Broncos rookie Devaughn Vele aims to turn age into a positive

Devaughn Vele isn’t a typical rookie.

The Denver Broncosseventh-round draft pick is already 26 years old and he’ll turn 27 during his first season in the league. Vele served a two-year mission in Samoa right after high school. After that, he walked on at Utah in 2019.

After a redshirt freshman season, his 2020 season was shorted by COVID-19, giving him another year of eligibility. He went on to total 121 receptions for 1,677 yards and nine touchdowns over the next three seasons in 38 games.

Despite his size (6-4, 203 pounds) and speed (4.47), Vele was considered a late-round prospect in large part due to his age.

“I knew that the biggest concern coming into the draft was going to be my age,” Vele said after being picked by the Broncos last Saturday. “I am a little bit older because I served a two-year mission. At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. It is going to be based on your production, so if you can play at the end of the day, does it matter how old you are?

“As long as you can contribute to the team and help them win, you are going to be able to see the field. I understood that was going to be the thing going into the draft. Any team that took a chance on me despite my age, I was going to be grateful to them. I am going to give them 110 percent.”

With veteran Tim Patrick scheduled to become a free agent next year, Vele might be a candidate to eventually fill his role on offense.

“He is a guy that is an older player with experience,” coach Sean Payton said. “He is kind of a big slot. His comparison might be a Tim Patrick-type player. He is strong and smart.”

There are obvious disadvantages to entering the NFL as a 26-year-old rookie, the biggest being a shorter window for a career. Vele’s experience could prove to be beneficial, though, and there are positive aspects for the team.

“I feel like I have that sense of maturity where teams won’t have to worry about me [with] on- or off-the-field issues,” Vele said of his maturity. “Those are experiences that I learned from the mission. I feel like that is going to help me have that sense of maturity to be coachable and also be humble in the standings of wherever they need me to contribute for the team. That is what I am going to do.”

If he was two or three years younger, Vele might have gone off the board a few rounds earlier. The Broncos were happy to land him in the seventh.

“If they were younger, they would have gone higher,” GM George Paton said of older draft prospects. “You just look at the value. He is ready-made, Vele in particular. He was just too talented to pass up.

“We had a clear vision for him fitting in with what we are doing. Twenty-six is still young, relatively speaking. He plays a mature game. He has all the traits. He is a prototype. He is big and fast. For a big guy, he can get in and out of his breaks. We just thought he was too talented to pass up.”

Vele will now team up with former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, who was picked by Denver in the first round of the draft last Thursday.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Vele said of joining Nix in the NFL after competing against him in college. “He’s a great quarterback. He kicked our butts at Rice-Eccles Stadium. I know the kind of energy he brings and the leadership he brings. I’m excited to work with him and catch some balls from him.”

Nix and Vele will report for rookie minicamp next week.

Story originally appeared on Broncos Wire