When Bradley Roby pled guilty to a charge of having control of a vehicle while under the influence less than two weeks before the NFL Draft, his chances of being a first round pick appeared to go up in smoke. But under the direction of a Hall of Fame quarterback, the reigning AFC champions saved the former Ohio State cornerback from sliding to the second round.
Under the direction of general manager and team legend John Elway, the Denver Broncos made Roby the 31st pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. And while Elway admitted to having concern over Roby's off the field transgressions, he also believes that it's what led to his availability late in the first round.
"We thought he was a top 15 talent. If he hadn't had the couple of issues that he's had, there's no way that he would have been there for us at 31," Elway said. "Those are hopefully for him, learning experiences. He's 21-years-old. Young guys are going to make mistakes.
"When we're making our selection, we look at those and look at the history and the character side of it is very important. We also looked at the positive things about Bradley and there's a lot of positive things there."
Those positives include Roby's status as a two-time All-Big Ten selection, as well as an All-American selection as a redshirt sophomore 2012. Projected to be a late first round pick a season ago, Roby could have chosen to enter the draft in 2013 but ultimately opted to return to Ohio State for his junior season.
Roby's final year as a Buckeye had its fair share of up and downs, starting with an offseason altercation at a Bloomington, Ind. bar that left him suspended for OSU's season opener. The Suwannee, Ga. native also missed most of the Buckeyes' battle with Iowa due to an ejection from a helmet-to-helmet hit and the Orange Bowl due to a knee injury but still did enough to be named all-conference.
The up-and-down nature of Roby's last season in Columbus seemed to be erased as he appeared to solidify his status as a first round pick by running an official 4.39 40-yard dash at the annual NFL scouting combine. But as the 5-11, 192-pounder sat in the green room of New York City's Radio City Music Hall, it wasn't until the clock nearly struck midnight that he heard his name called.
"It was a sigh of relief. I was kind of calm, but my family was kind of anxious, they were very nervous," Roby said. "I was calm, I kept the faith and I thought God was going to put in the position I needed to be in. He did that. I'm very proud of that. It was a moment I'll never forget in my life. I'm just ready to play football now though."
With his draft status uncertainty long gone and football on his mind, Roby will now turn his attention toward learning the Bronco's press-heavy defensive scheme. That scheme is similar to the one that the Buckeyes have been implementing since defensive coordinator Chris Ash's arrival and is one that the former Buckeye wishes he could've played.
"This year, they're actually doing nothing but press-man and I kinda joked with Coach (Urban) Meyer last night, ‘Man, you would put in nothing but man when I leave,'" Roby said. "That's a strength of mine. That's something I enjoy to do. That's something that I think is very effective."
Perhaps even more so than the scheme, Roby is excited for the culture that he'll be walking into in the Mile High City. With future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning at the helm, the Broncos advanced to this past season's Super Bowl where they fell to the Seattle Seahawks.
With Manning back alongside one of the league's most dynamic offenses, Denver again figures to be a Super Bowl favorite. That sits well with Roby, who played a key role in Ohio State's run to a 24-2 record over the course of the past two seasons and is anxious to prove that he's deserving of his first round status.
"I'm a winner. I love to play football just to win," Roby said. "That's all I want to do. So I think that this is the best position for me, playing for a Super Bowl contender that's ready to win right now. Everybody has the same mindset that I have. I think that's going to benefit me as well.
"I think I'll fit in immediately and I'm just ready to play."