When the Broncos selected defensive end Robert Ayers in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the first thought that went through his mind had nothing to do with the big contract he would soon receive.
It wasn't necessarily about starting his NFL career either.
"The first thing I thought about when I got drafted was I'd still be able to wear orange," Ayers said with a smile. "It's a little bit different color orange, but it's orange. It's close enough, I guess."
Ayers is one of several Broncos who are University of Tennessee products, and they're all enjoying the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seahawks on Sunday.
The Broncos have a strong Volunteer flavor:
* There's quarterback Peyton Manning, of course, a four-time NFL MVP, 13-time Pro Bowler and the most popular Vol of all time.
* Defensive end Malik Jackson, who played in 36 games for UT, was a fifth-round pick of the Broncos in 2012 and appeared in every game this season.
* Punter Britton Colquitt is a Knoxville native hoping to win a Super Bowl ring like his dad, Craig, who won two while punting for the Steelers back in the day. Britton averaged 44.5 yards per punt this season.
* Jim Bob Cooter, a Lincoln County native who played for the Vols from 2002-06, is an offensive assistant. He joined the Broncos after working for the Colts when Manning was still their quarterback.
* Derius Swinton, a graduate assistant at UT in 2007-08, is assistant special teams coach.
"It is awesome when you have so many guys at the same school," Jackson said. "From what I hear, the University of Tennessee is the most represented school at the Super Bowl this year, and we love it. We want to keep the train going. And to have a connection with one of the greats, it is a beautiful thing."
Ayers, who is from Jersey City, believes the timing could be better. While his Broncos are having success, his alma mater has had some difficult Saturdays.
The Vols were 5-7 in 2013 under new coach Butch Jones. They haven't won a bowl game since the 2007 season.
"It is financially depressing because we are always taking bets. It frustrates me," said Ayers, who recorded 5.5 sacks in the regular season and added another one in the AFC Championship win over the Patriots. "But I think those guys will get it turned around. Butch will get things back on the right track."
There are two reasons not all Vol fans are pulling for the Broncos, however.
Seahawks defensive tackle Tony McDaniel played for UT as well, in large part because he wanted to follow in the footsteps of former Vols star Albert Haynesworth, who went to the same high school in South Carolina.
Seahawks receivers coach Kippy Brown served three stints as an assistant at UT.
"We are all family. But there's some brotherly love going on too where you want to beat your brother," said McDaniel, an eight-year pro. "We won't be friends on Sunday. I'm going to do my best to get to Peyton on Sunday. Now that would make my career."