This Broncos team is an absolute embarrassment of riches.
There are so many potential GOAT players on the 2014 squad, the thought of not winning the Super Bowl while we have this rare opportunity just seems criminal. (Even writing such negativity hurts me to the core.)
And if I were forced to choose only one player as a favorite, as the most important person on the team, I just couldn't do it.
As awesome as Peyton Manning is - and boy is he awesome and obviously one of my favorite football players of all time - he couldn't be as awesome if he didn't have wide receivers that double as super heroes, an offensive line that shields him from mayhem (uh, most of the time), running backs that give his laser rocket arm a rest, and a defense - oh, finally a defense! - that can even win the game if called upon.
But if there is one Bronco I would absolutely love to be teammates with - a guy I'd want to go through training camp with, the one I wouldn't mind coming over to me after a bad play, the player I would never want to see in another team's locker room - it would have to be Terrance Knighton.
He, of course, got huge cool points for his sack on Tom Brady in last year's AFC Championship game (not to mention style points for that dance!).
Then he impressed me in the offseason and training camp with his positivity, team support and focus on the 2014 goal - improvement that equals a trophy.
But now that the season has started, I believe Knighton is the mental anchor of this much-improved defense.
He doesn't have the big-time sacks that Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have or the flashy interceptions of the seconday (though we know he has the hands), and he's not even leading the defense in tackles.
But he doesn't need to be. Knighton is a beast. He's out there doing his job, crushing the backfield so the edge rushers can do their thang. That's probably why he earned the No. 3 Defensive Tackle ranking from Bleacher Report last spring.
And when his lane is open, Knighton can rush that QB like a boss. Should we watch the play on Brady again?
Yes. Always, yes.
Though this is only Knighton's second season as a Bronco, I know he bleeds orange and blue. Born on the Fourth of July, this guy is fired up to be here, and I don't buy any of the talk that he was even considering not honoring his contract this year.
I hope Knighton retires a Bronco. His leadership, fighting spirit and also hilarity are a huge part (pun intended) of the paradigm shift the Broncos defense has undergone this season.
Whether we get to keep him beyond this season is unfortunately not for me to decide, but here are seven reasons why I'm buying his jersey regardless and why I hope John Elway finds a big way to keep him a Bronco.
Why seven? Number of tackles Pot Roast has so far + one because, well, 7 is kinda magical around here!
1. Heart of the team
The consummate team player, Pot Roast reminds me of the kind of teammate I loved having while a competitive athlete - a workhorse who cares about the ultimate goal and the team above all else.
Remember when the Broncos brought in super stud DeMarcus Ware, and Ware wanted No. 94? No problem, said Knighton. Well, possibly for a price...though I'm sure D-Ware's $30 million contract could cover whatever Knighton asked.
Lol to those who've been asking and want to know......... I will be handing over the 94.... More details to come......— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) March 13, 2014
It's Official Bronco Fans. Ya boy is number 98! #snodaaaaaat— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) March 18, 2014
Whether it is joking around with his teammates to keep things light or playing lights out when it counts, Knighton is the pulse of this team. He makes sure that heart is beating as it should, when it should.
"We're just excited, period," Knighton said before the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. "If you're not excited about football, something is wrong. To open up the season, Sunday night, the whole world watching, there's no better stage. We just want to go out and prove that we improved as a group. We want to go out and play fast and have something to build off of."
The following week against the Chiefs, it was Knighton who saved the game, batting down Alex Smith's fourth-down play near the goal line.
"It's a rivalry. We knew it was going to be close," Knighton said after the 24-17 battle for a win. That's what defense is for - to make plays at the end of the game [when] we need to make plays."
Going into Seattle Week 3, Knighton and his D expected a tough game and a lot of talk from the Super Bowl champs.
"They've earned the right to talk how they talk, and we'll just speak with our pads and show up on Sunday," Knighton said before the game.
Though the Broncos walked away with a loss, their offensive comeback and defensive strength until the overtime drive became rallying cries for Knighton and the Broncos.
"I feel like we matched their intensity. They had two good drives at the end of the half that we got to be better on," Knighton admitted. "We kept fighting until the end, we forced a fifth quarter. We just have to find a way to get off the field in overtime."
"I think we have a mature enough team with enough leaders to know that with the goal we have in mind, we're not going to let up on anybody. We're going to go out and play our best game on Sunday and look to improve."
It wasn't the team's best game but it was an impressive showing for Knighton and his defense, with the only negative being another injury for Danny Trevathan.
And even with that bad news, Knighton was focusing on the positive.
"Danny's a fast healer," he said. "He said he'd be back, so he'll be back."
2. Broader perspective
Many big-time athletes mistake their celebrity for a free pass to be insane. Thankfully, the Broncos have largely been spared the game's biggest prima donnas and hotheads while also having some of the game's most respected players in the league.
And the Broncos - like many NFL teams - have a great crop of athletes who put their fame to good use in the local community.
