Happy Turkey Day, Broncos Country!
This holiday is my favorite one every year. As a kid it always meant celebrating with good friends, eating more than one dessert and watching football.
The Broncos rarely played on Thanksgiving, but since my dad was originally a Cowboys fan, we of course pulled for "our second-favorite team" (until Tom Landry got fired, of course, and well, it has just never been the same rooting for them, even on Thanksgiving).
But I also really like this holiday because unlike Christmas where so much chaos surrounds the season, Thanksgiving focuses on what's important - being grateful ... and, um, watching football!
Seriously, it is awesome to reflect on what you're thankful for, especially when one of those things is a football team that year after year is vying for the championship.
We at MHR have selected some of the less well-known Broncos we are most thankful for, even though in truth we are thankful for the entire team - from the starters to the practice squad.
Of course we're thankful for the beast that is Von Miller and the experience that is DeMarcus Ware. We know the defense wouldn't be quite right without Terrance Knighton rumbling through the line to get a QB every now and then. The offense wouldn't be spectacular without our electricfying wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. And, Peyton Manning. Who is NOT thankful for that guy?
But we're also thankful for the guys who grind every week and get few headlines or records to show for it. And really, our gratitude really goes beyond just being thankful for the players.
We are thankful for the people who get the field ready, who clean the helmets, who shovel snow off the stadium seats. Even the much-maligned scoreboard guy gets our thanks - at least today.
We are thankful for the equipment guys who meticulously pick out the 36 footballs to be used each game (and which no doubt have to meet certain specs per Manning).
We are thankful for every mom and dad who encouraged these Broncos at a young age to play this game, for every high school and college coach who has pushed these guys and has never let them think they are bigger than the game.
We are thankful for all the previous Broncos who have shown their successors what it means to play like a champion even if you don't always get the ring.
And we are thankful for every single Broncos fan who has enjoyed the ups and downs of this team season after season, making Broncos Country the best fan base in the NFL.
But mostly, we are thankful for the bond that the Broncos provide so that we can meet here every day, every week, every game and enjoy our favorite team playing our favorite sport, entertaining us with amazing catches, stupefying runs, heartbreaking losses (the kind where we swear we'll stop watching but six days later, we're donning our Orange & Blue just waiting for kick-off), and improbable but oh-so-glorious wins.
We all have different lives, jobs, opinions, problems and interests. But the thing we share - and share with a passion - is our Broncos.
We are thankful for...
Without Mr. Bowlen, the Denver Broncos might look a lot more like the Jaguars than the Broncos. That is what a difference an amazing owner is who is not only dedicated to the team and it's players, but also the city and community as a whole. I wish for nothing but happiness and health for Pat and his entire family this holiday season and going forward, especially with his declining health. He raised his children up correctly which means that this team is in great hands going forward and for generations to come! Thank you Pat, you are loved by everyone near and far. Your spirit, generosity and heart should serve as inspiration for all, even non-Broncos fans. ~ Pete Baron
I'm thankful for quarterback Peyton Manning. I know, I know, Laurie's caveat was to avoid the obvious ones, but if I don't mention Manning, I'll feel like I'm falling into Peyton Manning hypnosis. Manning is so good at so many things, it's easy to take him for granted. We hold him to a higher standard than an average QB, and perhaps we should, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't pause and reflect at his greatness. No one works harder than Peyton; no one does more to maximize the talent he has on the field. And that effort and perseverance trickles down into the practice and preparation of guys like Demaryius Thomas and Chris Harris Jr. For that, and many other amazing things he does nearly ever football Sunday to better my favorite team, I'm thankful. ~ Kyle Montgomery
Although Kaiser was only the Broncos owner for a short time, his greatest achievement has reverberated through the franchise for decades. What is that achievement? John Elway. It was Kaiser who met with Colts owner Bob Irsay and struck the sweetheart deal that sent Elway to Denver. Had Kaiser failed in his attempt to obtain Elway, there would have been no "The Drive," "The Fumble," the back-to-back Super Bowl victories, and there most certainly wouldn't be John Elway Executive Vice President of Football Operations. ~ Jess Place
With Elway as GM of the Broncos, I can rest assured that he will do whatever is possible to build a championship-caliber team season to season. His competitive nature is unmatched and is something the team needs to take note of. If everyone on our team played the way Elway played the game in his heyday, this team would be beyond reproach. ~Bronco Mike
