All in the family at Broncos camp

By: AP
By: AP

Growing up in Florida, Andra Davis had a little cousin with blazing speed that dazzled everybody at family reunions.

The Denver Broncos linebacker lost track of him, forgot all about him - until one spring day when undrafted rookie receiver Travis Shelton showed up at Dove Valley.

The 30-year-old Davis was doing a radio show when the host casually mentioned that Davis was related to Shelton, who is 24.

No way, Davis said. They surely had him mixed up with receiver Andre Davis of the Houston Texans - a common mistake.

A few phone calls back home cleared the confusion - yes, Shelton was indeed family.

"I was like, 'Wow,"' said Davis, who had Saturday off as coach Josh McDaniels gave the Broncos a break from camp. "It wasn't like he was one of those close cousins."

But that speed always made an impression. It was hard to forget, even at a young age.

One sprint by Shelton in a spring minicamp instantly jogged Davis' memory.

No doubt, that was the cousin from all those childhood get-togethers.

"I didn't even know he was playing ball," said Davis, who's running with the first team at inside linebacker in the Broncos' revamped 3-4 defense. "Still fast, too."

With Davis growing up in Live Oak, Fla., and Shelton nearly 400 miles south in Fort Lauderdale, the cousins only saw each other on special occasions.

Mostly it was at family reunions, which always included a touch football game followed by a foot race. Shelton, who's related to Davis through his mother's side, was always pitted against another speedy relative, with Shelton usually prevailing.

The cousins have been catching up at camp this summer, the two frequently chatting about family. Davis, who is in his eighth year, also is giving his kin a crash course about life in the league.

The advice is appreciated. Shelton has kept tabs on his cousin's career from a distance since Davis was drafted by Cleveland in 2002.

"It's really a blessing to be on the same team with him," said Shelton, who went to Temple University and finished with a school-record 2,507 yards on kickoff returns. "Coming into camp and being around a whole bunch of strangers, it's much easier having a family member. If nobody else talks to me, I have him. That's a wonderful feeling."

Not only is Shelton related to Davis, but through his father's side he's also cousins with Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester.

Now that's a lot of speed on one branch of the family tree.

Shelton has a sprinter's background, finishing eighth nationally in the 60 meters while in high school.

But after a one-year stint on the track at Temple, he hung up his spikes to concentrate on football.

"I only miss track when I see my guys running," Shelton said.

Like when good friend Walter Dix won two bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics last summer. Watching his buddy from Fort Lauderdale shine on the biggest stage almost made Shelton want to give track another try.

Not quite, though.

"I like track. I love football," Shelton said.

As kids, Hester and Shelton would also have sprinting duels at family gatherings.

Shelton would come out on top. Well, sometimes.

"The last time, I got him," Shelton said, grinning.

The two speedsters chat occasionally, with Shelton trying to pick up pointers from Hester, who's regarded as the premier returner in the league.

"Devin's a real cool, calm dude," he said.

One day, Shelton hopes to fill a role similar to that of Hester. That was Shelton's forte at Temple, leading the nation with a 31.3-yard kickoff return average last season.

"I need to just get out there and perfect everything," said Shelton, who was cut by Denver in June only to be brought back for camp. "Every day, just come to work and work hard."

That's a mantra taught to him by his older cousin.

"Hopefully, he can come out here and make the team," Davis said.

After all, the cousins still have a lot of catching up to do.

(Copyright 2009, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved)


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