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From Madden to Broncos, Adam Gotsis' NFL journey still work in progress

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- If Adam Gotsis scrolls through the calendar pages he’s flipped in his life, he can point to the exact moment he discovered football.

American football, that is, and it had to be discovered, mined from the sports landscape, because Gotsis is Australian and, well, American football is not.

“It was Madden ’07, the video game, the one with Shaun Alexander on the cover," Gotsis said. “I think my mom or my brother got it somewhere. We just played a bit of that. We didn’t really understand it much, we didn’t know what we were doing, we just threw the deep ball every time. That was the first insight to football that I had."

That’s a long way from where Gotsis was when he described the memory, in a hallway inside the Broncos’ suburban Denver facility, roughly 8,762 miles from Abbotsford, Australia, as the 747 flies. Gotsis was the Broncos’ second-round pick in this year’s draft, a coveted defensive line prospect with the physical attributes to succeed.555

Gotsis was so enticing to Broncos defensive line coach Bill Kollar, he asked coach Gary Kubiak every day before the draft if the team was going to select him. Gotsis had rare upside for a player still learning the game. Gotsis first played American football, he said, “when I just turned 14, so I think I signed up when I was 13 and played just after I turned 14.’’ It was a club team in an eight-team league in the Melbourne area.

The oddity, besides mismatched equipment and cobbled-together playbooks, was there were only two age divisions -- one for 14- to 18-year-olds, the other for 19 and older.

So, as a 14-year-old, Gotsis often found himself surrounded by 18-year-olds, and as a 17-year-old, when he moved up to the upper-age division because of his size and strength, he found an entirely different challenge.

“I didn’t play much at first because everybody was 18 and shaving and I was 14," Gotsis said. “Then when I was 17, I moved up and there were 35-year-olds out there and I was 17. After the first bit, it kind of gave me confidence because these guys were men -- 25, 27, 30, 35 years old -- and I was 17 and doing all right. But these dudes were bigger than me, stronger than me and I was still doing pretty well, I thought I might have a shot at this."

It took a year after he graduated from high school, a year when Gotsis said he worked at a “leisure center’’ as a lifeguard, a trainer or whatever else needed to be done, before he was recommended to the coaches at Georgia Tech, who offered him a scholarship. Gotsis proved to be a bit of a football prodigy in a massive frame. He caught the eye of the Broncos and others around the league, but he finish his senior year because he tore an ACL suffered the ninth game of the season.

It was an injury Gotsis was recovering from even when the Broncos selected him this past April. Kubiak has joked Kollar “would ask me if we were going to pick Gotsis every day before he even said hello."

Gotsis still is learning, with plenty more time on the learning curve to come. At times in training camp, he said, he still felt like he was recovering from his surgery -- he said Tuesday, however, he feels “full go, finally" -- and he’s been an important part of the Broncos’ rotation in the defensive line this preseason.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has said, “I see a big guy who can move like a smaller guy."

And linebacker Von Miller said after seeing Gotsis work in one recent practice that “Gotsis is looking incredible out there."

His parents, older brother, older sister and two younger sisters will have to be somewhat creative to see him play this season given the 2:25 p.m. Denver time kickoff would be “about 9 in the morning, Monday morning at home,’’ Gotsis said, “so they might have to get a bit of the Game Pass happening on their phones."

Gotsis had to wrestle a bit to get the paperwork done for his work visa -- it’s good for five years -- and had to fly back to visit the U.S. consulate in Australia to complete the process. He figures he’ll make at least one trip per year back to Australia and his family can visit “in shifts, maybe a couple at a time to spread it out."

“But I think right now, after everything to get to this point, right now it’s about football," Gotsis said. “It’s about me learning, getting better, getting smarter, but it’s just about football and I like that."