Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jeff Legwold at the Bronco QB Club

ESPN's Jeff Legwold entertained a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club audience Tuesday night, giving us insight into the Pro Football Hall of Fame process and the recent NFL draft.

Legwold is currently the president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He has been on the Board of Selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1999.  He attended his first Scouting Combine in 1987, and has been covering the NFL over 25 years.  Jeff has covered the Broncos since 2004, including writing for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.  Previously Jeff has also covered the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

"There are over 990 saints in the Catholic church, and 295 members of the NFL Hall of Fame.  It's easier to become a saint than to get enshrined in Canton!" Legwold said, giving us a sense of how difficult it is for a player to enter the Hall.  "The fans of every NFL city think they have at least five players that are a slam dunk for the Hall.  Multiply that by 32 teams.  But we can only elect five total from the modern era each year."

Legwold said he just got his ballot for this season's Hall of Fame class.  The 46 members of the selection committee vote and reduce that list to 25.  Legwold then sends out information packets on all the Broncos on the list of 25 to the other voters.  That list then gets cut to 15, and Legwold again sends out followup information packets on the Broncos in the group of 15.  "If you get into the final 15, more than likely you'll get in eventually," said Legwold.  But often players have to wait.  Lynn Swann, for example, was in the final 15 12 times before he was selected for the Hall.  This gave us hope that Broncos Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater, and John Lynch will eventually get in, as they were in last season's 15 finalists.

The Hall of Fame voters are members of the media.  They are not compensated for their work - it is a voluntary effort.  The Hall of Fame Board of Directors is its own entity, consisting mostly of Canton, Ohio area businessmen, who don't answer to the NFL. Given the size of NFL rosters the pool of players from which the Hall chooses from is bigger than any other sport.  When the Hall voters have pushed for more spots, the Board of Directors has refused.  "They want to make it hard to get in," Legwold said.

Legwold said Terrell Davis has a good shot at getting in the Hall but maybe not for February’s class since LaDainian Tomlinson will first become eligible in 2017.  "A center or a safety has a long hill to climb," Legwold said (only 5 safeties are in the Hall currently) which reduces the chances for Atwater and Lynch. Louie Wright has a chance to make it from the senior pool, Legwold feels.

On this year's Broncos draft class, Legwold said the Broncos reached a bit for their first two picks, but they really like both players (Paxton Lynch round 1, Adam Gotsis round 2).  He said the Broncos found out later three teams had Gotsis targeted for early round 3, so Gotsis wouldn't have been there for Denver's third round pick.  He thinks Lynch has a stronger arm than Brock Osweiller but needs to sit a year to learn the NFL game.  He thinks the Broncos may stick with their current 3 quarterbacks to give each more reps in training camp.

Legwold hears that the Broncos should get an overseas game in 2017.  The team will be visiting the White House sometime during the next six weeks to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with the President.

Legwold spoke on these and other topics, answering our many questions for over an hour.  It was a great opportunity to pick the brain of a long time NFL reporter and Hall of Fame voter.

Afterwards Legwold stayed to talk to Bronco QB Club members individually, and take pictures (like this one with me!):

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cecil Lammey at the Bronco QB Club (April 2016)

"John Elway has always turned negatives into positives," said Cecil Lammey to a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club audience two years ago.  It was our first meeting after the devastating loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 48.  The mood of the club members was down that night, but Cecil encouraged us by saying the team was in good hands with John Elway.

Cecil was right.  Elway's free agent acquisitions that offseason (like Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and TJ Ward) were key players on the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos.  Cecil was back last night to give us his annual offseason review of the Broncos and a look forward to the NFL draft.  Cecil currently can be heard weekdays on Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan from 9 to 11 am as the station's "football insider".

"John Elway plays chess, while the rest of the league plays checkers," said Cecil, again emphasizing the theme that the Broncos will come out of this offseason just fine under John Elway's leadership.  A few insights Cecil gave us this night:

Malik Jackson gone:  Malik signed a 90 million contract with Jacksonville - too much!  "This is the best defensive line class I've seen in a decade," said Cecil.  "The Broncos can find a replacement for Malik in the 4th round."

