ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – It happens every summer — unheralded rookies or free agents become training camp darlings. It definitely happened to two Denver Broncos hopefuls in Thursday’s opener with the Seattle Seahawks — running back Juwan Thompson and receiver/returner Jordan Norwood.

For superstars like Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas, preseason is all about fine-tuning what they’ve done so well, so long. But for the young players, particularly the free agents, preseason is all about survival.

Thompson made a great first impression against the Seahawks. The rookie from Duke refused to go down, averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. He caught everybody’s eye, including his teammates’.

“We watched the film and we saw the defensive players getting hyped over it and the veterans getting hyped, so … it was a great feeling to see and a lot of guys just supporting me and just telling me to keep grinding,” Thompson said. “I just want to stay consistent and keep pushing, but overall it was a good feeling. Ten yards a carry is always good.”

Thompson loves running the ball, but he also loves to block and play special teams.

“My coach wanted me to take over the special teams and try to help guys learn because he knew that I’m a better athlete overall. I play offense, defense, special teams; so he was like, ‘You will be the special teams captain,’ “ Thompson said. “Sometimes I play three special teams, sometimes I play four. I was on five, but at the same time it was like, ‘Just get it done for us.’

“I learned that special teams is a big part and I really didn’t notice that too much until I actually became part of it my senior year.”


Juwan Thompson (credit: CBS)

Juwan Thompson (credit: CBS)

Norwood has known for years how important special teams are. He’s trying to prove to the Broncos how valuable he can be as a return man. He’s been trying to prove to everyone how good he is as long as he can remember.

“When I was in ninth grade a lot of guys out here played varsity football. I played ninth grade, B team, second string – on that team, so I feel like (an underdog),” Norwood said. “Sure, I certainly feel that way.”

Jordan Norwood (credit: CBS)

Jordan Norwood (credit: CBS)

Preseason is Norwood’s chance to prove that he can play with the big boys, and that’s just what he did in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks. He caught the game-winning pass, which surprised just about everybody – except Norwood.

“It was four verticals, so it was just kind of Brock’s (Osweiler) choice,” Norwood said. “I usually try my best to get open and me and Brock have had a decent connection in this camp so far.”

So far, so good for both Norwood and Thompson, but both young players know it’s just a start. They both understand they still have a long, long way to go.

“Seattle is in the back with us. It’s a new week, new game, new team; a whole different mindset,” Thompson said. “We might have a different scheme. We don’t know how everything is going to turn out, but at the end of the day all I can do is do my job.”

“You have no choice but to do better the next time no matter what you did last game or last practice or last rep,” Norwood said. “That has to be my belief.”

Thompson and Norwood both get it. They’ve opened some eyes but both still have a long way to go and a lot of plays to make before they earn spots on the 2014 Broncos.

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