McGahee takes Broncos starting job and runs with it

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Willis McGahee is still beating the odds as he approaches his 30th birthday.

The big, ninth-year tailback who's known as much for overcoming injuries as he is for barreling through defenses has ascended to the top of Denver's depth chart.

After serving as Ray Rice's backup in Baltimore the last two seasons, McGahee signed a free agent contract with the Broncos in August because he wanted to be a part of coach John Fox's blueprint and to reunite with running backs coach Eric Studesville, whom he worked with in Buffalo.

McGahee took advantage of oft-injured Knowshon Moreno's hamstring injury in the opener to grab hold of the starting job and provide the Broncos with a toughness in the backfield that's been largely absent since Peyton Hillis and Mike Shanahan were still together in Denver.

"It feels great. Coming here is a new beginning, a new life," McGahee said. "My job is to take advantage of the opportunity that's given to me, let nothing try to take it away from me, go out and do what I've got to do."

Fox said McGahee has earned the right to get the bulk of the carries with two 100-yard performances over the last three games.

"We're in a week-to-week, or a 'What have you done for me lately?' league, so right now, I think it's fair to say that Willis is that guy," Fox said. "I think his performance has kind of been the proof."

McGahee ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in Denver's win over Cincinnati and gained 103 yards on 15 carries at Green Bay on Sunday for a 6.87-yard average. In between was a 52-yard day at Tennessee that included a touchdown.

With 259 yards so far this season, he's on pace for the fourth 1,000-yard season of his career.

Rather than "I told you so," McGahee is saying, "Thanks."

He said his part-time role over the last three years in Baltimore actually helped him prolong his career and get one more crack at being a primary ball carrier in this league.

"I look at it as a plus that I only got 8 to 10 carries a game. It all worked its way out," McGahee said. "Being a backup, I got to rest my body."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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