If any Denver Broncos players threw a party on March 19, the day Peyton Manning announced he would be a Bronco, it was the wide receivers.
The signing was a great thing for young guys like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but it also put the proverbial paddles to Brandon Stokley’s near done career.
Stokley played in just two games last season before being cut by the New York Giants. Prior to that, he played one season in Seattle suiting up for 11 games. He kept his Denver area home, continued to workout, and when his former Indianapolis Colts’ teammate and the league’s biggest prize in free agency came into town, Stokley caught balls from the legendary quarterback.
“I wasn’t really ready to be done,” Stokley said. “I still feel like I can play, so for me, it was all about just trying to get that opportunity somewhere.”
That opportunity came when Manning signed with the Broncos. A former Bronco himself, Stokley was signed by the team shortly after.
“I was there with him for four years,” Stokley said. “I don’t want to say you kind of take him for granted, but then you move on and you kind of realize what you had. You kind of always hope you get that chance again. To me, I think he’s the best to ever to play the position.”
Aside from Stokley taking over the role of slot receiver, he will be called upon to help guys like Thomas and Decker develop as receivers in Manning’s system.
“I’ve always had older guys that have helped me out, and so whenever I get the chance, I try to help out whoever asks,” Stokley said.
When Stokley last played with Thomas and Decker, they were just rookies and they were coming off of injuries. Stokley has noticed a big change in them since their rookie year.
“You just realize how much they’ve grown as players, and what kind of talents they are,” Stokley said. “The future is very bright for both of them.”
Decker led the team in receiving last year with 44 catches for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns. Thomas had 32 catches for 551 yards and 4 touchdowns in 11 games.
“You can definitely tell that they’ve grown up and taken on the leadership role because it is, it’s their receiver group,” Stokley said. “It’s their chance to do something special. They’re playing with a guy that can get them the ball. I’ve seem him help a lot of people’s careers, and I think he can do that for both of those guys.”