ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Bradley Roby was an NFL hopeful last February, plowing through his final preparations for the league's scouting combine.
He wasn't with the Denver Broncos when the team had its title dreams shattered into little pieces in Super Bowl XLVIII. He didn't even know the Broncos could be the next stop in his football life. But that doesn't mean the Broncos' first-round pick can't understand what that meant to his new team, or what the home stadium will feel like Thursday night when they open the preseason against the team that dashed their hopes six months ago -- the Seattle Seahawks.
"Yeah, definitely, I feel like that's obvious," Roby said earlier this week. "Any time something like that happens in the Super Bowl, you know that's going to happen the next year. Especially opening up that next year with the same team, you know it's going to be a little here and there. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be worth watching, so I'm just excited to be a part of it."
In some ways, the Broncos' 43-8 loss to the Seahawks is a big reason why Roby is currently in the Broncos' locker room. It's why the Broncos tried so hard to do their due diligence on Roby and some mild off-the-field concerns that pushed what many league personnel executives felt was the best cover cornerback in the draft so deep into the first round.
The Broncos were looking to get bigger and more athletic in the secondary, to find players with bigger reach to match up against the bigger receivers that now dot the landscape. Roby, with his high-end speed (4.34 in the 40-yard dash at the combine) to go with his 5-foot-11 1/4, 194-pound frame, is just what the Broncos wanted.
Thursday night, Roby will get is first real chance to show how he's progressed in the team's offseason workouts. He figures to first step on the field with the starters if they go to the nickel in the Seahawks' first 10 to 12 plays on offense. That's an important item since the nickel is essentially the Broncos' base defense now, a formation they play well over 60 percent of the time.
"He's a bright guy," Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "Athletically he has all of the things you like to see and now it's just a matter of getting him ready to see the multiplicity you see in this league, the looks, with all of the quarterbacks and receivers who know what to do."
As you would expect if there is a future Hall of Fame quarterback across from you in a training camp practice, Roby has felt the sting of Peyton Manning and the Broncos' high-powered offense. A double move here, a perfectly thrown fade there -- "That's going to happen, Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning" -- and Roby has seen what the learning curve looks like for him.
But Roby has also shown the ability to bounce back quickly, to get what Champ Bailey has called "corner amnesia," and line up on the next play with the confidence it takes to survive.
"These young cats have to know you have to come right back and line up," said fellow corner Chris Harris Jr. said. "Quarterbacks and receivers in this league are going to get you sometimes, you can do everything right and they're still going to make a play sometimes. But you have to come right back and [Roby] has done that. You can't lose that faith in yourself and if you get down, don't bounce back, those quarterbacks will keep coming after you."
As for Roby, he confessed to feeling jitters but is also eager to show what he can do.
"There's always going to be nerves any time you suit up for a game," he said. "I'm not going to sit here and say I'm not, but it's not going to be a big thing for me. You always get nervous, but I'm just excited to just go out there and go against somebody else and just really let it all out and show Broncos Country how I play, just familiarize myself with them. Get the crowd real hyped, playing against the Seahawks, it's going to be fun for me. Dream come true.”