ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Running back Montee Ball spent his college career shoving aside Barry Sanders, Ricky Williams and Ron Dayne in the record books.
The runner Ball will pursue in the NFL: One-time Denver star Terrell Davis — and the Broncos couldn't be happier about it.
Denver used its second-round draft pick Friday to take Ball, the 5-foot-10, 217-pound bruiser out of Wisconsin who patterned his running style after Davis, the former Broncos great who led the franchise to its two Super Bowl titles.
"I've watched Terrell Davis — all his interviews, all his highlights, everything," said Ball, who described himself as a lifetime Broncos fan and even has a wooden Bronco head hung up on the wall of his apartment. "I grew up watching him a little bit. It's really crazy right now."
In the third round, the Broncos selected South Florida cornerback Kayvon Webster, a speedy cover man who gets to learn under Champ Bailey and might someday replace him.
"I love Champ," Webster said.
Ball, meanwhile, adds to Peyton Manning's growing group of playmakers on offense. Both coach John Fox and executive vice president John Elway described him as an every-down back who, as a second-round pick, is expected to compete for a starting job.
"We expect all these guys to contribute," Elway said. "The earlier you go, the more we hope they contribute."
Ball rewrote record books in both the Big Ten and Division I during his four years with the Badgers. He broke the touchdown record once held by Williams, finishing with 83 overall and 77 rushing.
Ball's 39 touchdowns in 2011 matched the single-season mark held by Sanders. Ball also left Dayne, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Wisconsin, in the dust. Dayne's 63 scores had been the Wisconsin record before Ball came along.
Ball's numbers as a senior were down from the year before, possibly in part because he suffered a concussion when he was jumped by several men Aug. 1 while he was walking home. That may have sent his draft stock downward, as well, but the Broncos chose him over Alabama's Eddie Lacy with the 58th pick, even though Lacy was rated 20 to 30 spots higher by many of the draft experts.
Lacy, who had dealt with a toe injury during his college career, went three spots later to Green Bay.
"It was a close call, no question," Elway said. "You're talking about two great backs. The bottom line is, we looked at the medical. It came down to the medical side."
Both of Denver's second-day picks addressed weaknesses that showed up in the team's playoff loss to Baltimore last season.
The Broncos secondary got beaten for three long touchdown passes in that game. Bailey gave up two of them, bringing on the predictable chirping about the cornerback, who turns 35 in June, losing a step. Earlier this month, Bailey said he wouldn't flinch if the team picked a cornerback.
Also in that 38-35 loss, the Broncos led by seven late and needed a couple of first downs to run out the clock. But with Willis McGahee on injured reserve and former first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno on the bench with a knee injury, they handed off to Ronnie Hillman, a 190-pound rookie built more for change of pace than grinding.
Denver couldn't move the chains and the rest is history.
Both Elway and Fox said they were in the market for a big back. They got Ball, whose 5,140 career yards are also a Division I record, and now, the question is whether McGahee, Moreno or both have seen their last work in a Broncos uniform.
"I think we'll get through the draft, sit down, look at the offensive board and see what we're going to do there," Elway said.
Denver heads into the last day with three picks (fourth, fifth and seventh round) and only one major spot still unaddressed. That's defensive end, where the Broncos lost Elvis Dumervil, who had 11 sacks last season. Dwight Freeney is still on the free-agent market, and Denver's choices Saturday could foreshadow whether the team will make an aggressive play for the veteran pass rusher.
"You're always looking for pass rushers," Elway said, "trying to find needles in the haystack that have upside. Hopefully, there will be a couple nuggets there."