Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton aims to 'carry his cross every day' as a new starter

As the NFL trade deadline passed this week, among the biggest deals involved the Denver Broncos sending wide receiver Demaryius Thomas — who was a first-round pick in 2010 and had spent his entire career in Denver — to Houston. The four-time Pro Bowler’s 9,055 career receiving yards and 60 receiving touchdowns rank second all-time for the Broncos organization.

Thomas’ hefty contract and decline in production led to rumors about the Broncos (3-5) moving him, but the team ultimately wouldn’t have traded the wideout if it weren’t for the potential it sees in the player that will fill his role. With Thomas’ departure, rookie Courtland Sutton will become the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Emmanuel Sanders.

A second-round pick out of Southern Methodist (the same school as Sanders), Sutton has grabbed 17 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns in eight games. But he’s only played 68.7 percent of the offensive snaps.

He’ll see a lot more playing time now. Sutton’s hard work and great attitude since joining the NFL made it easier for the Broncos to deal Thomas.

“That was part of it,” head coach Vance Joseph told the media Wednesday when asked what trading Thomas says about the team’s confidence in Sutton. “I think Courtland can be special. We’ve all watched him during training camp and through the first two months of the season. He’s got special ability. Now, he has to go prove it.”

Sutton’s best game came last week against Kansas City, as he caught three passes for 78 yards. His first career touchdown came in Week 5 against the New York Jets, but his second TD grab was the highlight of his season so far: a WR pass from Sanders that Sutton hauled in with his fingertips.

“He’s a second-round pick that probably should’ve been a first-round pick,” Joseph said. “We knew he was talented, but without coaching the guy and actually having him in camp, you don’t know what you’ve got. Obviously, he’s a gifted guy. He’s not a finished product by any means, but our hope is that he’s going to be special. … It’s his time, so he has plenty of reps and time to prove he’s that guy we think he can be.”

“I don’t flinch from situations like this,” Sutton told the media on Wednesday, adding, “It’s just a thing that goes all the way back to OTAs for me, showing up and giving my all every single day, showing up and making sure I’m working on my craft to where I can be the best version of myself. I ultimately believe that if I’m the best version of myself then I can be one of the top receivers in the league.”

Sutton, who describes himself on Twitter as a “God Fearing young man on a mission,” has earned the respect of his teammates.

“I don’t know how he didn’t go top 10 in the draft,” said three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris. “His talent is unreal. He can make all of the catches. I’m excited to see him step up in his role.”

“I think he’s going to keep making big plays,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “We’ve seen it all year. Explosive plays, he’s a deep threat underneath. Just a guy that you want to get the ball in his hands. ”

“You’ve seen him making plays,” Sanders said. “He’s a playmaker. He goes out and busts his butt. He’s definitely ready to be a starter. He’s definitely ready.”

Sutton’s work ethic stems from 1 Corinthians 15:10, which he told Sports Spectrum earlier this season is one of his favorite verses.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” — 1 Corinthians 15:10

“I think that you got to carry your cross every day,” Sutton told us. “That’s one thing I’ve told a lot of people. You got to make sure that you’re carrying your cross.”

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