Danny Trevathan gone: The Broncos can replace him from their linebacker depth.  "Zaire Anderson had 100 tackles a year with Nebraska and he can cover sideline to sideline," said Cecil.  Expect Anderson to have a bigger role with the team this year, and Todd Davis will see more playing time, too.  The Bears overpaid for Trevathan.

CJ Anderson contract: It was a good deal for the Broncos.  If CJ had been given a 2nd round tender, he'd be a unrestricted free agent next year.  Elway expects CJ to have a big year, and his current multiyear contract will then be considered a bargain.

Colin Kaepernick: "if he doesn't want to be here, move on"

Russell Okung: great contract for the Broncos.  Elway showed patience in not waiving Clady, and this paid off with the trade to the Jets last week.  The Broncos were getting calls for Clady (the Ravens were one team inquiring) so Elway held out until he was able to make a trade, saving cap space and acquiring a 5th round pick in the end.

Mark Sanchez: Cecil's guess right now is that Sanchez will be the opening night quarterback for the Broncos.  A rookie QB could be groomed behind Sanchez and take over before the season is complete.  Cecil didn't have much confidence in Trevor Siemian.  When Siemian was selected by the Broncos in the 7th round Cecil called it "the worst pick in the draft.  He couldn't beat out a running QB at Northwestern."  After seeing Siemian in camp Cecil concedes that Trevor has a cannon of an arm but one that is very inaccurate.  "We'll see the Broncos add two more quarterbacks," Cecil predicted.  "Siemian is on the hot seat this year."

Sylvester Williams/Phil Taylor: Sly is still a bit of a project.  The Broncos have not exercised the 5th year option on Sly which could be an indication of what the team really thinks of him.  He's a situational player at best.  Free agent Phil Taylor who the Broncos signed this offseason will be the best nose tackle on the team if he is healthy.

Mike Sullivan: the Broncos capologist.  Sullivan was a bulldog as a player's agent, always getting the most for his clients.  Now that he's working for the Broncos, he's the master of the salary cap.  The Okung deal was very cap friendly.  There's a clause in Demaryius Thomas contract, too, where the broncos can convert the money owed to a signing bonus, freeing cap space.

Cecil also mentioned some 2016 NFL draft prospects to keep an eye on:

Keith Marshall, Georgia running back.  Will be a bargain in the 6th round.

Jaylon Smith: Will likely miss his rookie season due to injury.  Can play all four linebacker positions.  If he's on the Broncos he'll be the second best player on the defense.

Paxton Lynch: Good QB fit for the broncos, the team likely would have to move up to around pick 20 in the first round to get him.  Paxton Lynch would be a long term solution at quarterback.  Mark Sanchez or another vet is just a short term answer.  The broncos need a QB solution, not an answer.

Josh Forrest, Kentucky linebacker: another possible 6th round pick, reminds Cecil of Malik Jackson


Cecil gave a 20 minute talk and then answered many questions from the NFL savvy Bronco QB club crowd.  Thanks to Cecil for once again sharing his opinions on the Broncos - it is always one of our club's best meetings of the year.

Next up for the Broncos QB Club: ESPN's Jeff Legwold, the Broncos representative on the Hall of Fame committee, will give us an inside look at the Hall of Fame selection process.  He'll also give opinions on the Broncos 2016 draft class.  Join the QB Club now and you, too, can attend this May 3rd meeting!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jon Keyworth at the Bronco QB Club

Former Bronco running back Jon Keyworth spoke to a Denver Broncos Quarterback Club group Saturday afternoon with entertaining stories of his playing days, and sobering facts about the concussion-related injuries ex-NFL players deal with.

