Chad Kelly has been in the NFL for 10 months.
And for 10 months his NFL dreams have been paused.
At this time a year ago, when the top names of his draft class descended on Indianapolis and the NFL scouting combine, Kelly was encumbered by a laundry bag of red flags.
The NFL had rescinded his combine invitation because of a new misbehavior policy — since terminated — that punished Kelly less than the teams that had questions of him. He was three months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. At his Ole Miss pro day in April, he would rupture tendons in his throwing wrist.
"It freaking crushes your dreams," Kelly said Tuesday night. "It was a sad time."
The SEC's top quarterback over the 2015 to 2016 seasons would be a long-range project, no chance to compete for playing time, shelved for the entire season while he healed and learned the NFL from behind the Broncos curtain.
"Getting drafted by a great organization picked me up," Kelly said Tuesday from Colorado, "but going through the year and not being able to help on the field, I don't want to say you doubt yourself, but I felt, 'Man, I just want to go out there and do something about this!'
"But you've got to be patient. It was a year that tested my patience really hard, but seeing an NFL season like I have, it lights a fire in your stomach. I wake up every day and just want to be the best there is."
Kelly has been throwing without issues. His uncle, Buffalo Bills icon Jim Kelly, posted an Instagram video of Chad throwing last week in New Jersey. Chad was working out with free agent Matt Simms, whose father, New York Giants legend Phil Simms, stopped by to say hello.
This week in Indianapolis, clubs will evaluate the next infusion of prospects. The Broncos, uncertain at quarterback and plotting how to use the fifth overall draft pick, will be among the most interested in passers such as Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield.
Kelly is ahead of them when it comes to pro experience, traveling to all Denver's road games despite being inactive, absorbing a playbook, breaking down film with veteran coaches and QBs, learning what it means to be a full-time football player.
But by Kelly's personal definition, he isn't really in the NFL.
"It hasn't hit me yet," the St. Joe's grad said, "and I don't think it'll hit me until I step on that field for the first time and play an actual game.
"Being in that locker room and seeing those guys put on that jersey and come together and get hyped up and ready to go play another NFL team was really neat, and I can't wait to have that feeling and contribute with my best friends, my teammates I'm going into battle with every day."
Kelly would seem a safe bet to remain with Denver if he stays healthy and doesn't give skeptics reason to recall his silly missteps at Clemson or while visiting Western New York.
As a seventh-round draft choice, he's an inexpensive lottery ticket for president of football operations/general manager John Elway.
"There's only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL," Kelly said. "You've got to be thankful for your opportunity.
"You can dwell on being hurt, but the opportunity to scan your ID card in the parking lot and walk into work and see great players and great people and guys that want to do that every single day with you is what it's all about."
The other quarterbacks on Denver's roster have been unremarkable. In the two years since Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl and retired, the Broncos went 14-18 and ranked in the bottom half of the league in points and yards.
Second-year coach Vance Joseph overhauled his staff after last season, hiring offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan. Elway's old backup and veteran NFL head coach Gary Kubiak remains on staff as an advisor.
With whom will they work?
Trevor Siemian has one year left on his rookie contract. He has won the starting job out of training camp the past two years, but underwent left shoulder surgery for the second straight offseason.
The Broncos traded first- and third-round draft choices to move up four slots and take Paxton Lynch 26th overall two years ago. Lynch has started four games.
At a combine news conference Wednesday, Joseph didn't elaborate on Denver's quarterback plans aside from saying Kelly, Siemian and Lynch all are in the derby.
"You can't control the outside stuff," Kelly said of the Broncos depth chart. "You just come to work every day, wanting to learn, wanting to get better, whether it's in the weight room, the classroom or out in the field.
"You've got to just focus on what you can control and how you can make yourself better that day."
Story topics: Baker Mayfield/ Bill Musgrave/ Brock Osweiler/ Chad Kelly/ Gary Kubiak/ Jim Kelly/ John Elway/ Josh Allen/ Josh Rosen/ Matt Simms/ Paxton Lynch/ Peyton Manning/ Phil Simms/ Sam Darnold/ St. Joe's/ St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute/ Trevor Siemian/ Vance Joseph