The 2012 Denver Broncos will ultimately be known as the team led by quarterback Peyton Manning.
But for fans of Kansas University football, this year's Broncos represent something else — the professional home of a couple of former Jayhawks.
Friday, the Broncos trimmed their roster from 75 to the league-mandated 53-man squad that will open the regular season and both rookie linebacker Steven Johnson and second-year cornerback Chris Harris were on it.
Harris, who had serious competition for the nickel back spot he held for most of last season, held off all comers with a strong preseason. The Broncos on Friday waived veteran defensive back Drayton Florence, who had been considered Harris' biggest competition.
The undrafted free agent from Bixby, Okla., who joined the Broncos before the 2011 season, finished his first year among the league's top rookie tacklers and started nearly half of Denver's games.
Johnson has followed a similar path.
Passed over in last April's NFL Draft, Johnson signed as a free agent with the Broncos a few hours after the draft concluded and survived all of the preseason cuts to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Denver will carry seven linebackers on its opening-day roster and John Elway, the team's executive vice president of football operations, indicated to The Denver Post that Johnson's initial role with the team would be on special teams.
Johnson shared his initial reaction to making the team with the Journal-World Friday night via text message.
"Man, just tears of joy," Johnson wrote. "I've come so far and it's nothing but God at work. I'm so thankful for the opportunities that were presented to me."
Johnson led the Jayhawks in tackles during each of the past two seasons.
In other NFL news Friday:
• Former KU linebacker Mike Rivera, a member of KU's 2008 Orange Bowl championship team, made the New England Patriots' final roster. Rivera, who signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears out of college, has bounced around the league through stints with Chicago, Tennessee, Miami, Green Bay and now has settled in with New England, where he finished the 2011 season as a practice squad player for the Super Bowl runner-up.
• Former KU wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who, earlier this summer, was released by Tampa Bay, survived the cuts in Washington with the Redskins.
• Former KU wide receiver Kerry Meier was cut by Atlanta. Meier, a former fifth-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2010, played in 12 games last season — mostly on special teams — and did not record a catch. He missed the 2010 season after suffering a knee injury in the preseason.