ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With two NFL starts now on his résumé -- the first two in a career that has spanned almost four seasons -- Brock Osweiler already has launched a thousand nicknames.
The digital universe is awash in monikers for the Denver Broncos' 25-year-old quarterback, which include the Brocket Launcher, Kid Brock, the Wizard of Os and Brockalypse. He even has a Twitter hashtag: #ForThoseAbouttoBrockWeSaluteYou.
“I’ve seen some of them," said Broncos safety David Bruton Jr., who happens to be the longest-tenured Bronco on the roster. “They just started popping up, but we’ve seen Brock every day for four years, he isn’t new to us, he didn’t just arrive. We’ve seen him work, we’ve seen him practice, we’ve seen how he’s handled himself. None of this is a surprise to us."
Osweiler, who was the Broncos’ second-round pick in the 2012 draft, has made -- at least in the short term -- the transition from the Broncos’ quarterback of the future to the team’s quarterback. Peyton Manning's partially torn plantar fascia near his left heel has forced him out of the lineup.
After a 43-month stint as understudy, with just 54 regular-season pass attempts before this season, Osweiler has thrown for 250 and 270 yards in two wins. And it was the second win, in overtime Sunday night against Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, that has suddenly put Osweiler in the spotlight.
"Think about it, he went against Tom Brady, who's going to the Hall of Fame and done everything, and we won," Bruton said. "He shook Brady's hand after the game as the guy who won."
“The No. 1 thing that's impressed me is I think he understands exactly what he needs to do for the team to be successful," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “What I mean by that -- sometimes guys will get put in situations and they'll try to do too much. I think he understands he's on a good football team. If he'll just do his job, handle the ball well, handle the team well, then our football team will have a chance to be successful. I'm really impressed with how he's approached that."
Broncos executive vice president John Elway looked at the quarterbacks available in the 2012 draft as the No. 57 pick approached -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden already had been selected -- and took Osweiler. Elway liked the kid’s swagger and youth -- Osweiler was just 21 at the time. Elway liked Osweiler's tall frame; he is listed at 6-foot-8. He also saw the athleticism that prompted Gonzaga to offer Osweiler a basketball scholarship after his freshman season at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana. Perhaps most of all, Elway liked Osweiler’s attitude.
That attitude would be key, because the Broncos had signed Manning a few weeks before the 2012 draft. Manning was coming off a missed season after spinal fusion surgery. If he was able to come back, Manning would be the starter and Osweiler would spend time as the future Hall of Famer's backup.
But if Manning’s recovery didn’t go as planned, the Broncos believed Osweiler had the mental strength to learn on the job.
“I’ve always said Brock had to be both things," said former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, who, like Osweiler, played at Arizona State. “He had to be good enough to play right away and he had to be smart, patient, willing to learn and a hard worker, somebody they didn’t have to babysit, if he didn’t play because Peyton was playing. He had to be both. Some guys can't even be one of those, but he's been both and it's I why I've always been excited for him to get a chance to show what he can do."
That is what allowed Osweiler to emerged from a 43-month game-day hiatus and become the guy running a five-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of regulation against Belichick’s defense. It's why Kubiak trusted him to call the play on the game-winning 48-yard touchdown run in overtime by C.J. Anderson.
Osweiler has watched, learned and spent more time with Manning than any other player or coach currently in the Broncos' building. His team's general manager is also a Hall of Fame quarterback, a professional resource the well-mannered Osweiler still calls "Mr. Elway" in public.
“I really don’t know if people believe me," Osweiler said. “But I have really tried not to get involved in all of the what-if scenarios. I really just have tried to get a little better every day and make the most of a situation most guys don’t get. I have not wasted a single moment."
Before he made his first start against the Bears two weeks ago, Osweiler said he wanted "to keep my focus small" and that he “had prepared for a very long time for this moment."
“And you know where he came from, his parents drove to that game because their flight got cancelled [from Montana]," Bruton said. “So, they got in the car and drove all the way through to the game. You can see that in Brock, he just steps in there and gets it done. You can tell he's watched and learned from the best. He's ready for what's happening."
“He's just Brock, he's Brock, he's the Brock we know," Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “Maybe everybody else didn't know him, but we did. We saw it every day and now he's just showing everybody else."