In addition to his playing exploits Keyworth is best known for his "Make Those Miracles Happen" song during the Broncos AFC Championship 1977 season.  "We were flying home from Houston after clinching the division title," Keyworth said.  "The celebrations on the plane were wild - it was the first time the Broncos had won anything in their history."  Keyworth had a conversation with a couple of friends who were restaurant owners at 1 am the following morning.  "There should be a song to celebrate this," one said.  Keyworth's friends had connections in the recording industry and within 2 weeks the "Make Those Miracles Happen" song was recorded.

"I knew nothing about making a record," Keyworth said, yet thanks to his friends "Make Those Miracles Happen" was in the Denver stores as a 45-rpm record by the time of the AFC Championship game vs Oakland.  The song was a big hit, and still is played sometimes whenever the Broncos are making a playoff run. "Like during this year's incredible miracle Super Bowl season" Keyworth said.

Keyworth even was able to convince some of his teammates to strategically pose naked for the album.  Keyworth's roommate, running back Jim Jensen, was on the album cover.

Keyworth played for the Broncos from 1974 - 1980.  He was originally drafted by the Washington Redskins.  "Jon, you don't want to come here," said Keyworth's friend Bill Brundige.  Keyworth was a teammate of Brundige at the University of Colorado.  "With George Allan as the coach, you won't play for four years," Brundige cautioned.  Allen was notorious for playing veterans over rookies.

Kay Dalton was on the CU staff during Keyworth's college days.  When Dalton was fired from the Buffs he got a job on John Ralston's Bronco staff.  "Dalton told Ralston to trade for me," Keyworth relates, and that's what happened.

Keyworth's rookie season was a tumultuous one.  He came to camp during an NFL strike.  With the Bronco vets holding out the coaches were able to get a good long look at Jon.  "I remember in the first preseason game coming into our locker room under the South Stands.  Above me were a group of Bronco vets holding out.  'I'm going to kick your ass!' the vets yelled down at Keyworth, not happy that Jon had crossed the picket line.

The strike was soon settled and Keyworth found himself third on the depth chart at fullback, behind Joe Dawkins and Bobby Anderson.  Dawkins was soon traded, and Anderson broke his leg in the last preseason game.  The Broncos then decided to go with a backfield of Floyd Little and Otis Armstrong.  When Little was hurt in a game vs the Colts, offensive coordinator Max Coley turned to Keyworth and said, "OK Jon, you're on!"

The next week Keyworth, starting with Armstrong, had his best game as a pro, rushing for 148 yards in an upset of the Raiders at Oakland.  At the time it was the second most yards gained by a Bronco running back in team history.  Keyworth kept a positive attitude through his early struggles with the team and eventually it paid off with a starting gig.  "It doesn't matter what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you," Keyworth said - a motto he lives by.

Keyworth told us other entertaining stories of from his Bronco playing days:

  • The time coach Red Miller wrestled linebacker Glenn "Lumpy" Hyde to the ground in front of the players, with the team cheering both sides on.  "Red was a great player's coach," Keyworth said.
  • A practical joke Randy Gradishar played on Floyd Little. Floyd had a special shampoo that he used to help with his hair loss. Gradishar took a bottle of regular shampoo and dumped it on Floyd in the shower, destroying the effects of Floyd's special formula. Little was incensed! Little connected on a punch to Keyworth as Floyd exited the shower.  "Do I fight back against 'the franchise'?" Jon wondered.  He thought the better of it, and 15 minutes later he and Floyd were laughing about it as Little discovered Gradishar was behind the prank.  Incidents like this built team unity, Keyworth said.
  • Bronco guard Tom Glassic overslept and missed the team bus to Super Bowl 12.  Glassic's Dad drove Tom to the game (at the Super Dome) but Glassic couldn't get in.  Nobody believed he was a member of the Broncos.  
Then the tone of the meeting became serious.  "My brothers are all suffering," Keyworth said as he told of retired players dealing with the effects of CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy - head injuries).  "The NFL has suppressed the truth for years," Keyworth said.  "I had 1000s of concussions during my playing career," he relates.  Today Keyworth is a strong advocate for natural treatment of the disease, not with "the horrible drugs with bad side effects."  Keyworth works with his wife Claudia at a Health and Wellness Clinic promoting holistic remedies to restore brain function for NFL vets.  "These guys are suffering greatly," Keyworth said.  "Keep them in your prayers."  The Keyworths urged our group to see the movie Concussion to learn the facts about CTE.

