2009-05-07 / Sports

Moreno ready to justify Broncos' trust

Mid'twn South grad is first running back selected in draft
BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer

There are a lot of people that think the Denver Broncos did not need to select Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick in the April 25 National Football League Draft.Why, they ask,wouldDenver overlook its glaring needs on defense for a tailback when they already have the likes of J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young on their depth chart?

Knowshon Moreno Knowshon Moreno Others argue that it is foolish to draft a running back with a first-round pick, as it is routinely one of the deepest positions in the draft.

Then, there are those who have been privileged enough towatchMoreno play throughout his career — starting at Middletown South, where he led the state's best public school team to three consecutive state titles; followed by his brilliant two-year stint at the University of Georgia, where he quickly established himself as one of the most electrifying players in all of college football.

And, it is that population of football fans — those who are familiar with this young man from Belford, and recognize the type of player he has been and will be in the NFL — that understand what the Broncos were thinking.

Knowshon Moreno is a perfect fit for an organization that is accustomed to featuring exceptional running backs. And if first-year head coach Josh McDaniels is right, it won't take long for the rest of the league to realize that the Broncos were right to grab this multidimensional talent when they did.

"He catches the ball extremely well — he has very good hands," McDaniels said. "One of the things that nobody will talk too much about is his pass protection. For a college back, that is something that doesn't get a lot of recognition. This guy stands in there and he can put his face right in their numbers and he'll keep them off the quarterback. So, certainly on third down as the player grows in our system and he becomes more comfortablewithwhatwe are doing, I think he could definitely give us that versatility."

Versatility is exactly what Moreno will bring to the Broncos. A shifty, powerful back with outstanding quickness and elusiveness, Moreno will also give the Broncos another weapon in the passing game with his exceptional hands and underrated route-running.

At both Middletown South and UGA, Moreno was the focus of opposing defenses on a weekly basis, yet he still managed to be one of the most productive players in the country.

His accomplishments at both the high school and collegiate levels speak for themselves, as Moreno has always been the guy that everybody couldn't wait to watch.

While at Middletown South, Moreno scored 128 touchdowns in his career, leaving New Jersey as the state's all-time leading scorer and second-leading rusher (6,268 yards).

Once given the ball at Georgia, he quickly established a reputation as one of the most exciting players in the nation, rushing for 2,734 yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons after red-shirting in 2006 in addition to catching 53 passes for 704 yards and two scores.

Then, after his brilliant sophomore season, Moreno broke the hearts of Bulldog fans everywhere by declaring himself eligible for the draft.

However, while Georgia fans were surely disappointed with his decision, nobody questioned its wisdom. Those who watched him dominate SEC defenses in his two collegiate seasons know that he's ready for the next level. And when you have a chance to play in the NFL, you take it.

Now that he's a Bronco, Moreno will be expected to make an immediate impact. And that is exactly what he expects of himself, although he is saying all the right things early on.

"Well, I'm going to try to fit in wherever I do; no matter where it is on the field," he said. "I'm going to work hard, prepare myself for the league, for passing and some things like that. I'll fit in where I can and learn from the guys that are there and compete and work hard. And get my team and myself better off."

One thing that Moreno has never lacked is a sense of confidence — the kind of confidence that comes with being successful at every level. Now, Moreno is confident that his style of play is well suited for the Bronco's revamped offensive scheme under Mc- Daniels.

"Really, I'm a high-motor guy. Tough, hard-nosed, a hard runner, can make you miss at times," he said. "And just competitive. I love to play the game and I bring that energy to my team. So, we'll see how that goes."

The tailback added that his initial meeting with McDaniels left him optimistic that he would be a good fit for the Broncos.

"We went over a few formations," he said. "But besides that, I don't really know too much about it. So I'm really anxious to get into the system and learn the playbook, that's a tough thing with rookies coming in. So I want to get in, learn the playbook, learn the system and just go from there.

"It's a great coaching staff," he added. "Great to be working with Bobby Turner, the running backs coach. He has coached a few Georgia running backs over the years, and I want to be a part of that list and see what happens. And work hard and be the

best I can be."

As part of preparing for life in the NFL, Moreno expects to be part of the team's training camp workouts from the very start.

"Definitely, definitely; that's one of my main goals," he said. "I want to get there on time, I want to be with my team and I want to work. That's one of my main things is to get [to training camp] on time and get things settled."

It shouldn't take long for Moreno to endear himself to his teammates. His high school coach and mentor, Steve Antonucci, has always been quick to praise Moreno's "infectious" spirit, labeling him as one of the most likeable superstars you're ever going to meet. And the folks at UGA agreed, as Moreno was named the first freshman cocaptain in the history of the storied program.

Now that he's a professional athlete, don't expect Moreno to change the way he treats his teammates.

"I guess I'm a funny guy, I'm laid back, and I'm really excited about everything," he said. "I like bowling. I like to bowl a lot. Video games, I guess a lot of the guys play video games these days. I guess that's pretty much it. But I'm really going to be excited to meet my teammates, and I think they're going to like me also."

They'll really like him if he's able to be the type of game-breaking player he was throughout both his high school and collegiate careers.

In some respects, Denver took a chance selecting Moreno as high in the draft as they did, particularly since they have some pretty successful backs already on the roster. But the Broncos appear to have seen something special in Moreno, and were not about to let a fairly predictable public perception sway their decision.

Broncos fans are accustomed to a certain level of excellence from their running backs. The guy they got on Saturday is more than ready to carry on that tradition.

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