The reasons stacked up for Josh Banderas to favor that offer from the Denver Broncos, the oft winning franchise that just won a Super Bowl 15 months ago.

It's worth mention at the top that the Broncos didn't draft any linebackers this weekend, and signed only one other inside backer as an undrafted free agent besides Banderas. On a Denver Post online story listing Denver's free-agent additions, there's a big picture of the former Husker above the names.

Add in that it's a pro team less than 500 miles from Banderas' hometown of Lincoln. Further consider the Broncos already have some former Nebraska teammates familiar to him, like fullback Andy Janovich and linebacker Zaire Anderson.

"It just felt comfortable making that decision" over a couple other options, Banderas said.

The Broncos have, quite quickly, become a team heavy populated with Huskers.

In just the last two years, Denver has now signed four former NU players. In addition to drafting Janovich in 2016 and promoting Anderson to the 53-man roster last year in his second NFL season, the franchise signed defensive end Jared Crick last April to a two-year deal worth $4 million.

"I went to Nebraska, so there are a lot of Nebraska fans that are Broncos fans," the Cozad native Crick told the Denver Post then. "I have a little bit of a fan base coming in, which will be nice."

It's the first time Banderas will be on the same team with Crick, whose final Husker season was in 2011, two years before Banderas began his NU career.

For Banderas, there's an eagerness to present himself at 100 percent after a frustrating lead-up to the draft in which nagging leg injuries didn't allow him to give a full workout at either of Nebraska's two events attended by pro scouts.

"I haven't been able to do anything for three to four months," Banderas said Saturday. "To finally be able to do it when it really, really counts will be exciting."

Things will all move very quickly for NFL hopefuls like Banderas. Former Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who announced he will get an opportunity with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said he was already heading to camp in Tampa this Thursday.

While NU has several recent examples of undrafted players who made NFL teams — Will Compton, Anderson, Jeremiah Sirles, Brent Qvale and Trevor Roach — the odds still can seem tall.

While you may have heard over the weekend that four undrafted Huskers are receiving opportunities with the Minnesota Vikings (Terrell Newby, Tommy Armstrong, Dylan Utter and Sam Hahn), the running back Newby is the only one of those to actually sign a deal with the team at this point.

The former Husker quarterback Armstrong, who expects to get a look at other positions, including running back, with the Vikings, told the Journal Star he understood his situation involved a tryout. "If I'm doing well enough, they'll sign me."

Some of those former Huskers hoping to make a name for themselves received NFL camping advice last week from Billy Devaney, Nebraska's executive director of player personnel, who has more than three decades of experience in the league.

Relax, Devaney told them. Get your mind right and your body right. Because it'll be time to show what you can do in less than two weeks.

"You're close enough now to the mini camps that you can start cutting back on your workouts," Devaney said of his advice. "If lifting, start decreasing. The last thing you want to do is pull a pec muscle or running hard sprints at this point and pull a hamstring. You don't want to be a young guy and not be able to take part in mini camp. Just maintain."

In Banderas' case, he can turn to some others who know exactly what to expect at a Denver camp for rookies. Not a bad deal.

"It definitely adds a sense of comfort, I guess," Banderas said. "It's a whole new world. Just to know two guys that I played college ball with, and I've considered a couple good friends, I think is just going to make the experience that much better. And hopefully increase the chances of sticking."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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