Since I was a kid I have been collecting newspapers from great moments in Bronco history.  On the morning of the Keyworth meeting I dug up an old Denver Post Sports Section from 1974, "Otis Jon Run Raiders Defense into the Ground" the headline read.  It was the story of Keyworth's career 148 yard game he had in the big upset of Oakland that year.  I took the above picture with Jon.  "I don't have much memorabilia from my playing days," Jon told me.  "I want you to keep this," I replied, handing him that old newspaper.  Jon was very appreciative and even had a tear in his eye as he thanked me.

It was the least I could do for this ex-Bronco who I enjoyed watching in his playing days, and for his contributions today in promoting new treatment options for retired NFL vets still suffering from the effects of concussions.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

NHL Stadium Series - February 2016

On February 26-27th, 2016 my wife and I attended the Avs/Red Wings outdoor games at the home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team.  At first I was skeptical of how hockey would come across in such a big stadium as Coors Field, but I was to discover the two events were very entertaining.

From our travel business we were invited to sit in the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau suite for the weekend.  As you can see we were a bit far from the rink in Suite S02 (along the first baseline near the right field foul pole).  We were prepared, though, bringing binoculars to view the action.  The suite was wonderful, with complementary food and drink and access to all the amenities of the Coors Field club level.

First up - the Avs/Wings Alumni game on Friday night, featuring players from this intense rivalry from 1995-2002.  It was fun to see these former star NHL'ers, like the Avs Joe Sakic and the Wings Steve Yzerman competing, and brought back memories of the many great Avs/Wings games I attended in the past. The best player on the ice this night was current Avs coach and former goalie Patrick Roy, who looked to be in top form making several outstanding saves.  In fact I thought he played better than the Avs starter in goal for the regular game on Saturday night! (Semyon Varlamov)

I was surprised these old alumni played a full 60 minute game, with 20 minute periods.  Though there were some adjustments - like the clock running continuously and penalty shots (as pictured above) on any penalty.  Still it was close enough to a real NHL game to be enjoyable, and unlike Saturday night the Avs won!

Any hard feelings between the teams seemed to be forgotten after the game as the Avs/Wings alumni did a handshake line and posed for pictures on the ice.

Time for the real NHL game on Saturday night!  We arrived early and I took this stadium shot from behind home plate on the lower level.

While the alumni put on a good show the night before, the pace of the real NHL game was much faster.  This game meant something in the standings, too, as both the Avs and Wings are battling to make the playoffs as the season winds down.  I found myself more focused on the game, and less on the surroundings, for the real Avs/Wings matchup.

Saturday night featured more than just the game, like this pre-game concert by Andy Grammer, complete with fireworks.

Between periods was another concert, from Denver-based rock band The Fray.  I thought the light effects in the outfield were even more spectacular than the fan card show I saw at the Super Bowl earlier in the month.  Very creative!

Saturday night ended in disappointment as the Red Wings broke the tie with one minute remaining, and then added an empty net goal to win 5-3.  I was hoping to see a 3 on 3 overtime so I was disappointed with the Wings last minute goal.  Still the whole weekend was very enjoyable.  The outdoor venue was great for a one time special event. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Broncos are World Champions! Attending the 2016 Super Bowl

On the first weekend in February 2016 I attended the second Super Bowl in my life - and oh what a weekend it was!  Here I am with my son Andrew in downtown San Francisco near Super Bowl City on Saturday night.

Thanks to the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club I won the opportunity to purchase a pair of tickets at list price to the game.

We arrived at the San Francisco airport at noon on Saturday.  As we walked to the baggage claim we saw scenes from the previous 49 Super Bowls on the terminal walls.  Naturally I was drawn to this picture of Super Bowl XXXII and the Broncos big win over the Packers that day.

