Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 10 Colorado Sports Moments 2012

I've been a fan of all the Colorado sports teams since growing up in Denver in the 60's.  Here are my top sports moments of 2012:

10. Colorado scores 17 points in 4th quarter to beat Washington State at Pullman 35-34.
Bet you didn't think a Colorado football moment would make it into the top 10!  It was an awful season for the Buffs but at least their ONLY win was an exciting one - coming back from 17 points down to beat Washington State on the road.  After losing 69-14 the week before to Fresno State, and losing their first two games to lowly CSU and Sacramento State this win was totally unexpected.  And much maligned quarterback Jordan Webb had his best quarter of the season in that 4th quarter - winning the game on a gutsy quarterback keeper as time ran out.

9. CSU beats Colorado in opener 22-17 after trailing 14-3 late in 1st half. 
I'm one of those rare CU fans who also roots for CSU except when the Rams play the Buffs.  While this game was disappointing for my CU interests, I must admit I was glad to see new CSU coach Jim McElwain celebrating with his team after this huge win in Denver.  Colorado is better off when both CU and CSU are fielding competitive teams, and this win was huge to get the McElwain era off to a good start in Ft Collins.  Now that I have a son going to CSU I'll be rooting for the Rams a little more, but just a little.  The Buffs are still my favorite college football team.

8. Todd Helton walkoff home run vs Arizona, April 14, 2012.  
Talk about disappointing seasons.  The Rockies joined the Buffs in having a terrible 2012 campaign.  But in the first two weeks there was a magical moment at Coors Field that made me think I was watching The Natural.  At the end of a cold, rainy 5 hour game Todd Helton was up with 2 outs in the bottom of 9th man, man on first, with the Rockies trailing the Diamondbacks 7-6.  Coors field was virtually empty as most fans had departed the cold weather long before the game got to the 9th.  Todd Helton hits a two run homer just inside the right field foul pole to give the Rockies the win!  This fan captured the improbable blast by Helton on video:

7. Avalanche beat Detroit 4-3 Feb 25th ending the Red Wings 23 game home winning streak
Remember the Avs?  With the NHL work stoppage the local hockey team has been pretty much forgotten this Fall, but the team did have some big wins early in 2012.  The best was a 4-3 victory in Joe Louis Arena to stop Detroit's 23 game home winning streak.  The Avs had some other big wins too, like beating the Rangers in NY, but then fell apart in the season's final 3 weeks to miss out on the playoffs.  There were moments, though, like this win against the hated Red Wings, that hinted the Avs could be back on the right track. (addendum: Vancouver actually ended the Wings long home winning streak with a win in a shootout Feb 23rd, but the Avs on Feb 25th were the first to beat the Wings in regulation in Detroit since the streak started)

6. Colorado wins Pac 12 basketball tourney, beating Arizona 53-51.
For most of my life there was not much to get excited about when it came to CU basketball.  I remember Cliff Meely when I was a kid leading the Buffs to a Big 8 title, and Chauncey Billups had his moments in black and gold in the 90's.  But CU basketball has mostly been a wasteland for the last 4 decades.  That's what made this improbable tourney run by the Buffs so sweet!  The victory over Arizona was the Buffs 4th straight in the tournament, and then they followed it up with a first round upset of UNLV in the Big Dance.  After Colorado's horrendous showing in football it was good to let the other Pac 12 schools know that the Buffs could be competitive in at least one sport (other than skiing!)

5.  Nuggets 126 Lakers 114 NBA playoffs game 5.
Denver sportscaster Vic Lombardi had this one pegged.  After the Nuggets lost game 4 at home to fall behind in their first round series with the Lakers 3 games to 1 most fans thought the Lakers closing out the series in 5 was a sure thing.  Not Lombardi, who said at the time he thought the Nuggets would win game 5.  And the Nuggets did just that, led by Kenneth Faried's 21 points and 15 rebounds.  The Nuggets won game 6, too, in a blowout before losing game 7 and the series at the Staples Center.  But at least the Nuggets gave their fans some post season thrills with 3 victories against the Lakers.

