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  • Peter Schaffer

Keeler: If Broncos want Julian Edelman, Mines legend John Matocha is up for switch from QB to WR. “Anything that can help the team.”

By SEAN KEELER | | The Denver Post

PUBLISHED: April 29, 2024 at 7:54 p.m. | UPDATED: April 29, 2024 at 9:39 p.m.

Because it’s Julian Edelman, naturally, there’s a catch. John Matocha hasn’t played receiver before. Like, anywhere.

“Never,” the venerated ex-Mines quarterback and NCAA all-time leader in total touchdowns told me Monday. “When I heard the comparisons of me to Edelman, I was a little surprised, because I’ve never played receiver. I definitely see myself as a quarterback.

“But if an NFL team says I should, I will never say no.”

Look, if the Broncos ask him to cover punts, he’s game. If they tell him to hold on field goals, groovy. If they want him to clean up after Thunder, he’ll bring a shovel and a smile. If they need him to get coffee for coach Sean Payton, he’ll rev those 4.8-in-the-40 wheels toward the nearest Starbucks.

“I definitely think I’m a quarterback. But I’m a team player,” said Matocha, who on Sunday got an invite to the Broncos’ rookie mini-camp in May. “And I’m willing to do anything that they tell me. Or anything that can help the team. Or anything I can to get a spot. That’s really what my main goal is.”

Matocha’s been decorated more times than the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. The 2022 Harlon Hill Award. Ten All-America nods. One hundred ninety-one scores with the Orediggers, 162 of them through the air. He’s got Jared Goff’s Wonderlic score (36), Patrick Mahomes’ 40-yard dash time … and Russell Wilson’s eye level (5-foot-11).

It’s the last part that’s the rub.

“I know the concern people have with my height. I know that’s the one thing holding some people back,” Matocha sighed. “I hope everything I’ve shown on the field and everything I’ve shown on pro day can speak for itself.

“I can’t do anything about my height. But I can show off my arm.”

And his legs. Matocha’s spent the last five years winning everything in sight — he’s the only QB to ever lead Mines to an NCAA Division II national title game, and the dude did it twice — and throwing his 5-11, 180-pound frame around like the second coming of Floyd Little. The nimble Texan rushed for 11 scores as a freshman in 2019 and seven more as a sophomore in 2021.

He averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a senior and 3.7 as a collegian. His accidental, airborne tribute to John Elway’s Helicopter leap in a game against Central Washington last December went viral. His unofficial 40 time is around 4.86. Which is better than Spencer Rattler’s 4.95 at the combine, by the way, and not far behind Sam Hartman’s 4.80. In terms, Matocha’s not just a quarterback. He’s an athlete.

Just not a particularly tall one. Which is where the Edelman projections come in.

“I’ve definitely heard that whispered around, some people have told me (that),” Matocha said. “Honestly, I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”

He’s a software developer by day and an optimist by night. Matocha was a first-round pick of Tyler Technologies in Lakewood in February after wrapping up his grad work in computer sciences.

For months, he’s lived a sort of double life — an IT guy chasing the NFL grail. While prepping in Colorado, he worked from home Mondays and Fridays, worked at the office Tuesdays-Thursdays and trained like a demon in the evenings at Pivotal Sports Performance in Parker.

“(Tyler) has been absolutely amazing,” Matocha said. “They’ve been supportive of me the whole time. … It’s been a blessing to go work for them and get experience and have that kind of security while I’m chasing a dream.”

On Wednesdays, he chases volleyballs with his Tyler teammates. On Thursdays, it’s ultimate frisbee.

“Honestly, some of those guys are in ultimate frisbee leagues and doing whatever during the season and they’re way better than me,” Matocha chuckled. “I’m definitely not the best ultimate frisbee player out there.”

He’s probably not the best quarterback in a room that’s already got Bo Nix and Zach Wilson, but by Blaster, he likes his odds. So do the Broncos, apparently, who called over the weekend to extend an invite. Denver was among a handful of teams that attended Mines’ pro day in March, and Matocha got in front of more eyeballs when he threw to ex-CU wideout Xavier Weaver during the latter’s pro day in Boulder.

“With the Broncos, I feel like being a local helps,” Matocha said. “I know a few (scouts) from the Broncos who have been to Mines games and have seen me play. I felt a real confidence on my pro day. I think I had one incompletion and I was able to show off my accuracy. And at the local pro day, I felt really good — during drills, I was hitting every spot.”

Although, by his own admission, even this roster’s a long shot. The last Oredigger to crash an NFL camp, according to the athletic department, was offensive lineman Jackie Crisp, signed by the Jets in 1994.

Matocha’s been living from couch to couch, a wandering wunderkind, until the football side of things crystalizes. If nothing else, there’s an offer in his back pocket from the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. As fate would have it, Tyler Technologies has an office up there, too. Although the ultimate frisbee won’t compare. Neither will the views.

“Sometimes, like on draft day, I would say to myself that, ‘I wish I could be a little bit taller,'” Matocha reflected. “But I’m certainly grateful for every opportunity. Who knows? Maybe if I was a little taller, maybe my arm wouldn’t be as good or I wouldn’t be as quick. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. I have no frustrations at all. I’m extremely blessed to be in this position.”

He laughed. Just because a QB’s already got a dang good day job doesn’t mean you ever pass on a dream.

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