By Zack Kelberman
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (247 SPORTS) – How’s this for a success story?
Colby Wadman couldn’t secure NFL employment despite a successful career UC Davis, so the 20-something punter did what most of us would to make ends meet.
“When I was in Davis last year, I was working a pizza job while I was living with a couple teammates,” he told Denver media on Friday. “After that in December, that’s when I moved back to Thousand Oaks with my family.”
A 2017 undrafted free agent, Wadman had a cup of coffee this spring with the Oakland Raiders, but was deemed expendable after Oakland drafted Johnny Townsend. His Raiders stint lasted less than two months. He then languished, failing to draw any nibbles around the league.
“I was actually just at home in Thousand Oaks (Calif.) with my parents,” Wadman said. “I was just kicking, going out by myself, kicking every single day. I’d find some guys maybe I knew around town and just kick with them. Pretty much just mostly by myself.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Jets 34, Broncos 16
This summer, he put his professional football dreams on temporary pause. Wadman began submitting odd-job applications, including one at Dick’s Sporting Goods, simply to pay his bills. This was by design.
“I had a plan: three years after graduation, that’s what I was going to give,” he said. “I was just going to devote everything to football and work a small job like that just to pay the rent.”
On Sept. 25, Wadman’s patience paid off. The Broncos brought him in for a tryout and were impressed enough to offer a deal, albeit to join the practice squad. Who cares, right? You gotta start somewhere, and Wadman at least had his foot in the door — pun intended.
It took him almost two years to find a willing team. It took him two weeks realize his dream.
On Saturday, the Broncos placed Marquette King on injured reserve, a prelude to his not-so-surprising release. Wadman will be promoted from the taxi squad and make his NFL debut Sunday against the New York Jets. He’s now the unquestioned starter, with absolutely nobody peering over his shoulder. Nobody telling him to turn in his playbook. No more odd jobs.
“Obviously, I haven’t kicked in two years, but being out here in practice, working out with the team, everything like that, they’re all telling me how much they believe in me. They have confidence in me.”
“Very high confidence,” actually.
“He does a great job hanging the ball up—good, directional punter,” special teams coordinator Tom McMahon said. “I like his mindset, he’s very calm here. Consistent production is what we’ve seen so far [from him].”
From tossing dough to replacing an All-Pro, Wadman is a stereotypical underdog, the guy you root hard for on Sundays if only because of the backstory. You probably hadn’t heard his name until now and certainly never knew his journey. The odds were slim that he’d ever get to tell it.
But here we are. And here he is.