It started with a flyer, a few games of Madden and the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Adam Gotsis, a defensive lineman from Georgia Tech and the Broncos’ second-round pick, grew up in Abbotsford, Australia, as an Aussie Rules Football player with aspirations of playing rugby. American football wasn’t part of the dream. Not initially, anyway, and not without a bit of encouragement from his family.
His mother found a flyer on the web for an American football team for players age 14-19. For the 15-year-old Gotsis, playing among 19-year-olds with full beards was daunting. But with some coaxing by his older brother, Gotsis paid $300, received his pads, then headed to small, roped-off fields once a week for practice and once more for games.
But he went in almost sight unseen. Gotsis’ limited knowledge of the sport came courtesy of EA Sports’ Madden video games and Vince Young’s historic night in Pasadena, Calif., against Southern Cal in 2006.
“I remember watching that and I was like, ‘Man, I love it,’ he said. “That was one of the craziest games I watched.”
Six years later, his love took him to Georgia Tech, where coach Paul Johnson watched him grow from an inexperienced freshman to a three-year starter, racking up 110 total tackles and 12½ sacks before a knee injury ended his 2015 season early.
The Broncos’ scouting team took notice. Defensive line coach Bill Kollar fit him in among more than 30 interviews at the NFL scouting combine in February, then returned to Colorado to watch the film of his time in Georgia.
“The guy really played hard, which you want no matter what,” Kollar said. “Then he’s got the ability to rush the passer. Nowadays, as a defensive lineman, you got to be able to rush a passer. He shows that.”
And the resemblance to another Broncos’ second-round pick, in 2012, was unmistakable.
“There’s no doubt,” Kollar said. “The way he played, watching (Derek) Wolfe coming out of college, they were pretty similar.”
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Gotsis’ quick rise carried intrigue and promise. Kollar’s early impressions of the Aussie soon were shared by Broncos general manager John Elway, coach Gary Kubiak and director of player personnel Matt Russell.
Friday night, Gotsis, his brother and two younger sisters waited with anxious anticipation, hoping to hear his phone ring — from anyone at any time. He got it around 9:30 p.m. when the Broncos selected him after spurning offers to move down in the draft.
“You could hear a pin drop in the room. Everyone just went quiet,” Gotsis recalled. “They actually thought I was going to the Panthers, because I was on the phone and it says the pick’s in (on TV), but it’s a bit delayed. … They were just so happy to see it’s all working out and all the sacrifice and coming over here by myself and just grinding and not having a place if I wanted to go home for a weekend, nothing having Thanksgiving — I’m staying on campus by myself. Everyone else is going home to their families. All those moments that I sacrificed where I could have been with my family, it’s finally paying off.”
Nicki Jhabvala: firstname.lastname@example.org or @NickiJhabvala