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Don't blink. You will miss him. K.J. Hamler brings speed to offense

Receiver says it's time to 'grow up quick'
Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 19:11:17-04

DENVER -- The drafting of Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler was less retooling and more re-imagining. In the four seasons since winning Super Bowl 50, the Broncos have ranked among the league's worst scoring offenses

During this time, the Kansas City Chiefs filled their gas tank with nitromethane, creating mismatches all over the field. The Broncos have not beaten the Chiefs since Peyton Manning retired, a streak spanning nine games. Kansas City now holds the title belt in the NFL.

Enter Jeudy and Hamler, the Broncos' Orange and Blur crew. Expectations remain lofty for Jeudy, who told Denver7 Monday, "I am ready to go out there and compete and show why they picked me (in the first round). I can't wait to play football." Hamler, too, brings an interesting skillset that could be a shot of espresso for an offense that put coffee to sleep before Drew Lock took over during the final five games last season.

It's not fair to compare any rookie to Chiefs All-Pro Tyreek Hill. However, Hamler does feature similar size -- 5-foot-9, 178 pounds -- and speed -- 4.2 something in the 40-yard dash -- that makes him an intriguing addition.

Watch Hamler's highlights at Penn State, and he's not quick, he's not fast, he's sudden. And that did not happen all of a sudden.

"I think I was always fast, maybe since I was 4. My parents (Latonya Gooding and Thomas Hamler) have stories of me running to the back of Wal-Mart, and they couldn't catch me. They would have to call them over (the speaker) to come and get me," said Hamler, followed by his infectious smile and laugh. "And I just remember running from dogs a lot. I would always stay at my grandmother's house and there was always that dog on the corner that got loose. I jumped off my bike and I chose my feet. I chose my feet over the bike because I had to get away."

Hamler arrives in Denver as a candidate to start at slot receiver and work as a kick and, perhaps, punt returner. He averaged 40 yards on kick returns, and his brakes and bursts earned him the nickname "The Human Joystick" after former Chiefs special teams star Dante Hall. Hamler is ready for anything in the NFL, but cautions against type-casting.

"What I want to show Broncos fans is that I am not a gadget guy. I don't really want to be described with that term, as a reverse guy, kick return or punt return guy. I want to be known as a ballpalyer, as a wide receiver," said Hamler, featured on Denver7 Meet The Picks at 6 p.m. on Monday. "They are going to see a playmaker. They are going to see somebody who can make something out of nothing. I just want to help this team go the Super Bowl. That's the goal right now, to help in anyway possible."

It's been an inspiring journey for Hamler. He grew up in Pontiac, Mich., with pro aspirations. There were no local pipeline to the NFL. When Hamler was a kid, his father challenged him, playing him up two grades because of his speed. At football camps, it was not uncommon for a grade school Hamler to face off against high school athletes. During this time, he found inspiration through film work -- Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson remain favorites -- and a mentor in former Michigan star and current Packers receiver Devin Funchess.

"I would go to camps at (the old) Pontiac Silver Dome and Funch was always there. He's always had my back. He's always had my wing. He's been like a big brother to me. I call him God brother," Hamler said. "I am close to him. He’s considered family in my household."

Hamler's success relates directly to those closest to him. He received constant support from his mom and dad. He admits he would not be in the NFL without them. He also might not be as well-known. His parents became a viral sensation for videos they have posted wishing him everything to happy birthday with a clever rap or hilariously encouraging him during hill workouts.

"Whatever you see in those videos, that's them every day. My dad is an old-school guy, laid back. My mom tries to be hip to everything, the cool mom. Both of them are cool. They are actually here in Denver helping me move into my new apartment," Hamler said. "They have been out here helping me get adjusted. I love them to death. I appreciate them with all my heart."

Hamler's parents have his heart. Bears? They do not. You might remember after Hamler was drafted that he and Jeudy had a conversation about Denver. Neither had been there, and talked about the possibility of living in a log cabin with "bears walking in the crib" as Hamler put it.

Since those remarks, Hamler has found himself a social media magnet for good-natured wildlife posts. So I asked K.J., "Are you safe? No interactions with bears?"

"Maaaan. .... I better not see any bears," said Hamler as he leaned back with a smile. "Everybody keeps tagging me on Twitter with bears kicking down doors. I hope I don’t run into one because I don’t know what I am going to do, but I haven’t see one yet. I haven't seen any wildlife. But, man, it's really beautiful here. Seeing big mountains like this, it's like something you see in the movies. I am looking at the sunsets every day. It doesn't even look real at first."