Derek Wolfe has seen the highs and lows during the first seven years of his career. If anyone knows the peaks and valleys of life in the NFL, it’s the Broncos defensive end.
As a rookie in 2012, he joined a team that had just signed Peyton Manning as a free agent. The next four years were filled with lots of winning, as the playoffs were a perennial affair and two Super Bowl trips were in order.
In the past three seasons, however, he’s seen the other side of the coin. As the Broncos have searched for a replacement to their future Hall of Fame quarterback, they’ve juggled through head coaches and struggled to win games.
As a result, things haven’t been a lot of fun for Wolfe. And it’s been hard for him to hide his emotions; that’s just his nature.
This year, he’s trying a new approach. And so far, it’s working.
“I wake up every day and I just try to find something to be happy about because being grumpy all the time just takes a toll on you,” the veteran defensive lineman said after Friday’s practice. “Of course, I wake up grumpy, but I get in the shower and take a little bathroom break and then come in here, get some coffee and eat some food and then my mood starts to change a little bit.”
The transformation has been noticeable. Even the head coach has seen the difference.
“I think Derek is really happy right now, which is hard to believe,” the head coach answered. “I’ve heard he’s a grumpy guy, but he hasn’t been grumpy around me. I enjoy being around him, but I think he’s in a good spot.”
What’s been the difference? Well, it’s more than just mindset. For the first time in a while, Wolfe is enjoying his job.
“I am having more fun,” he added on Friday. “I am not joking with you guys when I say that I love this defense. I really love playing in this defense. I am not just trying to get clickbait out there. I really do love playing in this defense.”
What makes being a part of Fangio’s scheme so much fun? Well, Wolfe isn’t willing to divulge the secret just yet.
“To tell you what I love about the defense would be me giving away scheme things and I don’t want to do that,” he shared. “But just know that this defense is hard to get a read on as an offensive lineman. It’s hard to get a read on what the guy in front of you is doing every single snap.”
That change has made a world of difference for Wolfe.
“It got monotonous last year, where the offensive line just kind of knew where I was going to line up; it makes your job hard,” he explained. “You have 200- or 300-plus dudes that know what you’re doing. Good luck. It’s going to be a long day.”
Wolfe was beaming with a smile when he shared this info. He looked like a kid who enjoyed playing football once again.
“He’s been doing great,” Fangio added after Friday’s practice. “I think Derek likes it. I think is suits his style of play.”
But the smile isn’t just about the defensive scheme. Wolfe is also happy about the direction of the team.
“I think we have a winning formula,” the defensive end said. “I think we have a great head coach. I think he has a great team around him, as far as assistant coaches go. I think we have a really talented team.”
And that combination can surprise some people in 2019.
“It’s really in our hands,” Wolfe said. “It doesn’t matter what anyone else does; it matters what we do. If we do what we are supposed to do, I think we get back to going to the playoffs, and we get back to winning Super Bowls. We want to win 10 games, go to the playoffs and win a Super Bowl.”
That would make Broncos Country happy. But would it ultimately make the perpetually unhappy d-end happy?
“I am still a grumpy guy,” Wolfe added. “That’s not going to go away.”