It is not exactly rare for a sporting team to talk up their latest draftee – they are hardly going to say otherwise.
But the Denver Broncos are not just talking up Aussie Adam Gotsis, they are raving about him.
The 23-year-old, who attended Kew High School in Melbourne, was taken at pick 63 in the NFL Draft on Saturday (AEST), just six months after suffering a serious knee injury.
No Australian has been drafted higher in NFL history.
• Bronco leaves wife in labour so he can play footy
• Matthew Suckling: ‘The thoughts in my mind were not good’
• The 5000-1 shots about to pull off sport’s greatest upset
• From rehab to Origin: Mitchell Pearce should get ready for NSW call
With his four-year rookie contract, Gotsis is tipped to earn approximately US$3.9 million (AUD$5.1 million), which includes a signing bonus of AUD$1.4 million.
The young Aussie, who is 195cm tall and tips the scales at 127kg, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in October in an injury that was meant to make NFL teams wary.
But current Super Bowl champions Denver were long-time fans of Gotsis and did not risk losing him to other sides, parting with a pick late in the second round to secure his services.
John Elway – a Broncos legend who was quarterback for Denver in two Super Bowl winning campaigns – is now the franchise’s general manager.
Elway was insistent that Denver had unearthed a gem in Gotsis, who played gridiron in Victoria with the Monash Warriors before moving to the US.
“We’re really excited about him,” he said.
“He’s a guy we think has a really high ceiling. He was a guy we targeted so we didn’t want to take any chances to let him slide.”
Denver head coach Gary Kubiak said his coaching staff were taken with Gotsis’ potential.
“Let me just say this. Our defensive coach (Bill Kollar) is pretty good,” he said.
“When he comes down over the course of the last six weeks, banging on our doors saying: ‘You guys give me a chance to work with this guy (Gotsis)’…John (Elway) and I felt really good about that.”
‘It’s an awesome feeling’
Gotsis was understandably elated to join the NFL champions.
He said: “To become part of the best defence in the last 30 years or so – it’s an awesome feeling.”
— Adam Gotsis (@gotsis96) April 30, 2016
I appreciate all the support and love from everyone along the road! This is the next chapter! #BroncosCountry
— Adam Gotsis (@gotsis96) April 30, 2016
The defensive lineman grew up playing more Australian Rules football than gridiron, but his decision to start playing the latter competitively led to his move to the United States.
It was only by chance, though, with his ex-coach Paul Johnson initially looking to Australia for a kicker.
“He (Paul) basically was looking for a kicker in Australia,” said Gotsis, who spent four years at Atlanta university, Georgia Tech.
“My coach back home was like, ‘Well, I’ve got this pretty big Australian kid that can run well and is pretty athletic for being 6-5, 300 pounds at the time’.
“Next thing, coach Johnson asked for some film of me to show my athleticism. He invited me over for a recruiting trip and offered me a spot.
“It’s all worked out for me and I worked hard.
“It’s just awesome to see it paying off and I’m just ready for this next part.”
A ‘heavy tackler using blunt force’
NFL draft expert Mel Kiper told ESPN that Gotsis was generating serious waves in the US before he was drafted.
“This kid, I tell ya, he was the talk of the town,” he said.
“He was one of those fast risers that everybody in the league mentioned.
“[They were] all hoping they could maybe steal him in the third round – and Denver grabbed him prior to that.”
The official NFL website describes Gotsis as “broad-shouldered, sturdy frame with long arms and big hands”.
It adds: “Heavy tackler using blunt force and an aggressive finish.”
The NFL draft is held over three days and seven rounds. Rounds four to seven will take place on Sunday (AEST).
Australia’s top remaining prospects are punter Tom Hackett (University of Utah) and kicker Brad Craddock (University of Maryland).
Other Australians hoping to be picked include punters Alex Kinal (Wake Forest), Lachlan Edwards (Sam Houston State) and Jamie Keehn (Louisiana State) and offensive lineman Blake Muir (Baylor).
– with AAP