ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan, the season is ending right where he wanted: Super Bowl XLVIII.
It was the start of the season that didn't go exactly the way Trevathan had hoped.
Denver opened its 2013 season Sept. 5 against then-defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore. And with the nation watching, the second-year linebacker made one of the bonehead plays of the season, intercepting a Joe Flacco pass for what seemed to be a sure pick-six ... until he prematurely flipped the ball onto the ground at the 1-yard line. The ball rolled out of the end zone, turning would-be touchdown into touchback and returning possession to the Ravens.
The consolation was that the play came in a 42-24 Broncos win. But the memory lingered all season.
"When I dropped that ball, I got kind of too antsy, man; and it cost my team," Trevathan said last week. "I promised myself I'll never put my team in a place like that. I paid for it. I do whatever I got to do. I promised those who were laughing at me, I'm gonna make them suffer, man. I'm going to do whatever I got to do to get that off my back."
To a large degree, he lived up to that promise. Trevathan led the Broncos with 129 tackles, including two sacks. After the embarrassing end to his interception in the opener, he added two more picks during the season, which tied him for the team lead.
"Sometimes setbacks are setups for better things to come," Denver coach John Fox said. "In his case, it was a learning experience. Every one of those plays is a learning experience. He's definitely grown from it."
The incident is being resurrected now -- as Broncos prepare of their Super Bowl match against the Seattle Seahawks -- because it recalls a similar touchdown-wasting blunder when the Dallas defensive lineman Leon Lett celebrated too early in the Cowboy's win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI.
As the media questions returned last week, Trevathan's teammates had his back.
"Danny has been doing a tremendous job for us all season, and he learned from it," said Julius Thomas, a third-year tight end from Portland State. "We all go out there and we have plays that we have to learn from. His was just highlighted because of the moment. But he's done a great job for us, and I'm pretty confident he learned how he should handle himself going into the end zone."
Trevathan was drafted in the sixth round (188th overall) after becoming the first Kentucky linebacker to earn first-team All-America honors.
He didn't start any games as a rookie. But as a second-year pro, he has started them all.
Looking back, he lists that season-opening embarrassment as one of the factors that helped him grow as a professional.
"It taught me to be a little more humble," he said. "I saw them lights, man. I'm there, man, I'm going to go ahead and get my little dance in, do whatever. That was just the young part of me, picking off in the first prime game. I settled down. I had a little baby girl that I love, and she just helped me get together. It helped me grow a lot and get me prepared for the rest of the season."
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