DENVER — It was in late July, a smothering hot day when hope existed, but was tested. The Broncos offense believed then it would caffeinate its production. But what played out in training camp created reservations.
And nothing deflated the group's confidence like facing Pat Surtain II. Coming off a strong rookie season, the former Alabama star returned just as athletic, but more prepared by film study. On a daily basis, he shut down Courtland Sutton or anybody they rolled out against him.
"I'll go over to him each and every day," offensive Coordinator Justin Outten explained, "and say, 'Can you let us complete a pass, please? Just one?"
Surtain spent the 2022 season turning opposing receivers into Chick-Fil-A — they were never open on Sundays. He earned first-team All-Pro honors on Friday, only the fifth Broncos cornerback to achieve the honor in franchise history. Justin Simmons made second-team All-Pro, a testament to his ball-hawking nature and range as a center fielder.
"Pro Bowl and All-Pro were definitely my goals," Surtain explained, both of which were achieved. "Obviously team goals, playoffs and Super Bowl, are more important and there's still time to achieve that. I am just extremely humbled and honored to received these accolades."
Surtain, 22, established himself as elite, beginning with his blanket coverage of Seattle's DK Metcalf followed by an epic battle with the Raiders' Davante Adams. Surtain became too good for his own good as teams stopped targeting him other than the Carolina Panthers, briefly, and the Raiders. Retired All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said of Surtain on his podcast, "His tape is a teach tape."
What makes Surtain special is his rare blend of size, range — he's 6-foot-2-plus and 202 pounds — and intellect. Coached by his father Patrick, who will join Florida State's staff as a defensive backs coach following the Dolphins' playoff run, Surtain is polished, smart and opportunistic. Starting 17 games, he finished with a career-high 60 tackles, 46 solo, with two interceptions, 10 passes defensed and one forced fumble. The other All-Pro corners for the Broncos all-time: Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Champ Bailey and Louis Wright.
"Blessed! Just beginning," Surtain tweeted Friday afternoon.
Simmons, who was only a Pro Bowl alternate, is no stranger to high honors. This is third All-Pro selection, and even though he missed five games, he had strong argument to make the first team. Simmons, 29, tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions. He was also the only player with at least six picks and three forced fumbles. The last safety to pull that off was Hall of Famer Ed Reed in 2004.
Simmons tied Hall of Famer Steve Atwater as the franchise's only safeties to earn All-Pro honors three times.