4. Broncos 31 Pittsburgh 19
This was the first Broncos home opener I had missed since 1966!  Away on a business trip in Alaska I could only monitor this game through scoring updates on my cell phone, but Peyton Manning's first non-preseason NFL game in over 600 days did not disappoint.  Manning hit Demaryius Thomas with a 71 yard td pass, Tracy Porter had a huge interception TD to clinch the game, and the Broncos beat the hated Steelers in the opener.  With Denver's tough schedule to open the season I saw this game as very important (even with this win the Broncos started off 2-3).

3. Tebow to Thomas beats Steelers in the playoffs
In only the third home playoff game for the Broncos in 11 years, Tim Tebow completes an 80 yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the first play of overtime to lead the Broncos over the Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs.  This win was especially sweet for me, as I was in attendance for this and the last playoff game in Denver, a disappointing Bronco loss in the AFC Championship game in 2006.  Little did we know at the time that this would be Tim Tebow's last game in Denver as the Broncos starting quarterback.

2. Broncos Signing of Peyton Manning
When I first heard the Broncos were interested in signing Peyton Manning I thought, "Why???"  Denver had just come off an improbable playoff season led by crowd favorite Tim Tebow, and I was anxious to see what Tebow could do with a full off season of workouts that he did not have the prior year.  I also thought Manning was a huge injury risk.  But I trusted that Broncos President John Elway knew what he was doing.  The more I thought about it the more I wanted to see Peyton in Broncos Orange!  Peyton Manning turned out to be the best free agent signing of any Denver team since I've been a sports fan.

1. Broncos 35 San Diego 24
With a 2-3 record and trailing 24-0 at half time, the prospects of the Broncos having a good year looked dim.  But Peyton Manning led an amazing 2nd half comeback, outscoring the Chargers 35-0, to lead the Broncos to this huge win (their best Monday Night performance ever in my book).  Going into the season's final week as I type this, Denver would not lose again.  Perhaps the Broncos would have still rebounded had they lost this game and fell to 2-4, but I think this game was the key to the Broncos miracle season.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wesley Woodyard at Bronco QB Club

Tonight Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard met with 80 fans from the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  Like past QB Club meetings I got the chance to meet an NFL player and ask questions about his experience with the Broncos.

Woodyard was incredibly gracious with his time before speaking to our group.  Each fan in attendance could get a picture taken with Wesley ...

Or get a football signed ...

Or even get a hug!

My favorite part of the meeting was when Wesley got in front of the mike and answered questions from the fans.  Here's a sample of some of his answers:

How would you compare the three NFL head coaches you have played under with the Broncos (Mike Shanahan, Josh McDaniels, John Fox)?

Mike Shanahan was a class act.  He brought me into the NFL.

Josh McDaniels was very smart.  That's it.

John Fox is a player's coach.  He really builds team comraderie.

Did you watch the 49'ers/Patriots game last night?

I didn't see it but I was hoping the 49ers would win.  I hate the Patriots!

What's it like to be Peyton Manning's teammate?

Peyton is great.  He's one of the first in the building each day and one of the last to leave.  He jokes with everyone - just like you see him in those commercials.

Does Manning get ticked off like it appears on TV?

Oh yeah!  He goes off on the offense.  He gets fired up when something goes wrong.  Not like any other quarterback since I've been here.

Does John Elway visit practice and give his coaching tips?

John usually stays out of it.  He and Peyton are always talking, though.  Like they are teammates.

Who do you admire?

Champ Bailey.  Playing football as a kid in Georgia I always wanted to be like Champ.  He's been the same person since day one.  A great person off the field - one of my closest friends on the team.

How has Keith Brooking fit into the team?

Since Keith didn't go through training camp we didn't know how to take him at first.  But from his first day he had given us a lot of insight.  He tells us what we are doing wrong.  I tell him 'Dude, you are so old, I used to have a bobble head of yours in my room growing up!'

Is Knowshon Moreno a good teammate?

Knowshon handled himself great in the early weeks of the season when he wasn't playing.  He worked hard every week (on the scout team) to get the defense better.  The looks Knowshon gave us really helped.  Now that he's playing more he's always encouraging us.  Yesterday he told the defense, 'Get us the ball, man!  We are going to score!'

