ENGLEWOOD -- Vikings receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette stared across at the defender and became John Travolta.
A stutter step right. A slide back left. A burst forward. Anything to create a sliver of opening. The problem? He was facing Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II. Wednesday, Surtain didn't just lock him down, he turned on the Ring doorbell and set lasers in the yard.
As the pass sailed his way with Smith-Marsette unable to see, Surtain swatted it to the ground, and clapped his hands. If there was one moment like this, it would provide a glimpse of his potential. Instead, Surtain provides a daily reminder of why general manager George Paton selected the former Alabama star with the ninth overall pick.
"We've been watching this kid for three years. I knew the family; I knew the dad and I knew where he came from. We tried to hide our interest a little bit. I never spoke with Pat. I never Zoomed with him. I told our coaches don't call him. I told our scouts don't call, don't Zoom. I didn't go to the Alabama pro day. This is a kid we targeted," said Paton, who was in Miami with Patrick Surtain.
"This is a kid we wanted. We were very fortunate that he was there, and we took him. We're excited he's here. He's going to make us better. We feel he's only scratching the surface. With Vic's coaching, and our coaches' coaching, he can be one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL."
Through the offseason and the first 11 days of training camp nothing has changed that opinion. Surtain continues to show uncommon maturity, versatility and intelligence. He is currently starting in nickel and dime packages, and it's not hard to see his role growing as the season advances.
"He comes out here ready to work every day and he gets work in after practice," corerback Ronald Darby said. "He’s coming along really fast."
It helps that he's built like a safety. Watch him on the field, and he brings reminders of Justin Simmons with his 6-foot-2 frame and long wingspan. He has fit in nicely with the revamped secondary of Darby, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson and Simmons.
“I mean just his athletic ability. As long as we get him lined up in the right spot against the man he has to be on or the zone concept that we have implemented for that game plan he’s going to be great. Guys like—I think what makes this even better for him is you’ve got an experienced nickel with Bryce, two experienced corners in Darby and Fuller, and then myself and Kareem in the back end, and honestly you have so much knowledge in that back room that it’s going to be hard for him not to succeed," Simmons said.
"And to mention he’s already at the top in terms of athletic ability, he already has what it takes.”
A unanimous first team All-American last season, Surtain finished his Crimson Tide career with four interceptions -- he wasn't challenged often -- and 82 tackles. As a 175-pound sophomore at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., he received his first Division I offer. "I was a small cat. That sort of set in stone that I could do big things in this game."
Surtain learned his craft from his dad, who doubled as his high school coach, and it shows in his game.
"He’s definitely helped paved the way. Of course him being a 12-year NFL pro, he was guiding and leading the way, teaching me a routine of how to be a pro, how to groom myself to be nice young man entering NFL," Surtain said. "And he also taught technique of the CB position along the way. Everybody is talented in the NFL. I feel like what separates the great ones from the good ones is their technique. Their consistency. Their passion for the game, their willingness to put the work in off the field, extra work in the film room. That’s what separates you."
While most rookies spend the first days of camp swimming mentally, Surtain looks like a vet. He walked into a tough position because of no fault of his own -- he's not a quarterback. Paton passed on Ohio State's Justin Fields to take Surtain. That decision will be closely watched and scrutinized, but it remains exclusive to Surtain's career path.
He has been working to play early in the pros since lining up against a battery of future NFL draft picks, like current teammate Jerry Jeudy.
"Yeah it helped a lot. Alabama you are going against the best of the best each and everyday in practice. Going against guys like Jeudy, (Henry) Ruggs, (DeVonta Smith) Smitty, (Jaylen) Waddle, helped me grow as a player," Surtain said. "They helped me going on in season and approaching the next level.”
Surtain brings more flash off the field than on it. He answers to the nickname PS2 and has earrings and a game controller pendant on a gold chain to match the moniker. He likes fashion, looking sharp. But unlike most top corners, he rarely chatters at receivers.
“I just go into the game focused. I am so locked in. I am not focused on the external things," said Surtain, who will listen to the likes of Lil Wayne or Lil Durk to get him hyped before games. "I talk here and there. But that’s not my main game. I just go in there and handle my business. And that’s it.”
So that's what made Wednesday's lock down moment so special. It was not. It has become the expectation. He is now eager to show the fans at Empower Field at Mile High.
"It’s going to be special. It’s going to be a new journey, a new step," Surtain said. "I just can’t wait to wear that orange and blue. Playing with those 75,000 fans -- I can’t wait.