ENGLEWOOD — Case Keenum purposely threw the ball a tad wide to the right sideline so only his receiver, and not a preying cornerback, could catch it.
Tim Patrick lunged left toward sideline, kept his tippy toes down inside the stripe and snagged Keenum’s pass for the completion as he fell out of bounds.
The key to that description was Patrick, who wears No. 81 in your training camp program, and the No. 1-and-only Keenum in the same sentence.
“It’s fun catching from Case,’’ Patrick said. “but it doesn’t mean anything unless you make the 53.’’
Should Patrick become the sleeper of camp and make the Broncos’ season-opening, 53-man roster, chances are no player will have overcome more. And we’re not just talking about Patrick the player, although his underdog story does have a few chapters there.
Growing up in San Diego, Patrick hesitated to search for the right words when asked to tell something about mom and dad.
“I had a different upbringing, I’ll just say that,’’ he said. “A different upbringing. A different lifestyle, I’ll say. I had a lot of stuff. It helped make me what I am today. It made my humble. Had to fight for everything I wanted.’’
Pressed further, Patrick said his dad was incarcerated for 15 years. For what crime?
“I never asked,’’ Patrick said. “It’s none of my business. He did his time and now he’s out.’’
His grandmother and mom raised him, although he said mom spent some time in jail, too. In his Utah media guide biography, Patrick listed Ruth Patrick, his paternal grandmother, as his guardian.
“My whole family played a large part in raising me, but my grandma is definitely my rock,’’ he said. “My mom’s my rock, my dad’s my rock.’’
He has an older brother and older sister, who were positive influences in his life, and a younger sister and younger brother – who is also named Tim Patrick. Younger Tim was a terrific running back at Morse High School in San Diego and is now a freshman receiver at Utah State.
“The position I’m in now, it’s my opportunity to be the bigger brother,’’ the Broncos’ Tim Patrick said.
He was an all-league receiver at University City High School in San Diego, but continuous family drama caused him to bounce his living arrangements from one step-parent situation to another and he wound up having to play his freshman season at football at Grossmont Community College, where he excelled.
“Didn’t get recruited out of high school, had to go to J.C.,’’ he said. “I went to Utah, they couldn’t give me a scholarship, so I had to walk-on. I earned a scholarship after the first day of practice.’’
He was just coming on as a junior for the Utes, recording three catches against Oregon in 2014 when he suffered a compound fractured leg.
He was out a year-and-a-half with a medical redshirt. Back as a senior in 2016, he had 20 catches for 385 yards and five touchdowns through Utah’s 4-0 start – highlighted by Patrick’s 18-yard touchdown catch over USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson with 16 seconds left that gave the Utes an enthralling, 31-27 victory – but suffered a high ankle sprain the next week. He missed the next three games and wasn’t quite the same when he returned.
He did get two bachelor’s degrees, one in sociology, the other in human development and family studies – a subject where he is able to bring a unique perspective. Not invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last year, and undrafted, he spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, before spending the second half of the 2017 season on the Broncos’ practice squad.
“I just stayed under that radar my whole life,’’ Patrick said. “I’m finally getting an opportunity. I’m staying healthy, knowing how to take care of my body and I’m taking full advantage of it.’’
Come to think of it, Patrick is the kind of late bloomer who does occasionally hit in the NFL. At 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, he has a prototype receiver build. He snagged catches throughout OTAs and minicamp during the offseason and is off to a fine start two weeks into training camp.
Following the habits of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos’ top two receivers, Patrick has been eating right and sleeping well.
“Doing the small things,’’ he said. “We have two great leaders who have showed us how to be a pro and definitely taking full advantage of that.’’
Patrick had emerged as the favorite target of No. 2 quarterback Paxton Lynch through the first week of training camp. On Saturday, he jumped in to give Sanders a breather and made a nice catch for Keenum.
The Broncos have four receiver positions set with vets Thomas and Sanders, and drafted rookies Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. Isaiah McKenzie may have the inside lane for the No. 5 position, but with Carlos Henderson not reporting to camp and Jordan Taylor coming off double-hip surgeries, Patrick has a chance for the No. 6 receiver position – provided the Broncos go with six.
“Gotta keep fighting,’’ he said. “Got a long way to go.’’