The eight draft picks and 17 college free agents that have joined the Denver Broncos since the NFL Draft commenced on April 27 have been able to call themselves “Broncos” for the better part of a month now, but it wasn’t until rookie orientation got underway this week that they were able to don jerseys and pads to become the Broncos as we’ll know them on Sundays this fall.

As the final day of rookie orientation wrapped up with an on-field practice, several of the draft picks spoke with the local media to share their thoughts on that moment when it clicked that they were officially “Denver Broncos.”

For Garett Bolles, Denver’s top pick in the 2017 Draft, it was putting on the orange and blue helmet for the first time.

“Just putting on that helmet,” Bolles said. “When you have the Bronco on the side of your helmet, that’s awesome. When you put on the blue and orange, that’s special. We have the greatest fans, everyone says, but when you put on that helmet, you have to wear it proud. You’ve got to be proud to be a Bronco and I’m just so grateful to be here. We have such great teammates and it’s such a great organization. It’s a dream come true to be here.”

Bolles endured a difficult path to become an NFL offensive lineman, but has emerged a top prospect coming out of Utah. He was the first offensive lineman selected in this year’s draft and could be asked to start at left tackle right away. While Bolles’ challenges date back well into the past and are mostly off-field, rookie tight end Jake Butt has battled through a very recent on-field injury in hopes of proving the teams that passed on him for four rounds of the draft wrong.

Denver selected Butt with the first pick of the fifth round, and the All-American tight end from Michigan is extremely grateful for the opportunity to show the other 31 teams what they missed on – especially to do so for an organization with as much class, history and success as the Denver Broncos.

“Really, I can say this 100 times, this is such a dream come true,” Butt said. “It’s a dream to play in the NFL, but I feel especially lucky to be in such a great organization. I put my cleats on today, I looked at my helmet and I just had to take it in for a second because it is so special and I’m very grateful to be here.”

Although he’s less than a month into being a professional, Butt is already hard at work learning offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s playbook and says the differences between what he did in college and what’s going to be asked of him in the pros.

“There are definitely differences,” he said, “but I do feel [Michigan] Coach [Jim] Harbaugh did a great job, and Coach Fisch (UCLA Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch) and Coach ‘Drev’ (Michigan Offensive Coordinator Tim Drevno). Coming from that pro-style system, they threw a lot at us at Michigan. I tried to prepare the same way there that I try to prepare right now. I think their staff did a good job. It’s still very early to tell what my role is going to be in this offense. I’m just committed to working hard right now and getting healthy. That’s my job.”

If Butt can fully recover from a second torn ACL, suffered in the 2016 Orange Bowl this past December, the Broncos may have landed the steal of the draft. Before his injury, Butt was expected to be a first-round pick.

Another potential first-round talent and fellow consensus All-American joining Butt on Denver’s roster is defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker. The Florida State product and eventual second-round pick was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and has played on some of the biggest stages in football. Still, Saturday’s rookie practice was the first time that it truly sunk in that he’s an NFL player.

“It didn’t really hit me until today,” Walker said, “Getting out on the field and feeling the intensity from the coaches—that’s when it really hit me that it was real. I’m very happy and I just want to keep getting better every single day.”

It’s a steep learning curve for rookies in the NFL, even those with credentials like Bolles, Butt and Walker. But the highly touted trio is already hard at work, like true Denver Broncos, ready to assume that mantle and ride for Broncos Country come September.

Featured Image Credit: Ryan Greene, 5280 Sports Network