid the proverbial sophomore slump in year two.

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