Broncos' Dumervil out to show he can play defensive line

Updated: August 22, 2006, 9:18 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Elvis Dumervil enjoys hearing he can't do something.

The Denver Broncos rookie has been told that his entire life. The latest chapter is that he can't play on the defensive line because he's not tall or big enough.

Dumervil, who's generously listed at 5-foot-11, 250 pounds, thrives on proving skeptics wrong.

"I'm fighting for those guys who are undersized in this world and need somebody to look up to," Dumervil said. "They told me I couldn't make it to the NFL. Well, I'm here now."

The Broncos think Dumervil can be part of the solution to their pass rushing struggles. Denver had only 28 sacks last season.

Dumervil had 20 sacks last year as a senior at the University of Louisville.

The trouble is finding the perfect fit for him. With Courtney Brown (knee) and Gerard Warren (toe) out with injuries, the Broncos have been shuffling Dumervil between defensive end and tackle. He played predominantly end in college.

"I don't care where I play," Dumervil said. "But it's two different animals. I can use my speed if I play outside, but inside you're closer to the ball. I just want to help this team make plays."

It's not often a Bronco Nagurski Award winner -- given to the nation's most outstanding defender -- will slip to the fourth round. Champ Bailey won the award in 1998 and was taken with the seventh pick by Washington. Charles Woodson ('97) and Warren Sapp ('94) are also former winners.

But Dumervil's size cost him. NFL scouts figured his stature would be a detriment even if he set an NCAA record by forcing 10 fumbles his senior year. He finished his career as Louisville's second all-time sack leader with 32.

For all his sacks, though, Dumervil was better known as the player Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick stomped on in the 2006 Gator Bowl.

"It wasn't that bad," Dumervil said of having his leg smashed by Vick's cleat.

The Broncos looked at Dumervil and saw the next Dwight Freeney, the Pro Bowl defensive end for Indianapolis. Dumervil may only be 5-11, but he has the wing span of a 6-5 lineman.

"With the way we plan to use him, we'll try to free him up and not put him in a situation where he's playing heads up on a guard, trying to bang away at him," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said. "We're going to give him an edge, loop him around on a stunt so he can use his first-step quickness. The guy's athletic, fast and instinctive."

Not to mention a fast learner. He soaks up advice from fellow defensive linemen.

"He kind of got confused at first, but he's getting the hang of it now," defensive lineman Michael Myers said. "He's adapting well."

Except to the comparisons. He can't escape them. Everyone says he's a Freeney clone. At first, it was a compliment, something that would make him smile. Now it's pressure.

"He's a great player and I haven't played a snap of football yet," Dumervil said. "I don't want to get into that comparison yet."

Coach Mike Shanahan has certainly taken an interest in him.

When Dumervil stayed down following a drill during a recent practice, Shanahan materialized out of the blue and said, "Elvis, you're too young to be hurt."

Dumervil immediately popped up and headed back to the huddle.

During a hitting drill, Dumervil went through the motions, not giving everything he had. Shanahan happened to see it and made him do the drill again.

"Coach is everywhere," Dumervil said. "He's challenging me. He's a great coach and motivator."

Not that Dumervil needs to be motivated. All the critics who said he couldn't make it are incentive enough.

"If I can make it here, that will shut some critics up," Dumervil said with a grin.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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