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Here's why Broncos OL Quinn Meinerz is about far more than his belly

Andrew Mason Avatar
May 15, 2021

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — “The Gut” is Quinn Meinerz’s nickname. “Let the belly breathe!” is his mantra, and is likely to become a catchphrase for Broncos fans, who appear to have found a new favorite in the No. 98 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Friday, it didn’t even take a half-hour before the gut was on display.

“The main purpose behind that is when I start getting a little hot and I’m starting to breathe really heavy, I have to roll up the jersey,” Meinerz said. “As you can tell, the jerseys fit a little snug, but it just naturally happens.”

But what jumps out when watching Meinerz isn’t his midsection. It’s the way he explodes at the snap when moving forward in the run game. Meinerz’s power starts with his legs and goes from there.

It will serve him well as he develops — because that progress might take some time. Before this weekend’s rookie minicamp, Meinerz’s on-field work with teammates over the last 17 months was limited to five days of practice and a game at the Senior Bowl in January.

In his first two days on the field as a Bronco, he worked at center. In the coming weeks, he is expected to be cross-trained at guard, which is typical for an interior offensive-line prospect.

That puts plenty on his plate. For all the excitement regarding the Broncos adding a high-ceiling prospect near the end of Round 3, patience will be a virtue.

“Right now, all I’m really focused on is learning the playbook,” he said. “That’s crucial, and not only learning it from one position. I’m definitely trying to learn it from both guard [positions] and center.

“As an interior offensive lineman, it’s kind of expected to know all three of those positions so you can slide in. It not only adds value to myself as a player, but it adds value to the team to where I can gain that trust to be able to play all three positions.”

That is part of why Meinerz wants to stick the talk of him working into the starting lineup in a drawer for now.

“It’s [not] something to think about. It’s kind of selfish right now,” Meinerz said. “I’ve got to get myself up to the level where the vets are and to be able to contribute. It’s not, ‘Hey, I want to be a starter.’ It’s, ‘Hey, I really want to help contribute to this team and help them win’.

“When the veterans get here, I want to be a great practice partner for them to constantly help improve their craft. Something like that isn’t really on the radar right now.”

In that respect, Meinerz has a long way to go. But he’s already come farther than any Broncos draft pick since 2006 — which was the last time they drafted a player who didn’t play Division I football.

If you only watched Meinerz at the Senior Bowl, you wouldn’t have known that he came from the level of college football where there are no scholarships and little attention.

The question is obvious: How did Meinerz not play Division I ball? And specifically, how did the Hartford, Wisc. product not play at the University of Wisconsin, which has produced seven NFL offensive linemen in the last five draft classes alone — including an All-Pro in Ryan Ramczyk?

“That’s a great question,” Meinerz said. “I asked that to myself. Things happened the way they did. The Badgers decided they didn’t want me to play for them, so Whitewater was the best school.”

The University of Wisconsin at Whitewater is 44 miles and a world away from Camp Randall Stadium, home of the Wisconsin Badgers. But if you’re going to play Division III football, Whitewater is the place to do it; the school has won six national championships, all since 2007.

“I wouldn’t change anything,” Meinerz said. “I had a great time. I have lifetime friends.”

In Meinerz’s final two seasons there, the Warhawks advanced to at least the national semifinals of Division III. And it’s not like Whitewater is off the NFL radar; veteran wide receiver Jake Kumerow — who has been in the news recently given Aaron Rodgers’ fondness for the ex-Packer — also played there.

So, when scouts did arrive in Whitewater in 2019, Meinerz was ready to make an impression. As he noted Saturday, that was when his NFL dreams became a potential reality.

“I would say it was sometime after my junior season. We had a spring day and a couple of regional scouts came to Whitewater,” he said. “I did a 40-[yard dash] and a couple other tests—height and weight.

“That was really the first time I had the opportunity with Quinn Meinerz and the NFL coming together. It really started the process and got really serious after that point. That’s why I’m here today.”

If Meinerz’s play is as compelling as his path, he’s about to become Broncos Country’s next cult hero.

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