DENVER -- McTelvin Agim had no idea that sitting in a detention center would be the best thing to happen to him.
It was a mistake, a byproduct of frustration and heartache after his grandmother Charlie B. McGraw passed away when he was 11. With money tight, Agim began shoplifting in junior high to quell hunger pains. It led to nearly the worst mistake of his life. Only an eighth-grader, Agim was arrested for trying to steal a car and running from the police.
As he sat in confinement in Texarkana, Agim reflected on his faith, on his grandma. Agim wanted to honor her. He began dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. His legacy, he promised, would be different. It had to be for his grandma, who was blinded by diabetes and a double amputee, but provided an anchor for Agim and his two sisters, Dominecia and Taneka.
"She was my inspiration with just the values she instilled in me. With every piece of knowledge she gave me. She was a survivor. And she still made everything happen for us. I feel like people have no type of excuse," Agim told Denver7 in the latest installment of Meet The Picks, which airs Wednesday at 6 p.m.
"I know I have no type of excuse to being doing what I am doing and feel like I can't get out of bed. It was a struggle for her just to get out of bed. It was a struggle everyday. If we didn’t have syrup, she made it out of sugar and water to make sure we had something to eat with her homemade pancakes. Just seeing her doing it gave me that type of passion and belief that anything can happen."
Agim turned a closed-eyes-promise into a new life. He emerged as the state of Arkansas' top high school player, wrecking game plans as a defensive end. He also posted a 3.8 GPA at Hope High, despite being homeless for a time and living at the Salvation Army as his mom Deanna Giddens worked to support her children as a nurse.
It is a common thread in the story of "Sosa," his nickname given to him by friends because of his resemblance to the rapper Chief Keef.
"My grandma always told me that if you are going to do something, be the best at it. Whether that's flipping burgers or something else. Find a way," Agim said. "You can’t tell me that anything is impossible."
At Arkansas, Agim, a three-time member of the SEC honor roll, morphed from a defensive end into a defensive tackle. While his team was a disappointment, the 6-foot-3, 309-pounder flashed promise. He posted 18.5 tackles for a loss over his final two years, and his versatility landed him in Denver as a third-round pick, 95th overall.
"It was surreal to get that call (from general manager John Elway)," Agim said.
Reaching the NFL was only part of Agim's plan. He wants to become an impact player. It starts in the classroom. With this upside-down offseason of virtual OTAs, there is no substitute for studying. Agim watched every one of the Broncos' defensive snaps last season, admitting, "You don’t want to get caught not knowing what to do -- that's when your teammates can't trust you and your coaches can’t trust you. I don’t want to be that guy."
Agim has reached out to veterans, taking advice from the likes of Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Kareem Jackson, while eagerly waiting to practice with five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey.
It didn't hurt that the rookie class received a reminder on the importance of small details from Broncos legend Peyton Manning and Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu on a Zoom call.
"For me, those are the guys I looked up to in my childhood. I loved watching their games. I was almost like a FanGirl. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had to catch myself. I could see myself on the screen laughing too much and smiling too much. I had to get serious and listen to them," Agim said. "I was like these guys are actually talking to us and I can ask them questions and they are able respond to me. It was an unbelievable experience."
Agim knows the challenge of breaking into a veteran defensive line. His inside job is relatively new as he played primarily outside with the Razorbacks in four seasons.
"There’s a common theme. In today’s football, most of our picks, you’ll see pass rush in them when you’re talking about an interior or an exterior defensive lineman. (Agim) brings that pass rush ability to him," Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "There’s a raw sense to him that I think we can bring out, but he does bring the rush."
Agim is personable, candid. He prides himself on treating people well, which made him a fan favorite in Little Rock.
"I just want to be genuine. I have seen guys in my position be genuine. I had an encounter with a guy from my city, (Detroit Lions running back) Tra Carson. He was obviously popular in our city, but he was always humble. I want to be the guy that they say, 'That is the most humble person I know.' I take that challenge to be down to earth. I am still that same kid that was sleeping on the floor at one time, and I am still that same kid that was in the homeless shelter. It still hasn't left me. I haven't forgotten where I came from."
Denver is Agim's new home, with rookies scheduled to report to camp Wednesday and begin COVID-19 testing. Not long after, they will get on the field, steps Agim cannot wait to take as part of his remarkable journey.
"I want to show how much I was preparing. I wasn't taking this quarantine lightly, taking 50 vacations or anything like that. I was in the lab working," Agim said. "I was getting my body healthy, eating right, watching film, that's what I want them to see when I am out there."