Josey Jewell is poised to return to the field this week after exiting Week 3 early due to a hip injury. Jewell’s return is something to celebrate, as the Denver Broncos defense currently ranks dead last.

Jewell, also known as ‘The Outlaw,’ has fought tooth and nail for every single snap he’s played. Coming from a small town of less than 10,000 people, he has spent the last six seasons working to become a permanent starting linebacker in the NFL. Jewell’s return is much needed as the Broncos look to turn their season around.

From Farm to Football

Growing up in Decorah, IA, Jewell was raised on his family’s farm, which had been in the family for five generations. At Decorah High School, he was a three-year letterman as a linebacker and running back. Jowell was named a captain in his senior year and helped lead his school to a perfect 14-0 record and a state championship. He was named first-team all-state by The Des Moines Register and the Iowa Newspaper Association.

Coming out of high school, he was rated as a two-star prospect by 247Sports. He committed to playing college football as a linebacker at the University of Iowa.

Jewell decided to redshirt in his first year at Iowa. He played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman, making four starts and finishing the season with 51 tackles and one sack. 

Over the next three seasons, Jewell was a permanent starter, and his teammates elected him as a captain each year. 

As a redshirt sophomore, he led the team with 126 tackles, three sacks, and four interceptions. In his third year, Jewell again led the team with 124 tackles with 1.5 sacks. He had his most impressive season in his final year, finishing with 132 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Jewell finished with 426 career tackles, fifth all-time in Hawkeyes history.

Jewell earned Second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2015 and 2016, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, was a finalist for the Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker), won the Jack Lambert Award (top collegiate linebacker), and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski award (best collegiate defensive player).

From Decorah to Denver

The Denver Broncos selected Jewell with the 106th pick in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Outlaw saw the field as a rookie and started in nine games while playing in all 16. He entered the 2019 season starting alongside Todd Davis but was benched in Week 4 in favor of Alexander Johnson. 

Jewell came back to training camp in 2020 and completely impressed. He performed so well that he replaced Davis, who was released prior to the start of the season. Jewell started in all 16 games and finished the season with a then-career best 113 total tackles and two sacks. Unfortunately, his 2021 season was hampered by a pectoral injury, limiting him to just two games. Nevertheless, his talent was recognized, and he secured a two-year extension worth $11 million before the 2022 season. 

Despite missing four games due to injuries in 2022, Jewell reached new heights in his NFL career. He recorded a combined 128 tackles, forced two fumbles, and intercepted the ball twice. His partnership with Alex Singleton proved formidable, as they collectively amassed an impressive 291 total tackles.

Now, in the final year of his contract, the former Hawkeye is fighting for another extension. He faced an early exit from Week 3 due to a hip injury and was unable to participate in Week 4. However, he returned to practice as a full participant on Thursday, indicating he will be good to go on Sunday against the New York Jets. With the Jets looking strong against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, his return is vital. With the resurgence of several injured defensive players, there’s hope that Jewell can spearhead a fresh chapter for the defense.