There were displays of memorabilia from all 32 NFL teams.  Here's a picture of the Bronco display.  The jersey was worn by Floyd Little in his last game for the Broncos.

A closer look at the Broncos display revealed the shoe that Jason Elam wore to kick his record tying 63 yard field goal.  To the left was the draft card the Broncos turned in to select Demaryius Thomas.

The Super Bowl committee was very well organized, with volunteers throughout the airport available to answer questions from visiting fans.

We checked into our San Francisco airport hotel (the Holiday Inn) and we soon were off to the downtown area.  Our plan was to go to Super Bowl City but long lines prevented that (a 2 hour wait to get in!).  Instead we went to the NFL store inside the Moscone Center.

More crowds inside the large NFL store.  We saw far more Bronco fans than Carolina fans (in fact we saw more fans from other teams than Panther fans).  Lots of interesting NFL merchandise here but I resisted the urge to buy at the store's inflated prices.

Instead of battling the crowds at the NFL venues we enjoyed walking around downtown San Francisco and having a delicious seafood dinner on the waterfront.  We heard some residents were not thrilled with all the tourists descending on their city for the Super Bowl, but it surely must have been a boost to the local economy.

Game day!  We rode to the stadium in style with a friend who had arranged limo transfers.

Our excitement grew as we approached the stadium.  We were directed to an outdoor plaza where we went through security and had our tickets scanned.  No outside food or drink was allowed to be brought in - a couple of protein bars I brought had to be thrown out.

Even though it was three hours before kickoff the plaza area was packed with fans.   Here we saw Terry Bradshaw telling fans of his Super Bowl playing days and answering questions from the fans.  In another area we saw the CBS set with Boomer Esiason and others on the CBS broadcast team doing a pregame report.  A stage was setup for pregame concerts. 

Bronco fans were given free orange rally towels at this stand.  We got a couple of these keepsakes but we didn't see many fans waiving them during the game.  Rather than stay in plaza area too long we were anxious to get to our seats to get a bite to eat.

 At our seats at last!  We were very happy with our view - even with the 10 yard line in the second row of the upper deck.  This was a similar angle to my season ticket seats I have back home at Sports Authority field.

We sat next to Jim and Marilyn from the Bronco QB Club.  They have been to every previous Bronco Super Bowl dating back to the first one in 1978.  Thanks to the Bronco QB Club they were able to keep their streak alive!  My seats were much better than the ones I had at the only other Super Bowl I attended (Super Bowl XXI featuring the Broncos/Giants at the Rose Bowl)

The game is finally here!  Lady Gaga appeared as a small dot far on the field below as she sang the National Anthem.  The Blue Angels flyover, timed perfectly as the anthem ended, was an amazing sight to see.  The pregame ceremonies were well done - I also liked the introduction of the previous 49 Super Bowl MVPs.

Kickoff!  Not an empty seat at Levis Stadium as the game started.  Our section was almost all Bronco fans and we were loud!  Overall there seemed to be many more Bronco fans in attendance than Panther fans.

There's nothing like being at a Super Bowl game, but the halftime show is really better watching at home.  I thought the show was just OK, and then I was more impressed when I watched the replay on TV the next day.  Fans in attendance were given cards to display with instructions on the scoreboard as to when to lift them up.

Hold on, Broncos, hold on!  The defense gave Denver the early lead.  The intensity grew in the second half as Carolina threatened to get back into the game.  No worries as the Bronco defense was dominant on this day.

Broncos win!!!!  There is nothing like seeing your team win a Super Bowl in person.  I was so glad to be able to experience this once in my lifetime, and be able to share it with my son.  A day we will remember forever!!!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The AFC Championship Game Experience

I have attended all seven AFC Championship games played in Denver - including the Broncos Sunday's thrilling 20-18 victory over the New England Patriots.  Here are some pictures of my experience.

