DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Broncos’ top draft pick, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, has taken a long, winding road to get to the NFL. He grew up outside of Lisbon, Ohio near the Pennsylvania border. He was raised in a one-parent home and never met his father.
Wolfe could have turned pro after his junior year at the University of Cincinnati and taken the NFL money sooner, but Wolfe buttoned up his chinstrap and went back to school.
“If you don’t fight for everything you have, you’ll be quicker to give it up,” Wolfe told CBS4’s Vic Lombardi. “If it’s too easy, then you don’t appreciate it. I appreciate everything I have because I’ve had to fight for everything I have.”
Lombardi asked Wolfe if he ever wanted to meet his father.
“It doesn’t matter, sure,” he said. “If he’s out there, sure. I’m sure there are a lot of guys out there who want to jump on the bandwagon … I don’t know his name or anything.”
Wolfe said the curiosity used to get to him, but not anymore.
“He probably doesn’t even know either, so what am I made for?”
Wolfe got along with his mother until his stepfather came along. He’s been estranged from his mother ever since.
“There is (no relationship with her), really,” he said. “I forgive her for everything she’s done, but I just don’t want her a part of (my life).”
He does have family, but they’re just not blood. When Wolfe was 15 he moved in with his best friend Logan Hoppel at the Hoppel family farm.
“I was just kind of living out of a bag. I’ll stay here for a couple of days and then I could tell they didn’t want me to stay … I never really was intruding, they tell me, but I felt like I was. So finally I ended up with my buddy Logan and his mom was like, ‘You’re not leaving.’ ”
“I just look at Derek like one of my own kids. You know you love him and you hope he has success and you just want the best for him,” Kris Hoppel said. “People don’t get to pick their family and it’s the people that you surround yourself with, that you care about; they become your family.”
“They don’t treat me any different than they would when I was 15, 16 years old,” Wolfe said. “Two days ago I was cleaning pig poop out of a pig pen; shoveling it out of there with a pitch fork because the pigs were sick and needed their pen cleaned and everybody else was gone. So I was the one who had to do it and I’m still paying for it with my sinuses.”
A lot of other people helped Wolfe along the way. He can thank his high school coach for his college scholarship.
“My job was, when I met him, I told him that with his size and his athletic ability, that he could get his college paid for,” his high school coach Rich Wright said.
The Hoppels threw Wolfe a party the night the Broncos made their call. He said they get mad at him for thanking them for everything they’ve done.
“I guess succeeding is enough payback for them,” Wolfe said.