Sunday, May 21, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Broncos Defeat Hot Dogs??

Broncos defeat the Hot Dogs???  In a 1969 game against San Diego the Broncos were shutting out the Chargers when suddenly the score read “Denver 13 Hot Dogs 0”!  “Bush league!” were the cries from the San Diego team and fans - you don’t mess with the scoreboard in a pro football game!    I was sitting in the South Stands at the old Mile High Stadium for that game.  As we all laughed at the scoreboard we later found out it wasn’t the Broncos who changed the score - turns out a fan had snuck into the scoreboard and changed the lettering of “San Diego” to “Hot Dogs”. 

This game also had significance in that it was the first time the Broncos had shut out an opponent, as the final score did turn out to be Denver 13 San Diego (Hot Dogs) 0.

As we walked out of the stadium that day my friend who sat by me that day said, “They could have spelled something a lot worse than Hot Dogs!”

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Lou Saban's Broncos

The Denver Broncos were one of the worst teams in pro football under Lou Saban’s coaching in the late 1960’s/early 70’s - or were they?  Saban’s won/loss record was bad during his Broncos coaching tenure (20 wins, 42 losses, 3 ties over 4 1/2 seasons).  But during those years the Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl champions TWICE in early season home games.  In 1969 the Broncos upset the New York Jets 21-19, and the following year the Broncos defeated the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs 26-13.  As a young Bronco fan I was in attendance at both these games, and it gave Denver fans false hope that the Broncos would be contenders in those years.  While Denver went on to have losing records in 1969 and 1970, those games were the start of an impressive home field advantage for the Broncos.  In their history the Broncos have a remarkable winning record at their Mile High Stadium home, highlighted by 24 consecutive home wins from 1996-1998, and defeating Tom Brady's Patriots 3 times in playoff games at Mile High.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Denver Sports Memories: Spencer Haywood's Amazing Season

(this is the first in a series of posts about my Denver Sports Memories)

The pro basketball team in our town once had a player who averaged 30 points and 19.1 rebounds for the entire season! And that player changed the face of basketball forever.  Spencer Haywood put up those gaudy numbers for the American Basketball Association Rockets during his only season in Denver (1969-1970).

Back in the 1960’s the NBA had a rule that college players could not enter their league until the player completed his college eligibility.  Haywood was the first to break the mold - jumping from college to the ABA Rockets after his sophomore year.  After his one year in Denver Haywood challenged the NBA’s college eligibility rule, and was allowed to play for the Seattle Supersonics, opening the door for college players to leave their ncaa teams early.

Today “one and done” college players, entering the NBA after one year of ncaa baskerball, are common place (ask the University of Kentucky!)  But Haywood’s one year was the best I have ever seen by a pro basketball player in Denver - even better than later more well known Denver stars like David Thompson and Alex English.  I remember watching a Rockets game with a friend where Haywood hit a 15 foot turnaround jumper over a defender from an impossible angle.  “Whoa!!” my friend and I said as we looked in each other in amazement.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ryan Harris at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

Super Bowl 50 Champion Ryan Harris is a 10 year veteran of the NFL.  Ryan was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2007 where he played offensive tackle. Ryan also played for  the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ryan played college football at the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated two degrees in Economics and policy, and Political Science. Ryan is originally from Minnesota and currently resides with his family in Denver, CO.

Off the field, Ryan believes that together we can change the world. He believes that "It is your right to be extraordinary."  that when we embrace that right, we will create positive change in the world. Through our commitment to educate ourselves, invest in our communities and act on our passions, real change happens.

We hosted Ryan at our April 2017 meeting of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  And oh what a meeting it was!  Ryan gave an awesome speech.  He skillfully weaved in stories from his NFL playing days (especially his experiences on the Super Bowl 50 Broncos championship team) and turned those into life lessons that inspired us all.   After his speech he took questions from our group of longtime Bronco fans.  I paraphrase some of his comments below.