Why has the defense stopped the run better this year?

We don't want to piss Del Rio off! (laughs)  When we don't stop the run, we do.  Del Rio is a true player's coach.  Having been a linebacker in the league he can relate to us.  He's better than any of the other defensive coordinators I've had in Denver.

Wesley thanked the Quarterback Club for inviting him to speak and for supporting his 16ways foundation - a charity he sponsors to help kids.  QB Club members donated christmas gifts to Wesley to distribute to kids in his foundation (pictured above)

Wesley Woodyard is truly a class act.  He was very gracious with his time in patiently talking with each fan who wanted an autograph, a picture, or just a handshake.  He answered all of our questions with candor and humor.  He stayed at the end and personally delivered the many door prizes given out to fans.  Woodyard is not only a great football player, he's a great person who is wonderful representing the Broncos and the NFL in the community.

Monday, December 3, 2012

An Evening at Dove Valley

Tonight I visited the Denver Broncos Headquarters at Dove Valley to be in the audience for the weekly TV show "Broncos Huddle".  The Broncos invited myself and 49 other members of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club to watch hosts Susie Wargin and Dave Logan discuss Denver's victory over Tampa Bay.

 Bronco championship banners hung above us as we waited to be escorted to the tv taping.

I especially liked the team's two Super Bowl trophies on display in the lobby.  I hope the Broncos make room for a third come February!

While walking outside the locker room we saw photo posters for all the team's victories this year.  These posters a reminder to players of what they've accomplished this season.

The Broncos Huddle set was in the middle of the team's indoor training room.  Here hosts Susie Wargin and Dave Logan prepare for the show.

The small crowd, consisting mostly of Bronco QB Club members, had a great view of the taping.

Broncos coach John Fox was the first guest.  Fox said he was happy with the win over Tampa but that the team isn't "operating on all cylinders yet."  He said the season turnover ratio is negative (-3); his Super Bowl team with Carolina had  a +9 turnover ratio.  Two of the Broncos drives yesterday were stalled by penalties.  Minimizing turnovers and avoiding penalties will be emphasized this week as the team prepares for the Oakland Thursday night game.

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris was the player guest.  Harris told the crowd how it was a thrill to make the Broncos as an undrafted free agent.  "Playing in the NFL is something I've always dreamed of," he said.  He joked that Von Miller took an interception away from him yesterday.  "I was ready to pick the ball Miller got - he stepped right in front of me!"  He said it was good to play with veteran Champ Bailey.  Bailey teaches him to forget a bad play.  "You play cornerback and you'll get beat.  You have to forget it and be ready for the next play."

As I exited the Broncos facility I saw their Christmas tree decorated right outside the main entrance.  Getting a chance to see Dove Valley at night, listening John Fox and Chris Harris up close, and seeing the behind the scenes production of a TV show was an early Christmas present for this Bronco fan.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Buffs were right to fire Embree

I'm a sucker for motivational speeches.  When I attended Jon Embree's first meeting with Buff fans to talk about the 2011 recruiting class I was excited (I wrote about that luncheon back then).  "The Buffs are on the verge of something great," former CU coach Bill McCartney told the crowd that day.  McCartney praised CU's move to the pac 12 conference, and the skills of Embree and the coaching staff Jon had assembled ("it matches up to any staff I had at CU" - Mac said).  "Bringing back successful coaches and players from Colorado's past to lead the Buffs into the Pac 12 is a good move," I wrote that day.  "I expect next season will have its struggles, but as Coach Mac said I think the Buffs have the right leadership in place now and fans just have to give them time."

Boy was I wrong! I now think CU made the right move in firing Jon Embree this week and not giving him more time.  What caused my 180 degree change in opinion?

On field performance.  Under Embree the Buffs had 4 wins and 21 losses over his two year reign.  Last season's 3 - 10 record was acceptable for Embree's first year given the downtrodden state of the program after Dan Hawkins 5 year term.  In 2011 the Buffs beat their instate rival CSU and finished the season winning 2 of their last 3 against pac 12 foes (including a big upset at Utah in the finale to end a long 24 game road losing streak).  Things were looking up.