But it's rare to have a player who knows when to be candid, when to be quiet and when to be loud - and do it with respect.
In my opinion, Terrance Knighton has perfected this balance. Based purely on what I see in press conferences and read on Twitter, Knighton has figured out when his comments should be all football, when he can be funny and when he should be serious.
I have no idea which NFL player was the first to speak out against Ray Rice, but I know No. 98 was among the bold few who called out the Ravens' running back for his despicable treatment of then-fiance Janay Palmer. And Knighton was way before the NFL's own commissioner could muster the guts to say something.
I dare say that without Knighton's actions, the firestorm that caused Roger Goodell and the NFL to change its course on domestic violence might not have happened. Well done, Pot Roast.
But then, just like that, Knighton knew when it was time to move on to his primary focus:
I stand by my tweets earlier....... My focus now turns to Kansas City. Appreciate everyone who agrees. #snodaaaaaat— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 8, 2014
3. Focuses on the positive
We have enough nonsense in professional sports, let alone the world.
I like Knighton's approach - look at the good.
There has to be positive things going on in the NFL. Why give negativity so much attention...... I have a few suggestions— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 18, 2014
How about @BMarshh54 overcoming being cut 3 times to becoming a starter on the best team in the nfl?— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 18, 2014
How about Saints head coach buying Devon Stills jerseys to support him in his time of need?— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 18, 2014
On Tuesdays, the day off for most NFL teams, hundreds of players do charity in the local cities.— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 18, 2014
4. Makes me laugh. Every time.
If there is a funnier guy on the team I don't know who it is. Knighton makes me laugh at least once a day with his actions and/or tweets. I really wish I lived next door to this guy.
In no particular order and with no context, I still dare you not to laugh at these:
We celebrate Columbus Day for what reason? I'll wait....... And if you say he discovered America you will get blocked.... I'll wait....— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) October 13, 2014
Give me a free Jayz album. Not some damn U2 album— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 12, 2014
Smh... These women on love and hip hop be having waaaay too much makeup and surgery. I like my woman natural...— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 23, 2014
Excited about my fantasy team. Lol no I'm not telling you who I drafted— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 4, 2014
And, of course, there is his commercial. Country music, really?
5. Builds up teammates, NFL players
In a professional football world where it is all too common to dis your upcoming opponent, the player you just beat yesterday, or even the guy on your own team you're trying to beat out for a spot, I love seeing professional athletes give props to their teammates - as well as their opponents.
Pot Roast loves to give credit where it's due.
"I just feel bad for quarterbacks now," Knighton told the Denver Post last week about having a fierce Von Miller back on defense. "And he's got another guy over there (in Ware) who he has to race to the quarterback, so I'll just sit there and play catcher and hope a guy steps up (into the pocket) and gives me a sack."
When Danny Trevathan got injured in training camp and was out for six weeks, Brandon Marshall was called upon to step up. It was Knighton who helped the young tackle in his starting role.
T Knight is one of my biggest supporters.. Love that dude— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) September 18, 2014
And it's always refreshing to see the love for fellow ballers in the NFL too. Aside from the obvious fact that many of these players could be teammates one day, it just makes sense to respect guys who are working hard, making plays and improving the game of football overall - no matter who they play for.
The world has too many Richard Shermans. Let's have more Terrance Knightons:
JJ watt is the truth......— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) October 10, 2014
6. Loves this city and its fans
Pot Roast has been here just over a year thanks to a free agency deal with Jacksonsville in 2013. The way Knighton has embraced this city, its fans and his teammates is enough to think he'd never played anywhere else.
He clearly gets it.
Denver definitely has the best fans #snodaaaaat— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 12, 2014
7. That boy can play
Ultimately, what makes Knighton really special is that a guy who looks like a 335-pound teddy bear and can joke around off and on the field with great success, is also damn good at playing football.
And he's not afraid to talk some smack when something needs to be said because he knows he can back it up.
You lock me and anyone who thinks the "broncos" are soft in a room, I bet I'll come out first.— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) August 25, 2014
During the NBA finals this spring when Arizona Cardinals' Tyrann Matthieu made a crack about the Broncos' dismal Super Bowl performance being similar to the shellacking happening in the basketball game, Knighton tweeted back, "Don't worry, ya'll on the schedule."
And after the Broncos manhandled the Cardinals 41-20, Knighton finished the conversation:
Love @MrKnighton2u calling out Honey Badger for tweet during NBA Final."I don’t forget.All I know is we threw for 400 yds & he plays safety"— Raul Martinez (@RaulSports) October 6, 2014
But Knighton is not all talk. He's making big things happen on the field.
I sure did tip that field goal #snodaaaaaaaat— Terrance Knighton (@MrKnighton2u) September 22, 2014
And who's going to forget that tipped ball on 4th and 6 that surely saved the Broncos victory against the Chiefs Sept. 14.
And do you want that Brady sack dance again?
I thought so.
Yeah, this Bronco is for real.