The Super Bowl Ring

As the picture above shows, Ryan was wearing his Super Bowl 50 ring - a ring with 212 diamonds.  "When I played for the Steelers last year, some of my new teammates said 'we should have beat you!' (in the AFC divisional round, a game where the Broncos came back in the 4th quarter to win 23-16).  In response I just showed them the final score embedded in the ring."

Key to the SB 50 Champions

"We had great leaders on that team.  DeMarcus Ware was the best leader I ever played with.  DeMarcus would give me tips during a game.  Peyton Manning would frequently quiz us to make sure we understood the game plan.  The veteran leadership on that team was so important to our success.  We had fun, too.  Peyton would sing after every win."

On Yoga

"I've done yoga for 15 years.  Other players would laugh at me.  Then in the past two years many of my teammates started doing yoga, too!"

On the SB 50 coaching staff

"Gary Kubiak was phenomenal.  He understood us since he once was an NFL player.  Rick Dennison (Rico) was amazing, too.  Rico believed in me - he recruited me to the Houston Texans and again to the Broncos when he came back to work on Kubiak's staff.  Rico changed my life."

Who was the toughest pass rusher you faced?

Von Miller
Tamba Hali KC Chiefs
Terrell Suggs Baltimore Ravens

"When I came back to the Broncos I was happy I wouldn't have to face Von twice a year, then I realized I had to go against him every day in practice!  Von would tell me 'you did your film work' if I stopped him on one play, then say 'are you ready for this?' before beating me with a new move.  Playing the offensive line is like being a pitcher in baseball.  You can't throw a fastball with every pitch.  I had to constantly come up with new strategies to stop the top pass rushers like Von."

Who will play left tackle for the Broncos?

"Donald Stephenson is capable.  Ty Sambrailo played well when he was healthy."

Should the Broncos take a tackle in the first round of the upcoming draft?

"No.  Cam Robinson of Alabama is projected to go in the first round.  Alabama does not play a pro style offense.  Ryan Ramcyzk of Wisconsin is another projected 1st rounder.  He only played one year at tackle in college.  I like Texas A&M's Avery Gennesy in the second round or Florida State's Roderick Johnson in a later round."

On who this year's starting quarterback will be:

"Both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are talented.  Trevor has started 14 NFL games and made some great throws last year.  John Elway wants to win games and Trevor's experience gives him the edge."

What's the loudest stadium you have played in?

"Any game in Seattle.

Playing at Kansas City in our Super Bowl 50 season.

But the loudest was the AFC Championship game against the Patriots when we stopped New England on the game clinching two point conversion.  That noise was filled with joy (of the Bronco fans)."

Ryan graciously stayed a few minutes to talk to QB Club members individually after his speech, signing many autographs. 

As a recently retired athlete, you can hear Ryan weekdays at 3PM on AM 950 Altitude Radio's the Kreckman and Harris. Tune in, subscribe to the shoes podcast, or come hear him as speaks around the nation and become a part of his mission to change the world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cecil Lammey at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club

For the seventh consecutive year 104.3 The Fan's NFL Insider Cecil Lammey spoke at the Denver Broncos Quarterback club's March meeting, giving us his opinions the Broncos offseason so far and a preview of the team's needs for the upcoming NFL draft. Listed below is a summary of some of Cecil's comments:

On the coaching change: Initially Cecil thought Kyle Shanahan would be a better choice as the next Broncos head coach. But now he thinks the team of head coach Vance Joseph, offense coordinator Mike McCoy, and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave is a stronger group than what Kyle Shanahan would have offered. "McCoy will get back to running the ball," Cecil said. "He'll have a versatile offense that'll be different every game." Coach Joseph will be "stern but fair" in dealing with the team's young quarterbacks. Cecil said Trevor Siemian was hurt last year but the team didn't have enough confidence in Paxton Lynch to start Lynch while Trevor was injured. "Trevor should have never played the Thursday night game against San Diego," Cecil said. Siemian was one of the hardest working players on the team. "In the Super Bowl year Trevor beat Peyton to the Broncos facility every day," Cecil noted. Paxton's work ethic was not near as strong but that can change under Joseph.  
On the Bronco free agent signings so far:
Guard Ronald Leary was a great acquisition in the area of the team's greatest need (offensive line) Defensive tackle Domata Peko will be a good replacement for Malik Jackson. Defensive tackle Zach Kerr, at 6'1" 330 pounds, will be more disruptive than the departed Sylvester Williams at nose tackle.  
On the upcoming NFL draft:
 This is a great class for defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties. This is one of the best tight end classes ever, like 1983 was for quarterbacks. "Every tight end I saw at the Senior Bowl is better than what the Broncos have now," Cecil said. The draft is weak at quarterback and offensive line. Christian McCaffery would be a great first round pick for the Broncos. Cecil is hearing the Raiders want Christian, but the Broncos pick ahead of the Raiders in the first round. The teams ahead of the Broncos in the draft order considering Christian are the Panthers at #8 and the Colts at # 15. "Take Christian in the first round and get a quality tight end a round or two later," Cecil says. If McCaffery is gone by the Broncos pick, Cecil likes Jabrill Peppers defensive back Michigan or Rueben Foster linebacker Alabama as possible Bronco first round selections. "Foster plays like a young Ray Lewis," Cecil said.

Cecil spoke for 30 minutes and then spent 30 minutes answering our club's many questions. It is always good to get the inside scoop on the Broncos and the NFL from Cecil's annual appearance at our club! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Insights from a NFL official at the Bronco QB Club

At a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club meeting last week I had the privilege of meeting an active National Football League official.  Scott Novak is a side judge on Carl Cheffers crew during the regular season.  Cheffers worked Super Bowl 51.  Novak didn't have enough seniority to officiate in that game (we learned that NFL officials have to have at least 5 years experience to work the Super Bowl).  But Novak has worked many an NFL game (including this year's Atlanta/Seattle playoff game) and he had many interesting insights into the life of an NFL official.

As a side judge Novak gets to make those difficult pass interference calls.  He also manages the game clock.  He worked his way up the officiating ladder by first doing Little League football games, then high school, then major college conferences (the mountain west and the big 12) before finally getting his big break to work the NFL.  "The NFL game is a lot faster than the ncaa," Novak said, "the players hit a lot harder than you think."  The toughest level to officiate at?  "Little league - the parents drove me crazy!"

After giving us an overview of his job as an NFL official Novak responded to our many questions.  I paraphrase some of the answers he gave below:

Would officiating in the NFL improve if there were full time officials?

"I spend 40 to 50 hours a week on officiating during the season in addition to my regular job.  I don't think having full time officials would change much at all - the current officials put in a lot of work."

What was your most memorable game you worked?

"The Pittsburgh/Cincinnati playoff game last year was memorable.  There were strong emotions from both teams.  I have to be the calmest person on the field.  When a coach yells at me, I reply 'thanks coach, appreciate that.' 

The most memorable games for me are when I screw up - I want to get every call right.  I'll know on the plane home if I made a mistake.  We get a thumb drive of the game's plays before we leave the stadium (we get a police escort to the airport)"

How are you evaluated?

"I get graded on every play in every game.  I can get downgraded for not being in the right position.  Every play gets put into the NFL computers.  The best officials get to work the playoff games."

Would it be better to have the same crew work the playoffs instead of an all star crew?

"When Mike Periera (now with the Fox network) was the head of officials he liked to keep the crews together for the playoffs.  Now they pick officials from different crews to work the playoff games.  It doesn't make a big difference.  In the Atlanta/Seattle playoff game I worked with a guy I had never officiated with before but we adjusted."

How are the physical demands of the job?

"I run 5 to 8 miles during every game.  During extremely cold games you'll see the players go to heaters on the bench.  We can't - we're on the field for every play."

I got a new respect for officials in listening to Novak talk about his job.  He displayed his cool demeanor in answering our many questions.  "We're fans of the game - we love the game," he said.  When he makes a mistake he says "I have to forget about the last play and focus totally on the next play."

Novak showing us his #1 side judge jersey