It was this season that did Embree in.  Instead of building on 2011 the team got worse, much worse.  Losing to CSU and to Division II foe Sacramento State to start the season, followed by many blowout losses to Pac 12 opponents.  "I saw Colorado play 3 times this year. Folks, it's the worst Div. 1 football program in a major conference I've ever seen," said ESPN's Colin Cowherd on his show yesterday. Would Cowherd renew Embree for a 3rd year? "After two years, in a sport you HAVE to bring people into the stadium because it's the only sport on a campus that makes any money. Colorado football, at the end of this year is HOPELESS. No one is going to these games," he said.  It was obvious to anyone watching Buff football this year that the team had taken a big step back in 2012.

Embree now discounts the win/loss record.  "I get it, 4-21 is not good, but there is a lot that went into that,” he said in a radio interview, and went on to explain how he was doing other things to help the program.  The wins will come if you give him more time, according to Embree.  That's a different message than what he was preaching at that recruiting lunch in February 2011.  "Instead of hoping to win, expect to win. Even next year," Embree said that day, in how he was going to change the team's attitude.  It seemed to me the 2012 Buffs expected to lose before every opening kickoff.

Poor recruiting.  Embree only had a few weeks to recruit after he was hired in December 2011 and he came up with a credible "transition" class, including starting freshman cornerback Greg Henderson.  His February 2012 class showed promising signs, ranking #36 in the recruiting site Rivals rankings - a respectable showing after a 3-10 season.  This year, though, Embree's recruiting is trending downward (with a current Rivals national rank of #65).  Recruits do not want to play for a doormat, and Colorado's poor 2012 season no doubt has contributed to the Buffs having a hard time attracting talent.

This is disappointing to me because this coaching staff was hyped to be great at recruiting.  Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was said to be one of the best recruiters in the nation when he was an assistant at Colorado and UCLA, and now with recent NFL experience (he was the Minnesota Vikings running backs coach) he was supposed to be an even better recruiter this time around with the Buffs.  The top high school running backs I expected to sign with Colorado because of Bieniemy never materialized.  Embree, too, was said to be a top recruiter at UCLA and at his former stint at Colorado as an assistant.

I followed the program closely during Coach McCartney's rise from a 1-10 season in 1984 to a National Championship only 6 years later.  During the down years I remember then Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm saying "the one thing Colorado has going for them is Bill McCartney's recruiting."  Even though the results on the field weren't good yet, the recruiting experts of those days gave the Buffs high marks.  Not so in 2012 - Colorado's recruiting is getting worse, not better.

Bad decisions at quarterback.  The Buffs had a returning senior quarterback for the 2011 season in Tyler Hansen.  Hansen's play helped the team salvage 3 wins that year.  I attended a spring practice before the 2011 season and I thought Hansen looked great.  But what were the Buffs to do once Hansen graduated for the 2012 season?  I hoped that Embree had a plan.  His moves to shore up the quarterback position have not worked out.  One of his first signees, junior college transfer Brent Burnette, never played a down for the Buffs.  Texas transfer Connor Wood worked with the scout team in 2011 and reports were promising that he'd be the starter for 2012, but Wood was a disappointment.  Kansas transfer Jordan Webb won the starting 2012 quarterback job, despite only arriving on campus in July, and had a terrible year.  In the last game holdover Nick Hirschman looked to be the best of the bunch (leading the Buffs to 35 points vs Utah), yet Hirschman was buried on the depth chart for most of the season.

Embree did recruit promising quarterback Shane Dillion who redshirted this year.  If Dillion is the real deal he'll help the next coach, but I still think Embree could have done more to bolster the quarterback position in the short term.  Stevie Joe Dorman was another Embree recruit at quarterback who had no other offers from BCS schools (Dorman also redshirted this year).

Closed practices.  When Embree took the field in the Spring of 2011 he at first was open to having fans and the press view his team's practices (I attended one of the first workouts).  But soon Embree closed all practices to the public and gave the press limited access.  This was a change from Dan Hawkins who always opened a few practices for public viewing in the Fall followed by a public scrimmage in August in Folsom Field.

