Willis McGahee thriving at age 30

Apparently Willis McGahee didn't get the memo. The one that says running backs hit the wall when they hit 30.

McGahee turned 30 last month (on Oct. 20 to be exact), and on Sunday McGahee put in his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. He hasn't had five 100-yard rushing games in a season since 2007 — he finished with five that year — and has had at least five in just two other seasons in his previous eight in the league. He had five in 2007 to go with seven in his first year on the field in 2004.

The Broncos have made no secret in John Elway's football plan that they hope to consistently build through the draft, but McGahee is a testament that some well-placed hits in free agency will always have a place in team building, if the pay-to-results ratio works out.

McGahee was one of the first targets, perhaps the first free-agency target for the Broncos in Elway's first time on the open market as a football executive. And in the end all involved, including McGahee, say Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville helped make it happen.

Studesville, who was McGahee's position coach in Buffalo "very strongly recommended" McGahee to the Broncos, according to head coach John Fox. The Broncos looked at the video and agreed, giving McGahee a four-year deal when most of their free agents got one-year contracts. The Broncos wanted to maintain flexibility moving forward in the re-building project.

McGahee has made that investment worthwhile and at his current pace will come close to a career high in rushing yards in his ninth season. That's much like wide receiver Brandon Lloyd did in 2010, going to his first career Pro Bowl in his ninth year in the league.

McGahee's best season was his second year on the field — he sat out his rookie year recovering from reconstructive knee surgery — when he finished with 1,247 yards in 2005.

This year, McGahee, having missed one game, is averaging 77.5 yards per game in the 10 he has played. He missed one game, against Detroit, because of surgery to repair a fractured bone in his hand. That puts him on pace for 1,163 yards for the season, which would be the third-highest total of his career.

What has made it all work for McGahee is he has a rare trait in a running back in that he is both patient and quick to the hole. He sets up blocks well, understands where the running lanes will and he makes quick decisions.

And once he sees the opening, he gets up the field, he doesn't often waste steps or opportunities.

He's also in good enough condition that his 23rd carry of the game on Sunday vs. the Chargers was arguably his best. He powered through two tacklers for a 24-yard run that put the Broncos in position for a game-winning field goal.

In a game where McGahee had 11 carries for three yards or less overall, including two for negative yardage, he had a 16-yard run and the 24-yard run in overtime.

"I'm built for that," McGahee said. "I'm not one of those guys who comes out and starts hitting it on the first play, if that happens, that's a bonus. I know at the end of the game those guys are tired of hitting ... I'm ready."

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