Willis McGahee has enjoyed a long and productive NFL career. It almost didn't happen after his leg was mangled during the 2002 National Championship Game. Unfortunately, a torn MCL may have brought on the end of his career as a starting tailback 11 years later.

Conversely, Montee Ball is Denver's rookie second round draft pick. As a junior at Wisconsin, Ball rushed for 1,983 yards and matched Barry Sanders' record of 39 touchdowns scored, but his senior year was nearly derailed by a brutal beating he received.

While McGahee's end as a Bronco may be the last time we remember him as a workhorse starting tailback, it also opens the door for Ball's beginning. On Thursday, the Broncos released McGahee and a few hours later, inked their second-round draft pick. The NFL is a hard knock life and McGahee knows it.

“I probably would have been behind the 8-ball either way,” McGahee said before his release on Tuesday. “Younger group. Just being real, right?”

Hopefully, it wasn't awkward as Ball and McGahee passed each other going in opposite directions to and from the Broncos parking lot

Via Washington Post:

Willis McGahee’s decision to skip offseason workouts isn’t what cost the veteran running back his job with the Denver Broncos.

His absence, however, did allow the organization to see ample promise in rookie Montee Ball and abundant progress from second-year speedster Ronnie Hillman.

That gave them the faith to put the football and their fortunes in the hands of the two young running backs Thursday by releasing McGahee, the 31-year-old bruiser who led them in rushing last season despite missing the final two months with a right knee injury.

McGahee was the first signing Fox and his boss, John Elway, made when they joined forces in 2011, and Fox said parting ways with the affable pro was difficult both for him and running backs coach Eric Studesville, who had worked with McGahee back in Buffalo.

“I’d like to thank Willis for everything he did. He did a great job for us, leading rusher. He was one of our first signees when we came here to get this thing turned around and it’s an unfortunate part about this business, but he did a great job for us,” Fox said.

Elway said, “It’s never easy to part ways with a veteran player who made so many positive contributions to our team and community. I appreciate all of the competitiveness, toughness and leadership Willis brought to the Broncos. He was an integral part of our team’s turnaround during the past two seasons, and I wish him the best as he continues his NFL career.”