I remember as a kid watching the 1971 CU team scrimmage featuring many sophomore starters on TV before heading off to Baton Rouge to play LSU the next week.  Then coach Eddie Crowder was not concerned about giving away any secrets by having open scrimmages - his team upset LSU and ended up finishing #3 in the nation that year.  Embree had an almost paranoid attitude about his Buff teams, not wanting any practice reports to get out on the internet that might present a less than positive view.  The secrecy in the program did not help in building good will to the fans or with the media.

Race had nothing to do with it.  Earlier this week Coach McCartney accused Colorado of firing Embree for racial reasons.  "I believe black men have less opportunity, shorter time, if you will. It’s just like, Dan Hawkins got five full years. Why not give Jon Embree five years? You signed him to a five-year contract," Coach Mac said.

The Dan Hawkins comparison is not valid.  Hawkins' CU team went to a bowl game in his 2nd year, playing Nick Saban's Alabama team to a competitive game in the Independence Bowl before losing 30-24.  Hawkins 3rd year almost produced another bowl team (a last minute 57 yard field goal by Nebraska in the season finale prevented that). It was only in Hawkins' 4th year that cracks started to show (with a 3-9 record).  Hawkins should have been fired after that 4th year, but the school's financial state at the time prevented a buyout from happening.  Had Colorado had access to the 20 million/year Pac 12 TV money they now have, Hawkins would have never coached a 5th year in Boulder.

Racial discrimination is no doubt still a serious problem in this country, but the Embree firing is not a good example of it.  Floyd Keith, the director of the Black Coaches association, recognizes that Embree's on field performance was the reason Embree was fired.  "I'm disappointed for Jon because I thought he might get another year," he said. "I would have been pleased if he had gotten another year, but I'm also not blind. I think the thing that did him in was the loss to the FCS team (Sacramento State). What can you say about that?"  On the All Buffs CU fan message board, a minority media person from the South writes, "I find it MUCH more offensive that someone like Bill McCartney, and many others, former black players included, would not give me or anyone else of color the benefit of the doubt that we could decide on our own accord that it was the atrocities on the field that led to Embree's firing, not his color. I applaud Colorado for having hired a man with Embree's qualifications or rather, lack thereof, regardless of his race. LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, etc. would NEVER do that." (read the whole post here)

In February 2013 I'll probably be attending another recruiting luncheon with yet another new Colorado coach spouting optimism about his plans for the team.  And I'll believe every word of it.  This time I hope it works out.  For a team I have followed since I was a kid in the 1960's, I miss the good old days of winning CU football.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review: Promises to Keep

As a Denver Broncos season ticket holder since I was 12 years old (1968), I anxiously awaited a chance to read Floyd Little's new book, Promises to Keep, written with Tom Mackie.

Floyd was a childhood hero of mine.  I watched many of his games live from the old South Stands of Mile High Stadium during his playing career (1967-75).  This book gave me a behind the scenes look at what REALLY was going on with Floyd during his years with the Broncos.  I loved all the stories he shares about interactions with his teammates and coaches.  How Floyd body slammed offensive tackle Mike Current to the ground at half time because of Current's uninspired play in one game, how defensive end Lyle Alzado, big ego and all, would intentionally jump offsides so he could hear his name over the stadium public address system, and how the Denver players had to endure the tirades of head coach Lou Saban.  These and many other stories will be of great interest to anyone who was a fan of the Broncos in those years.

More than a behind the scenes look at pro football, though, Promises to Keep is also a motivational tale.  "I wanted to write this book in the hope of inspiring fans like you to go out and fulfill your own dreams," Floyd writes on page 1.  "If you're not doing everything you can to live your dream, you have to ask yourself, 'What am I waiting for?'  Life is not a dress rehearsal.  It's the only one you get."

Floyd's life story is inspiring.  He was a troubled youth who grew up in poverty.  "I was shy and self-conscious," Floyd writes.  The outgoing Floyd Little was shy?  I would have never guessed.  He overcomes a difficult childhood to become his high school class president and a team leader at Syracuse University.  "I had a non-stop drive to achieve everything people said I couldn't," Floyd recalls.  In telling of the obstacles he overcame to become a success, Floyd motivates his readers to conquer their own challenges, too.