I'm thankful for Chris Harris Jr. He was overlooked in the draft, and eventually signed with the Broncos as a CFA. Since that day Harris has fought his way to making the roster, earning the nickel job, and now becoming one of the best corners in the entire NFL. He doesn't get the recognition that he deserves publicly (like being left off the Pro-Bowl voting ballot), but Harris gives his all on the field and is one of my favorite Broncos. So I'm thankful for everything he has done for the team on and off the field. ~ Scotty Payne
I'm thankful for David Bruton who has given so much time this season to charity and it so often it goes under the radar. Thanks for the impact you have on the Denver community. ~ Chris Doll
I started really following the Broncos when I was 15-16 years old, and during those years, one player on the defensive side of the ball really stood out to me. That player was No. 56 - Al Wilson. I will always remember the hit he put on Tyrone Wheatley in the "snow game." I am thankful for Al Wilson. ~ Scotty Payne
I'm thankful for the Broncos head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos. Last season Antonopulos made sure Rahim Moore got to an ER after Moore described his leg pain which very likely saved Moore's leg from amputation. Antonopulos also told Derek Wolfe he had to take a break and just stay away from football for awhile while he was recovering from his spinal cord injury. It's still amazing to me that both players are out on the field for the Broncos this season. If a Broncos player was in my family I would feel good knowing Antonopulos was just a phone call away. ~ Amy Richau
Even though we've talked a lot about Champ the past few weeks as he retired a Bronco, we can never really thank him enough for his leadership, example, comraderie and loyalty to this team. I will always be thankful he came and that he stayed. Next one's for you, Champ! ~ Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
I'm thankful for backup guard Ben Garland, who made his debut during the Salute to Service game against the Raiders when Will Montgomery was moved to starting center. After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2010, Ben signed with the Broncos before serving for two years while he was on the military reserve list. I truly appreciate his service and his dedication to our country. Growing up in Grand Junction, it was always his dream to play with the Denver Broncos and to serve in the National Guard, and he has done spectacularly at both.
But Ben even goes beyond that - "I want to use my position as a football player to help as many people as I can while I have this opportunity to make a larger impact in my community," he says, adding that his faith is the reason he has gotten to where he is.
Ben is the executive director of SoDE Solution, a charity that raises money to help women who have been the victims of human trafficking (shout-out to Amy for making that information easy to find!). Ben is truly a good person, and the Broncos are lucky to have such a great role model to represent the organization. ~ Kelly Fleming
The Scout Team
Some of the most thankless people on the team are people you haven't heard much about. Last season, Kyle and I interviewed Duke Ihenacho, who explained the utter hell of the scout team. On the Broncos, the scout team must attend every meeting, know Denver's plays and play the part of that week's opponent, go through a full practice and then while members of the 53-man roster are watching film, the scout team continues to work.
Mark Asper, Shaquil Barrett, Kapri Bibbs, Josh Bush, Zac Dysert, Bennie Fowler, Dominique Jones, Brock Osweiler, Nathan Palmer, Matt Paradis and Gerald Rivers. Those are the players you likely won't hear of again until offseason team activities, but those are the men who continually make the team better. Kapri Bibbs will be the back studying how New England's rushers take their yards, Brock Osweiler will be the one imitating Tom Brady for Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, Rahim Moore, Kayvon Webster and Bradley Roby. Dominique Jones will be Rob Gronkowski or Antonio Gates.
These are the men who sharpen steel and keep the Denver Broncos a team that has lost only 11 games in its last 47. ~ Ian Henson
'Next Man Up'
The "next man up" has been called upon so often in our lineup, he may as well have his own jersey. After Montee Ball went down, it was Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson who stepped up. Then when Hillman suffered an injury, it was C.J. Anderson who joined the starters. We are technically on our third and fourth-string running backs and they're performing like All-Pros. Brandon Marshall stepped in after Danny Trevathan got hurt, and he's consistently been one of our top tacklers. Montgomery is now our starting center, and Garland has seen some playing time after a reshuffle of the offensive line three weeks ago. The fact that we are able to have such capable backups step in and make a difference - or at least keep things status quo - speaks to our depth, and I am very thankful for that. ~ Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
I'm thankful for the extraordinary effort given by our players and coaches every week to try and win games. I know my time is spent every week critiquing them to no end, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate all they do while they don the Orange and Blue. Thanks for giving Broncos Country a great team to cheer on. ~ Sadaraine
For all of these guys, for the entire team, and for everything that is Broncos Country, we are grateful. May you all have great Thanksgivings, enjoying food and football as you choose.