And their future shall be with a former junior college walk-on. To be sure, it was hardly a typical journey that defensive tackle Sylvester Williams took from high school dropout to large truck-radiator mechanic to becoming the No. 28 draft pick for the Broncos on Thursday.

"The guy understands what a blessing it was," said Broncos coach John Fox. "I think he's mature for his age."

Williams, a 6-foot-3, 313-pound prospect from North Carolina, briefly dropped out of high school as a sophomore and never played organized football until his junior year in high school.

"I was a basketball player and I thought I was pretty good," Williams said when asked why it took him so long to take up football. "I loved the game of basketball."

A good senior season of football at Jefferson City (Mo.) High School carried enough promise for Williams to enroll at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, the junior college program that produced running backs Brandon Jacobs and the late Damien Nash.

Before enrolling at Coffeyville, though, Williams took a $12-an-hour job making radiators. And they say playing a football game in the trenches is a dirty job.

After two years of junior college ball, Williams received a scholarship to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels. He came on as a senior last season, registering six sacks and 13½ tackles for losses.

Fox and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio love defensive tackles who can penetrate the backfield. The team made a similar pick last year when they got Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe with the No. 36 pick in the second round. Wolfe played defensive end in the base defense last year, moving inside to tackle on passing downs.

It's possible the Broncos will use Wolfe and Williams as defensive tackles on passing downs with Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton starting in the base defense.

Williams might have become the Broncos' choice after there was a run of cornerbacks taken just before the team's No. 28 pick.

D.J. Hayden went No. 12 to Oakland, Desmond Trufant went No. 22 to the Atlanta Falcons — who leaped ahead of the Broncos by trading up from No. 30 — and Xavier Rhodes went No. 25 to Minnesota.

Not that Williams wasn't a solid pick. It is believed New England was ready to take him with its No. 29 pick. After the Broncos nabbed the Tar Heel one spot ahead, the Patriots traded back with Minnesota.

"We were thrilled to death that he was there when it was our time to pick," John Elway, the Broncos' football operations boss, said of Williams. "His size, quickness. He's a penetrator."