ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Running back Montee Ball spent his college career shoving aside Barry Sanders, Ricky Williams and Ron Dayne in the record books.
The runner Ball will pursue in the NFL: One-time Denver star Terrell Davis — and the Broncos couldn’t be happier about it.
Denver used its second-round draft pick Friday to take the Ball, the 5-foot-10, 217-pound bruiser out of Wisconsin who patterned his running style after Davis, the former Broncos great who led the franchise to its two Super Bowl titles.
“I’ve watched Terrell Davis — all his interviews, all his highlights, everything,” said Ball, who described himself as a lifetime Broncos fan and even has a wooden Bronco head hung up on the wall of his apartment. “I grew up watching him a little bit. It’s really crazy right now.”
In the third round, the Broncos selected South Florida cornerback Kayvon Webster, a speedy cover man who gets to learn under Champ Bailey and might someday replace him.
“I love Champ,” Webster said.
Ball, meanwhile, adds to Peyton Manning’s growing group of playmakers on offense.
The running back rewrote record books at the Big Ten and Division I levels during his four years with the Badgers. He broke the touchdown record once held by Williams, finishing with 83 overall and 77 rushing.
Ball’s 39 touchdowns in 2011 matched the single-season mark held by Sanders. Ball also left Dayne, the former Badger and Heisman Trophy winner, in the dust. Dayne’s 63 scores had been the Wisconsin record before Ball came along.
Ball’s numbers as a senior were down from the year before, in part because he suffered a concussion when he was jumped by several men Aug. 1 while he was walking home. That may have sent his draft stock downward, as well, but the Broncos chose him over Alabama’s Eddie Lacy with the 58th pick, even though Lacy was rated 20 to 30 spots higher by many of the draft experts. Lacy went three spots later to Green Bay.
“Montee is a productive player with excellent feet and vision,” coach John Fox said. “We view him as a three-down back that will be a great fit for our team.”
Both of Denver’s second-day picks addressed weaknesses that showed up most glaringly in the team’s playoff loss to Baltimore last season.
The Broncos secondary got beaten for three long touchdown passes in that game. Bailey gave up two of them, bringing on the predictable chirping about the 35-year-old cornerback losing a step. Earlier this month, Bailey said he wouldn’t flinch if the team picked a cornerback.
Also in that 38-35 loss, the Broncos led by seven late and needed to run out the clock. But with Willis McGahee on injured reserve and former first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno on the bench with a knee injury, they handed off to Ronnie Hillman, a 190-pound rookie built more for change of pace than grinding.
Denver couldn’t get the first down it needed and the rest is history.
Both Fox and Executive Vice President John Elway said they were in the market for a big back. They got Ball, whose 5,140 career yards are also a Division I record, and now, the question is whether McGahee, Moreno or both have seen their last work in a Broncos uniform.
Denver heads into the last day with three picks (fourth, fifth and seventh round) and only one major spot still unaddressed. That’s defensive end, where the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil, who had 11 sacks last season. Dwight Freeney is still on the free-agent market, and Denver’s choices Saturday could predict whether they’ll make an aggressive play for the veteran pass rusher.
By Eddie Pells, AP National Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)