The Atlanta-area native earned a starting defensive back assignment in training camp and has justified the position with the kind of play that makes the Broncos believe they have a future star. He has two interceptions, 40 tackles and a forced fumble so far—and is in the running for the AFC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Roby, 22, spoke with Atlanta Black Star about the surprises of the NFL, playing on a team with Super Bowl-only ambitions, practicing against Peyton Manning and how college is “easier” than the NFL, among other subjects.
Atlanta Black Star: How do you compare what you thought the NFL was compared to the reality of being there?
Bradley Roby: At times it’s amazing that I’m here. At times, I feel like the NFL is not this imaginary place that you cannot get to. But I’m here and it’s an accomplished feeling to be a part of a great organization with great players and coaches. It’s like a dream, but it’s also a reality that I have a job to do and I have to put in the work to prove myself and to not let the team down.
ABS: What was the moment that helped you feel like you belonged?
Roby: The first game against the (Indianapolis) Colts, when I broke up the last play of the game (to preserve the win), Andrew Luck throwing to Reggie Wayne, who is a great veteran player. That was my biggest moment of the season for me so far. It was a great way to start my career, to gain confidence and to make a mark. Great defensive backs like Deion Sanders made a mark in their first game—he returned a punt for a kickoff. That was my moment. . . so far.
ABS: How does a rookie come into the league and understand the value of staying ready when the NFL is such a leap from college?
Roby: In the end, it’s just football. But as a pro, it’s my job to be ready. I have the honor to practice everyday against Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Going against him and our receivers, who are amazing, everyday keeps you sharp. If not, you’ll get beat easily. It’s amazing how good Peyton Manning is. I watched him growing up. To be on the other side of the ball against him. . . it’s just remarkable. I feel I’m past the rookie stage. I’m not worried about the playbook, I know how to get ready. I’m used to the life, which isn’t all that exciting because the job consumes my time. . . I look in our defensive huddle and across from me I’ll see a great player like DeMarcus Ware. He’s looking at me to do my job. I’m really playing with great players that I don’t want to let down.
ABS: What has surprised you about the NFL?
Roby: College is actually harder. . . from the standpoint of there being so many other things you have to do. In the NFL, it’s easier because it’s my job. I never felt like a rookie; I just felt like it was a new adventure. From 7.a.m. to 4 (p.m.), I’m at practice, getting treatments, in film sessions. It’s a job and my world revolves around it. There’s more time for me get massages, see the chiropractor, hit the ice tub to keep my body right, watch videos of opponents at home. At Ohio State, you had classes, you have meetings and you have practice everyday. In the NFL, we’re in pads at practice once a week, and it’s not real contact. At Ohio State, there was way more contact in practice. So, my body probably feels a little better now than it did during college. Now, playing games is not easier. I’m athletic, but everyone in the NFL is athletic, so you can’t rely on that to get you by. You have to know the system, work on technique and be focused every play. Every practice is like a game. And you better have your ‘A’ game every play, so it’s intense.
ABS: You mentioned the Colts play to preserve the win, but you also got an interception against Tom Brady in the loss to New England and one last week, too, in Oakland.
Roby: We got beat in New England, which is all that matters. It’s about winning for us. The interception against Tom Brady for me was my first in the NFL, making it extra special. My first pick against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. I’ll remember that. But the game is about winning and making plays.
ABS: Is this a championship year or bust for the Broncos?
Roby: No doubt. We’re not going to be the same team next year. This is the only time this caliber of men will be together. We have great talent, great coaches, great fans. Why not? But we have to earn it. Losing to New England taught us something. It doesn’t do you good to win all your games. You learn from losing, and we learned, above all, that the path won’t be easy. We have to take it if we want it, and we want it. So it will be exciting to see how the rest of the season plays out. But we’re going for it.