ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After all Juwann Winfree has been through just to get to the Denver Broncos, he at least knows there is a small slice of history on his side.
Winfree was the Denver Broncos’ surprise pick in last month’s draft. When they shipped their sixth- and seventh-round picks to the Carolina Panthers during the draft's third day to move up and select Winfree with the 187th pick, it raised a few eyebrows around the league.
The group of those surprised included Winfree.
“I honestly didn’t think it was going to be the Broncos," Winfree said. “They definitely showed they were expressing (interest), but there were other teams that definitely called a bit more."
Winfree struggled with injuries at Colorado, playing just 15 games combined in two seasons, and had been suspended as a freshman at Maryland before spending a year a Coffeyville Community College on his way to Boulder.
But Winfree can look to former Colorado teammate -- running back Phillip Lindsay -- as a guide.
Lindsay arrived as an undrafted rookie last spring, a productive, proven player at Colorado carrying questions about his size and potential fit in an NFL offense. He was sixth on the depth chart at running back when the team went through its offseason workouts.
The rest went pretty well for Lindsay. He was named to the Pro Bowl, finished with 1,037 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
“I’m pretty close with Phil Lindsay," Winfree said. “He was really underlooked going through his process, so he just helped motivate me and made sure that you get what you deserve. Make sure you work for what you want. Just have faith in yourself. He always had faith in himself. He always believed that he could be a top running back in this league and that he could be a Pro Bowl player. Even undrafted. He came in with that same attitude and that’s something that I’m trying to do myself, coming in with that same attitude to help my team win."
The Broncos see potential at a position where they have plenty of youth -- Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton were rookies last season -- and at least some uncertainty as Emmanuel Sanders is working his way back from a torn Achilles suffered in December.
Winfree participated in a locals-only combine at the Broncos’ complex in the weeks leading up to the draft and the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder, who had missed time with ankle and hamstring injuries last season, showed himself to be healthy with some athletic potential.
“... You know what a guy is made of," said offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. "A guy faces injuries and things happen in a program, a guy is playing another year and he’s catching 65 balls, you may think of him differently. But he’s the same that he would’ve been had he not had (to) face his adversity. So far he’s done great."
The Broncos have done their part to make some longshots feel better about the whole thing. Former undrafted rookie Wesley Woodyard (2008) is headed into his 12th NFL season while Chris Harris Jr. and C.J. Anderson were undrafted players on the Super Bowl 50 roster.
And in recent years Trevor Siemian, a former seventh-round pick, went on to the be the starting quarterback for two seasons and Lindsay was the 20th undrafted rookie since 2002 to make the roster out of training camp on his way to the Pro Bowl.
“My mom always told me that if you want something you have to go and get it," Winfree said. “Go and show you deserve it … I’m going to come every day with the same attitude and same mentality. I’m going to put the work in. Everything is going to happen for itself."