Chad Wilson has seen his fair share of NFL drafts and NFL corners.
Having coached several NFL cornerbacks in his career, including his sons Quincy Wilson, who plays for the New York Jets, and Marco Wilson, who is expected to be drafted this week, Wilson has seen it all.
So, when Patrick Surtain II, who he also coached, told him earlier this week that the Broncos hadn't spoken to him in 2-3 weeks, he knew his former player was going ninth overall.
"I told Patrick three times he was going to Denver," Wilson told The Gazette Friday. "That's kind of how they do things in this league."
Surtain adds to a long list of players who have been drafted under Wilson's tutelage. Coaching alongside Surtain's father, Patrick Surtain Sr., at Florida's American Heritage High School, Wilson has become a nationally prominent defensive backs tutor. He's trained some of the best cornerbacks and safeties in the NFL, including Broncos safety Justin Simmons.
And he's worked with Surtain II since the Broncos pick was eight years old.
"He was outstanding," said Wilson, who played cornerback at the University of Miami. "You could see all the athleticism and stuff like that. Stuff you would expect to see from the son of an NFLer. Obviously I was aware of who his dad was, he was obviously an outstanding player for the Miami Dolphins.
"You could see he was on his way. He had the build, the pedigree, the mindset, you could tell he had a bright future."
Surtain’s bond with his father is a strong one. He joked Thursday night he hopes to be better than his dad, who was a three-time pro bowler during his 11 years in the NFL. And on Friday, during his introductory press conference, he pointed out just how influential his dad has been in his career.
“I started playing football at a young age. I started at age five. It was something that just resided in me and stuck with me,” Surtain said. “I started really focusing on it when I started getting offers during sophomore year of high school. Of course, my dad was on my side. I just learned from him each and every day. Talking to him and (learning from) him helped me to get to this point.
“I will always get advice from him. He can always tell me my rights and wrongs. Go over tape and certain things like that just for me to get better.”
The son of an NFL cornerback, Surtain was always one of the most athletic kids growing up. But at American Heritage, it was easy to get lost in a school full of athletic talent — seven former players may be drafted this week.
Still, Surtain stood above the rest.
"There's so much talent down here that despite having all that, he was going to have to work to make it all happen. And he put in the work," Wilson said. "It was just a gradual increase and move in that direction. I can't say there was this one moment or this one game, it was just a steady move in that direction. By the time his senior year came around, he was just a guy everyone was talking about. He was consistent. That's the biggest thing about him is consistency."
With a defensive backfield including Surtain, Florida cornerback Marco Wilson and Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell, American Heritage claimed back-to-back state championships. Surtain was rated as the nation's No. 1 prep cornerback. His story from there is well documented, starting three years at Alabama where he helped win a national championship last year as he rose up draft board as the No. 1 cornerback in the 2021 draft.
“I always set my expectations high, so this is nothing new to me,” Surtain said. “I'm always going to perform at a high level. I just keep my head held down and just work. I've always had a strong work ethic, so I let nothing faze me. At the end of the day, it's all about my work ethic and how I can help the team.”
His years at American Heritage and Alabama, in which he experienced three state titles, one national championship and only four losses, have helped mold him into the cornerback he is today.
“We had a talented cornerback room with a lot of veteran leaders,” Surtain said of American Heritage and Alabama. “A lot of veteran guys that I was looking to compete with and building on a tremendous defense at Alabama. We always looked forward to competing with each other at a high level, so it is nothing new to me. I am ready to compete and have fun.”
Now, in Denver, he enters a backfield full of talent like the ones he inhabited at American Heritage and Alabama. With cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby and Bryce Callahan the Broncos were considered one of the league's better secondaries even without Surtain.
The rookie will have to fight to get on the field.
"I think he fits in very well there," Wilson said. "I think it's going to be awesome to have Pat around a Justin Simmons, pick up things from Kyle Fuller... I think it's a great situation for him to walk in to. You do have those veteran guys there, so it may stop you from being a starter Day 1, but that's not always a bad thing. You're learning from some really good guys."
Wilson said Surtain doesn't worry about things like playing time or how he'll fit in. He's going to worry about being the best corner he can be.
“I let my play do the talking. I focus on the main thing,” Surtain said. “Going into the game, my preparation and focus helps me play at a high level.”
Surtain has never been one to be fazed by a little pressure and that won't change in Denver.
"Like I said, he's unflappable. Things go wrong, he doesn't get too down. Things go great, he's not off the wall," Wilson said. "He's the kind of guy you want as your pilot. You don't really want your pilot coming out of the cockpit saying 'I'm going to land this plane like no one's ever landed a plane before.' That might make you a little nervous. He's not like that."
And while some expected the Broncos to take a different player Thursday night, those who know Surtain believe he's worth the high draft pick.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Pat is an outstanding player like many expect him to be," Wilson said. "Last night was like the first of many steps of dreams coming true. First, you win that state championship. Then you are having signing day, you sign with the No. 1 team in the country. Then you win the national championship at Alabama. Then you're on TV getting drafted. Now it's becoming a common thing. Then the next is the Super Bowl and then after that, the gold jacket ceremony. And there aren't better people who that should happen to."