Floyd also talks about his life after football and his long delayed induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.  I was disappointed to read that the Denver Broncos have not treated him well in recent years, like not picking up the tab for Floyd's Hall of Fame induction party.  Even more incredulous to me was the fact that Floyd had to stand on line for three hours to get a ticket for the team's first Super Bowl appearance in January 1978.  That was only two seasons after Floyd retired - had the Broncos forgotten the man who was instrumental in making the team a box office success so soon?

If you are a Bronco fan, Promises to Keep is a must read.  Even if you are not, you will be inspired by Floyd's story and tales of pro football in an era very different from today's game.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Memories of another 24 point Bronco comeback

The Broncos amazing comeback against the Chargers Monday night reminded me of another time they came back from 24 points down in the second half to win.

September 23, 1979.  I was in the South Stands watching the action.  Broncos quarterback Norris Weese was ineffective, and the team trailed 34-10 with 7 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.  In comes the veteran Craig Morton.  I'll let the video I put together from old game highlights tell the story ...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meeting "44" 44 years later

November 24, 1968 was a cold day in Denver.  That afternoon I sat with my friend Greg in the South Stands at what was then called "Bears Stadium" watching the Denver Broncos-Buffalo Bills game.  We had bought season tickets to the Broncos that summer at what seemed at the time to be a high price for a 12 year old - $2 per ticket!

As two sixth graders we loved attending Bronco games that season.  Denver did not have a very good team, but we enjoyed the excitement of going to the games.  On this day we were happy as the clocked ticked down with under a minute to play and our beloved Broncos ahead 31-29, running out the clock.

Suddenly Broncos star running back #44 Floyd Little fumbled!  A Buffalo player picked up the ball and was tackled deep in Denver territory.  The Bills kicked a field goal to go ahead 32-31.  A tear came to my eye as I sat shivering in section CC row 39 of the South Stands.  There was nothing more important to this 12 year old than seeing the Broncos win, and with 23 seconds left a Buffalo victory looked to be certain.

But Floyd Little had other plans.  The Broncos got the ball back on their own 31 yard line.  Time for one or two plays at most.  I watched as diminutive Broncos quarterback Marlin Briscoe, at 5'10" short by NFL standards, throw the ball as deep and far as he could.  The ball seemed to hang in the air forever as it came towards us in the South Stands.  Little dived and caught the ball, tumbling to the Bills' 10 yard line.  Bobby Howfield kicked a field goal and Denver won 34-32! 

I was so happy I saved the Denver Post sports section the next day - I always wanted to remember this great Bronco victory.  "If I hadn't caught that ball," said Floyd in that 1968 game story, "I don't know if I would have had to quit football or not.  I'd have had to do a lot of thinking."  It turns out Floyd was "fired" by Bronco coach Lou Saban after he had fumbled, and he ran back onto the field, against Saban's orders, to make the winning play.  I still have that paper, worn and tattered over the years. 

On Tuesday night I met Floyd Little in person for the first time in my life.  He was appearing at the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club (DBQC) to promote and sign copies of his new book, Promises To Keep.  As a board member of the DBQC I handled the negotiations with Floyd's publisher to setup this meeting.  I was thrilled when I got to sit next to Floyd at dinner!

I pulled out that old paper and showed it to Floyd, telling him the story of me being in the South Stands that day.  He said, "You ought to put that in plastic!"  We chatted for 10 to 15 minutes.  "44 years ago was when Lou Saban fired you," I said.  Floyd's eyes lit up. "44 years?  You're right!  I'm going to use that in my interviews tomorrow!"  We reimnisced about some of the great games in his Bronco career.  "Lou Saban's last win as Broncos coach, where you beat the Browns 27-0 in Cleveland was a good one," I said.  "That game meant a lot to Lou - he used to play for the Browns," Floyd replied.  I didn't know that!

Floyd was very gracious at the meeting.  He made a point to visit each table and greet the 80 fans in attendance.  After I had my 1 to 1 talk with Floyd over dinner he spoke to the group for an hour, telling of his life (chronicled in his new book) and answering questions.  "I played with 50 offensive linemen and 27 different quarterbacks in Denver," Floyd said.  "I'd be great if I played today.  Back then some of my best runs were just to get back to the line of scrimmage!"

