"The core things that he is and had at that time he still has now: a tremendous work ethic, a tremendous passion for the game, incredibly competitive personality," Studesville said. "And all those things haven't diminished with time. They've stayed the same."
What is different, Studesville said, is his leadership, as evidenced by his teammates voting him a captain this season.
"He's much more vocal, he's much more out front," Studesville said. "When I had him in Buffalo, he just kind of came and worked every day. It's difficult for a young player to be a leader, but he's not a young player anymore. He's developed leadership qualities that have been good for us."
That's taken time for McGahee, a gregarious personality, sure, but one who prefers to lead by example.
"I'm one of those guys, if you ask for the help, I'll give it you. But if you don't, I won't," McGahee said. "You know, certain running backs don't want to get help from another running back that's in front of them. They try to do it on their own. That's what I did. So, you can't take it to heart if they don't ask."
Ronnie Hillman, a rookie from San Diego State in the mold of Darren Sproles who is learning that at this level the holes close lickety-split, certainly isn't shy about hitting him up for advice.
"He'll tell me what I'm doing wrong or how to look at this play the right way," said Hillman, who also learns plenty by just watching McGahee go to work: "You get the same result out of him every day. Just watching him go to work every day, you see why he's a 10-year vet."
With an average pro career of about 2½ years, most running backs don't stick around the league long enough to become locker room leaders like McGahee has.
"It's a testament to the physical condition that he's in, and I think there's a burning desire to compete that's inside there, too," Studesville said. "He loves this game."
That passion rubs off.
"He makes coaching fun," Studesville said. "Because he's what you want. He's what you want as far as a guy that gives it to you physically all the time and mentally, too. I love coaching this guy."
Notes: RG Chris Kuper participated in practice Thursday for the first time since breaking his left forearm on Aug. 14. If he replaces Manny Ramirez in the lineup Sunday, the Broncos will have two new players on their line. The other is C Dan Koppen, who played the second half against Oakland after J.D. Walton broke his left ankle. ... S Quinton Carter, who's on I.R., tweeted that surgery on his left knee this week was successful.
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