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Video of Pontiac's KJ Hamler blocking Steelers cornerback goes viral

The Detroit News
Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler on Pontiac takes part in drills during practice at the team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo.

Pontiac's KJ Hamler made quite a first impression in his NFL debut last week.

Not only did the former Penn State wide receiver have three catches for 48 yards in the Denver Broncos' 26-21 loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers but a video of Hamler blocking cornerback Joe Haden went viral this week.

Haden was mic'd up by NFL Films on Sunday and the video shows Haden's reaction to being pushed to the ground by Hamler, who was sidelined by a hamstring tear for the majority of training camp.

“Coach (Vic) Fangio brought me into his office after I got hurt, and he was like, ‘You’ve got to take this how Drew (Lock) approached it’ (after a preseason thumb injury last year),” Hamler told The Denver Post. “The result was was me being locked-in mentally.

“During camp, my wide receiver coach (Zach Azzanni) made me sit on the sideline, and I would have the script to myself and a whiteboard with me, and I’d go through the script and write all the plays out. I’d write every single play two, three times … Even in meetings, if if was the same play we went over two weeks ago, I’d write it down again.”

Now, as Hamler’s role grows alongside fellow rookie Jerry Jeudy in the wake of Courtland Sutton’s season-ending knee injury, Hamler said the game is “slowing down” for him. That should provide a boost as Hamler and Jeudy see more targets, in adding to fellow wideouts Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton.

“Even though KJ is more of a speed guy (than myself), he’s got good routes too and he can go vertical,” Jeudy said. “His speed can cause a lot of deep plays. I feel like we complement each other very well.”

Hamler said his hamstring, originally injured as he was making a cut during one of the team’s initial camp practices, is completely healed.

“I was still going through camp and fighting through (the injury), but one day (on Aug. 20) I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore,” Hamler said. “I found out it was a tear in my hamstring, but I was in the training room every day at 6 o’clock in the morning, just trying to get back healthy. Now it’s 100% — I’m feeling great, running great.”

Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was impressed with the “competitive spirit and toughness” the 21-year-old showed during his debut, the majority of which came with backup quarterback Jeff Driskel.

“He’s quick, and he’s shifty, and he did what we saw in college when we drafted him,” Shurmur said. “He can be difficult to cover at times one-on-one, and he’s fast. The other thing is, when a rookie gets in there, you worry that the stage is too big for him. It’s not — he’s a super competitive guy who was into it and was on top of all of his assignments.”

With Drew Lock (shoulder injury) sidelined for multiple weeks on top of Sutton’s absence, the Broncos will need Hamler to continue to escalate his play as the young speedster appears poised for a breakout.

“We’ve had some key guys go out, so (Hamler and Jeudy) will have to grow up quicker than most,” running back Melvin Gordon said. “Those guys have the confidence in themselves to go out and make a play, and they’ve got the talent — we saw KJ go out there and do what he do (on Sunday)

"They have the confidence and the ability, and when they get that full swagger where whoever lines up in front of them is ‘easy work,’ just like it was in college — when they get that, then it’s really going to be on, but it takes reps, just like anything else.”