JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Knowshon Moreno is back home. He knows how to win here. He knows what it's like to struggle here.
The Denver Broncos running back led Middletown (N.J.) South High to three consecutive state championships. He also endured a difficult childhood that included bouncing from one family member to another in New York and New Jersey and living in homeless shelters.
Moreno reminisced about the old days, both good and bad, during his first media session in advance of Super Bowl XLVIII. He used the word "journey" more times Monday than Chris Harrison during a very special episode of "The Bachelor."
Moreno knows he wouldn't be where he is -- or who he is -- if he hadn't taken that journey.
"It made me into the person that I am today," Moreno said. "Everyone goes through different things. It's how you battle back from that and see the positive in all the negative."
Moreno has overcome numerous obstacles to reach this particular point in his life and career. Once injury-prone and unreliable, he is now depicted by coaches and teammates as "dependable" and "accountable" -- adjectives no one would have used to describe Moreno just two years ago.
Moreno wouldn't have become an integral member of the AFC champions without the trying experiences of his youth, which included living for long periods in homeless shelters with his father. But there was never a sense of despair.
"My family is not quitters," Moreno said. "We know how to make do with anything we're given."
Moreno needed stability, though, and he found it after moving in full time with his grandmother, Mildred McQueen.
"She took me out of a bad situation -- not a bad situation, a difficult situation," Moreno said. "She put me in a better situation. There's just so much that she's done and continues to do. ... We have a special bond that can never be broken."
His home life no longer so volatile, Moreno thrived on the football field. At Middletown South, he set state records in touchdowns and points. At Georgia, he rushed for 2,734 yards in two seasons, earning first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors both years.
The Broncos selected Moreno with the 12th pick in the 2009 draft, and he rushed for a respectable 947 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie.
He followed with a 779-yard campaign but started to show signs of leakage, missing three games because of injury and barely contributing in that season's final three contests.
Moreno's descent continued in 2011, when he lost his starting job and suffered a season-ending torn ACL in mid-November.
Less than three months later, Moreno was arrested and charged with DUI. Even worse, the license plate on his Bentley read "SAUCED," according to reports.
Moreno spent most of the first half of the 2012 season playing for the Broncos' scout team. He was inactive for eight of their first 10 games.
But if anyone knew how to make the best of a bad situation, it was the kid with the challenging childhood. Moreno was determined to help the team in any way he could.
"Wednesday was my Sunday," he said. "Thursday was my Sunday."
Eventually, Sunday became Sunday again. After Willis McGahee got hurt in November 2012, Moreno became Denver's starter again.
He fought off 2012 third-round pick Ronnie Hillman and 2013 second-rounder Montee Ball -- both drafted to replace him, or at least challenge him -- and posted career highs in rushing, receiving and touchdowns this season.
"I think it is just maturity," Broncos coach John Fox said. "These are young people; young, rich and famous people, for the most part -- not a great combination for success without some responsibility and accountability. ... I've seen a tremendous amount of growth."
Moreno has advanced to the point where he is quarterback Peyton Manning's most trusted sidekick.
"I just feel very comfortable with No. 27 standing next to me," the meticulous Manning said.
Moreno is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. He said he isn't thinking about the future. But this week, with the Super Bowl in his backyard, he might spend a little time thinking about the past.
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