Floyd told us a number of stories.  How the Jets wanted to draft him at pick #9 of the first round and give him the same salary that Joe Namath got as a rookie ($400,000).  Instead Denver selected him at pick #6 and he signed for $10,000.  How Mean Joe Greene, the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh defensive lineman, told Floyd after Floyd was selected to the Hall, "you were the best football player I ever played against - not just the best running back - but the best football player, period. Congrats."

Sadly, Floyd is still bothered by the lack of respect he got from the press during his playing days.  He told us of an appearance at the Pro Bowl in the early 70's where the press mostly ignored his accomplishments.  And that continues to this day, as Sports Illustrated's Peter King called Floyd after the 2010 Pro Football Hall Of Fame selections were announced to say, "I didn't vote for you." 

If I were to give advice to Floyd, I'd say don't focus on these negative reporters, and on anyone who says you don't belong in the Hall of Fame.  Instead think of all the Denver area kids you were an inspiration to, like myself, with your never-give-up positive attitude and tremendous skills on the football field.  Floyd continues to be an inspiration to young people today, as he is an assistant to the Athletic Director at his alma mater - Syracuse University.

Floyd Little and me, 10/16/12

PS For more on that 1968 Bills/Broncos game watch a video that I recorded from a 1980 TV special and put on you tube awhile back where Floyd and Lou Saban talk about that game.

Thanks to Tom Mackie, Floyd's co-author, for his assistance in connecting me to Triumph Books to setup this meeting.

Cold football game photo by Express Times Bill Adams

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Broncos season prediction

As in past years, I am going to predict the Denver Broncos' final won-loss record based on the results of the first game.  In 2009 and 2010 I correctly predicted the win total both years.  In 2011 I was way off as I didn't anticipate the impact Tim Tebow would have (who did?)

I again see the 2012 opener as a very important game.  The playoff rematch against the Pittsburgh Steelers will tell a lot about the Broncos and the effectiveness of Peyton Manning.  I think this Sunday night's game in Denver will be a high scoring game on both sides.  The Broncos starting second year safety Rahim Moore against the Steelers passing attack has me worried.  I'm not convinced Moore is ready to be a starter.  The Steelers have one of the best deep passing attacks in the league, led by Ben Roethlisberger throwing to receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace.

Pittsburgh has its own trouble in the secondary.  Starting safety Ryan Clark cannot play in Denver due to health risks because of the high altitude.  Clark's absence played a big part in Tim Tebow's 300+ yard passing day in the Broncos overtime playoff win over the Steelers in January.  Peyton Manning, coming off an impressive preseason showing vs San Francisco, is more than capable of having a big passing day against the depleted Steeler secondary.

If the Broncos beat Pittsburgh on Sunday night, I predict a 10-6 record and a division crown for Denver.  I see the Broncos winning three of their first four (all home games) which will give them momentum going into tough road contests at New England and at San Diego. 

If the Broncos lose to the Steelers Sunday night, I predict a disappointing 7-9 record.  Denver's schedule is extremely tough.  A loss to Pittsburgh will be followed by a loss to Atlanta on Monday night, and then another loss to Houston at home with a short week of practice.  The Broncos will be unable to recover from the 0-3 start.

Whatever happens Sunday night, I will not be there to see it.  I am missing my first home opener since 1966!  I will be away in Alaska this Sunday night;  I won't even see the game on TV.  While disappointed I am going to miss one of the most anticipated home openers in years, I'm hoping for a Broncos win.   I'm predicting a Denver victory will eventually lead to a home playoff game at Sports Authority Field in January 2013 - a game I will not miss!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Visit to Bronco Training Camp

On a hot Monday morning in late July I made my annual visit to the Broncos training camp at the team's practice facilities in Dove Valley.  Here are some pictures I took along with my impressions of the practice.

My son Andy and I arrived one hour early only to be greeted by a long line of fans waiting for the gates to open:

Soon we were inside the practice fields.  The Broncos allow fans to sit on a hill adjacent to one of the fields.  On this morning the sun was right in our eyes.  I did not bring sunscreen and had a nice sunburn to show for it afterwards!