That's me in the third row of the upper deck in the brown shirt behind the guy with the "7" Elway jersey.  My son Andrew in the Mile High football t-shirt is next to me.  Why didn't I wear orange?  The weather forecast called for temperatures in the lower 40's so I figured I'd be wearing a coat all day.  No one would see my shirt so why not wear a warm flannel one?  But when we arrived the temperatures felt like a September game.  The early 1 pm kickoff resulted in the sun shining on us for most of the 1st half.  By the second half the temperatures dropped to the upper 30's and the coats came on - not too cold and perfect January football weather.

Our seats, in the second deck in the northwest corner behind the end zone, would prove to be a perfect vantage point for the drama we would witness at the end of the game.  Every game I bring binoculars (to see plays near the south end zone) and a radio to listen to Dave Logan's KOA Radio play by play.

This Patriot fan was seated near us but he was relatively quiet during the game (wonder why?)  We saw a number of Patriot fans while walking to the stadium, but once inside we didn't see as many.  For the Pittsburgh playoff game the week before there were far more visiting fans.

The crowd gave a big cheer for the pregame skydivers landing on the field after jumping from high over Mile High.  The roar was a hint of how loud the stadium would get later that day.

The crowd noise rose during the player introductions - boos for the Patriots and cheers for the home team.

As shown on the scoreboard, 102.8 DBs (decibels) at kickoff!  The fans were really getting into it now.  It was the loudest I have heard the crowd at Sports Authority Field.  Not quite as loud as the old Mile High Stadium but plenty loud enough.  The noise would play a major factor in disrupting many a Patriots play this game.

Fast forward to the end of the game - Broncos win!  The last 6 minutes were the most intense I have ever experienced in my 50+ years of attending Denver home games, as the Patriots threatened to tie the score in the north end zone below us.  We were high fiving everyone around us as victory was assured in the last few seconds.

WIth our north end zone seats we also had a great viewing angle for the post game trophy ceremony.

Was this the greatest Bronco home game ever?  I still rate the first AFC Championship win (20-17) on January 1, 1978 as my favorite Bronco home game of all time (I was in the South Stands for that one).  But this sweet victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots is a close second - a nice bookend to that first AFC Championship game for my many years of cheering on the Broncos at the old and new Mile High.  Regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl in two weeks, the memory of what happened here on January 24, 2016 will always bring a smile to my face.  Go Broncos!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Broncos AFC Championship This Sunday Reminds Me of Their First One

Here I am with my son Andrew before the Broncos/Steelers playoff game this past Sunday.  The Steeler game brought back memories for me of the very first Bronco playoff run at the end of the magical 1977 season.

Yes I attended my first playoff game on December 24, 1977 against these same Pittsburgh Steelers.  I was age 21 at the time - just one year younger than my son Andrew is today.

This AFC Championship game matchup this Sunday really reminds me of the Broncos first AFC championship game in 1977 (actually January 1, 1978);

  • The Broncos beat the Steelers to reach the championship game each season in a close, hard fought, emotional game.
  • The Broncos are playing a defending Super Bowl champion at home for the AFC title (Raiders in 78, Pats in 2016)
  • Broncos are led by a strong defense with a just good enough offense led by a savvy veteran qb with health issues (Craig Morton in 78, Peyton Manning in 2016)
  • Broncos are underdogs (to the Raiders in 78 and the Patriots are favored Sunday by 2 1/2 points)
  • Early kickoff for a Denver home game (12 noon in 1978, 1 pm this Sunday)

While the odds makers and experts will favor New England, don't bet against the Broncos! Just like a strong defense and the home field was enough for Denver to beat the Raiders in that AFC Championship game on New Years Day 1978, I think the same factors can lead to a Broncos win this Sunday.  I'll be there - attending my 7th AFC Championship game in person in Denver (Raiders 1978, Cleveland 1988 - the Fumble, Cleveland 1989, Jets 1999, Steelers 2006, Pats 2014, Pats 2016)