Baseball, basketball helped Sutton develop into Broncos top WR

Elwanda Tulloch

After catching passes from Keenum and Flacco in his first 2 seasons, Sutton is hoping Drew Lock becomes his permanent QB. ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Courtland Sutton went old-school as a kid growing up in Brenham, Texas, not specializing in one sport as so many modern-era young athletes believe they must, […]

After catching passes from Keenum and Flacco in his first 2 seasons, Sutton is hoping Drew Lock becomes his permanent QB.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Courtland Sutton went old-school as a kid growing up in Brenham, Texas, not specializing in one sport as so many modern-era young athletes believe they must, but by playing baseball, basketball and football.

It’s a good thing, too, because throughout high school and the start of his college career at SMU, people looked at Sutton as a safety in football.

It was baseball and basketball that made Sutton the No. 1 receiver he is today for the Denver Broncos. All those 50-50 balls Sutton went up and caught as a Broncos’ rookie in 2018?

>Video above – Broncos impact players #4: Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy

“Playing outfield allowed me to learn how to track the ball over my shoulder, track the ball both directions – sideways, catching the ball above my eyes,’’ Sutton said in a recent sit-down interview with 9NEWS.

And then in year two for the Broncos, when Sutton added the rest of route tree to his NFL game, especially in using his muscular 6-foot-4, 216-pound frame to ward off defenders on his slants and seam patterns?

“Basketball — boxing out, getting rebounds, catching the ball at the highest point — that’s something that translated to my football game,’’ Sutton said. “Very appreciative of having coaches who pushed me in that aspect. I think the rebounding in basketball is the part that I use probably the most when it comes to my football game.”

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Sutton had an above-average rookie season in 2018 with 42 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns, then elevated to Pro Bowl status in year two with 72 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns. His 15.4 yards per catch last year was second to Miami’s DeVante Parker among NFL receivers with at least 70 catches.

Even with the immediate flash first-round draft pick Jerry Jeudy brought to Broncos training camp over the past three weeks, it’s clear quarterback Drew Lock sets his eyes first on Sutton. If Sutton has a step, he gets the ball.

Lock, in turn, has a chance to give Sutton a permanent quarterback for the first time after he caught passes from veterans Case Keenum in 2018 and Joe Flacco through the first half of 2019.

“Being able to watch (Lock’s) growth from when he sitting back to learn football, learn the game and how fast the game was and not being thrown into the fire – you see guys get thrown right into the fire and everybody writes them off,’’ Sutton said. “I’m a firm believer in God’s timing and Drew’s timing happened for a reason. He came in and he was prepared and ready to play and the end of last year. He put us in position to win games. And he performed the way he was supposed to perform.

“I don’t expect anything less than that. I expect him to start there and continue to grow from there.

“He hears the same thing. He knows he’s the guy, he understands that. We go as he goes and he feels no pressure in that. He comes in with the same swag, the same mindset, attitude that he is the guy. And we need him to be the guy and he comes in and performs that way. We’re excited because the more he grows, the more explosive we’ll be as an offense.’’

If Lock develops as quickly as Sutton has, the Broncos will be in great shape. It was during his freshman year at SMU that Sutton was converted from safety to receiver. He also reached a point where pro potential left him little choice but to specialize, giving up basketball not long after he hit a 3-point shot and pulled down a rebound in his SMU hoops debut against South Florida.

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In three seasons as a college receiver, Sutton developed into the No. 40 overall pick by the Broncos. In just three seasons in the NFL, Sutton has gone from No. 3 receiver behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as a rookie, to No. 2 receiver (on paper) behind Sanders in year two, to proven No. 1 receiver with first-round draft pick Jerry Jeudy developing into where Sutton was two years ago and wanting to become where Sutton is now.

“When Emmanuel and DT were here, I never said, ‘I’m going to show and perform like a No. 3 today,’’’ Sutton said. “And then when it was Emmanuel and I, I never said, ‘I work as a No. 2.’ I never had that mindset. I came to work every day for my team so they would feel comfortable with my game.

“To be in a position now where I’m looked at as a No. 1 receiver, I still show up to work every day understanding I have to give my best because there are guys like Jerry and there’s going to be guys drafted every year who come into the room to push us and make us better.

“I know if I’m not coming to work every day giving my all, then ultimately I’m not only letting the team down, I’m letting myself down because I know what God has blessed me with.’’

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