We settled around the 20 yard line, which gave us a great view of the action later on.

The star of the show, of course, was Peyton Manning.  Peyton looked like his old self to me.  He started out a little slow but as the practice wore on he displayed his quick release and accuracy from the pocket.

Or working on the running game.  Here Peyton is handing off to Willis McGahee.

Peyton was engaged during the whole practice.  When not on the field he'd be discussing formations and strategy with the coaches:

Wide receiver Eric Decker made connections on and off the field.  I predict a big year for Decker!

Here Peyton is talking with ex-Colt teammate tight end Jacob Tamme:

The Broncos even had Peyton lineup at cornerback in one non-contact drill.  And of course after the play Peyton had some suggestions for Matthew Willis.  Peyton Manning is the most vocal practice player I've ever seen in my years of going to Bronco Training camp.

We did get hot sitting in the sun for 3 hours.  Thankfully the Broncos provided an onsite refreshment stand with bottled water and soft drinks for $1/bottle.

A team store was also open adjacent to one of the fields.

Back to the practice, let's take a look at some of the other players.  I heard an interview with safety Rahim Moore (#26) on radio station 104.3 while waiting for the practice to begin.  Rahim says he's much more comfortable this year, and the defense that coordinator Jack Del Rio is implementing is similar to the system Moore played in at UCLA.

Rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler, at 6' 7", was the tallest bronco.  Here Osweiler (#6) is shown next to 6' 5" Julius Thomas (#80).  I was impressed with Osweiler's accuracy and strong arm during the practice.  I thought he looked better than the other backup qb's (Caleb Haney and Adam Weber)

Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman is short with thick legs and quick moves.  He looked like he could be more than just a 3rd down back to me - he showed surprising power.

Don't write off Knowshon Moreno just yet!  Moreno participated in drills for the 1st time after offseason surgery and hooked up with Manning on short passes out of the backfield.  Moreno has good hands and can be a receiving threat in this offense.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokely adds a veteran presence.  Here he's talking with Demaryius Thomas and Matthew Willis.

For a closeup look at Bronco football attend a training camp session at Dove Valley.  I recommend it!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Inside look at Broncos' Dove Valley

Tonight I was treated to an inside look at the Denver Broncos training facility at Dove Valley along with 40 other members of the Denver Broncos Quarterback Club.  The Broncos hosted the Broncos Quarterback Club as a thank you for the many years of support the members have given the team.

It was a beautiful sunny July day in Denver as we approached the main offices of the Broncos:

Inside the lobby:

The Broncos championship banners were prominently displayed:

As well as the team's two Super Bowl trophies:

Next we were shown the Broncos weight room:

Our guide explained that 90% of the equipment is new for 2012 as the Broncos are implementing a new strategy for weight training:

Closeup look at one of the machines:

Then we were escorted outside for a look at the practice fields.  Two grass fields were well groomed in anticipation for the opening of training camp in a month:

Then it was off to the locker room and the team meeting rooms:

Inside a mural of all the Denver Broncos head coaches in franchise history was prominently displayed:

There are those Super Bowl trophies again (a second copy) right outside the locker room:

Our guide showed us team photos displayed on the wall from every Broncos squad:

We were not allowed to take photos inside the locker room.  It was a thrill to stand right in front of Peyton Manning's locker!

Next it was off to the team meeting and film room.  This is also where the Broncos hold major press conferences:

The walls are covered with more motivation:

We were the first members of the public to see the 2011 Denver Broncos highlight film.  30 minutes of memories from the amazing 2011 season, highlighted by the 80 yard TD pass from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas to beat the Steelers in overtime in a playoff thriller.

The highlight film featured the big plays of the 2011 season, with many comments from players in game action.  The future hope of Peyton Manning's arrival was emphasized.  "2011 was a good year, 2012 could be great!"

Overall the evening was a fascinating look at the inside workings of the Broncos.  The Denver Broncos Quarterback Club is one of the best kept secrets for Denver area fans.  Members are treated to exclusive events like tonight's, speakers from current players and media, and even a chance to see a live broadcast of the coaches show during the season.  See the club's website for more details and membership info.