Richard Dean has been a Broncos fan for life and a season ticket holder for 30 years.
If you do the math, that means he has been to some pretty amazing games at Mile High - both old and new - over the last three decades.
And he was rewarded last night by getting to be the “Broncos Ambassador” and deliver the new jersey to the Broncos’ first-round pick.
Dean’s favorite player is of course John Elway, so he was beyond thrilled to be “the messenger” for Elway’s choice.
“So excited,” Dean said, noting that the drama over the trade back from No. 10 to No. 20 was perhaps a little disappointing at first but kind of fun to be in the middle of it. “It’s like winning the lottery to do this.”
As one of 32 ambassadors for Draft Night, Dean is taken backstage about five picks before his team is on the clock. They take his phone as soon as he gets back there so Dean can’t reveal the pick early.
But in Dean’s case, since the Broncos traded down with Pittsburgh at the last minute, he never even found out who the Broncos planned on taking at No. 10.
“I was standing there with a blank jersey, and I saw the guys on the phone talking and then they looked over at us and motioned ‘no’ and to bring back the jersey,” Dean said with a laugh.
Prior to his first trip backstage, Dean said he was hoping for a linebacker (probably Devin Bush) or maybe even “the Iowa tight end.”
Dean meant T.J. Hockenson, of course, who ended up getting picked by the Lions at No. 8. But Dean got half of his choice when Elway picked another Iowa tight end, Noah Fant.
“Oh, I love it,” Dean said following the pick.
Elway likely doesn’t care what fans think of his picks, but he’d likely be pleased to know his ambassador and No. 1 fan agreed with him.
“We had a lot going on in that 10 minutes,” Elways said of the deal with the Steelers to trade down. “To be able to pick up Noah at 20 — he can really run and stretch the field, very athletic, and a very effective receiving tight end. We’re excited about where he ended up.”
Most of the fans in the “inner circle” by the stage in Nashville were excited about the pick too.
Nikki Sullivan, a third-year law student at Vanderbilt University and a long-time Broncos fan and season ticket-holder, loved the pick.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I’m excited about all of it - the new coaches, a new year. I think it’s going to be really good.”
Sullivan’s friend and fellow Vandy classmate Lea Gulotta is originally a Packers fan but was at least a Broncos fan for the night, and she thought the Fant pick was a great choice. As a University of Wisconsin graduate, her Badgers had to put up with Fant for four years.
“He’s a great player,” she said. “He was definitely a pain in our behind, so that says a lot about the kind of athlete he is.”
Curt Clegg, a season ticket holder living in Memphis, Tenn., wasn’t necessary excited about the pick, but he was satisfied.
“We needed a tight end,” he said. “But we need a lot of things.”
Prior to the Broncos’ move to trade down, the inner circle crowd was thrilled that Devin Bush was still on the board and looking like a lock for the Broncos to take.
When news came down that the Broncos were trading down, there was definitely some disappointment - until news came in that Elway was getting the 20th pick, another second-rounder this weekend and another third-rounder in 2020.
Eric Jacobs, originally of Buena Vista, Colo., and now living in Clarksville, Tenn., is “not inspired but hopeful” about Joe Flacco as quarterback, so another draft pick next year is definitely a good move, he believes.
I approve Denver Welcome to #BRONCOSCOUNTRY Noah Fant! Been a WHILE since TE was an exciting position in Denver— Brandon Quinn (@TheBrandonQuinn) April 26, 2019
As for the Fant choice?
“It’s OK,” he said. “I was hoping for Jonah Williams or Devin Bush, but tight end is better than quarterback.”
Jacobs - and many fans - will be happy to know that by the day of the draft, John Elway never considered a quarterback in the first round.
“No, we didn’t. We always talk about it, but no we didn’t. It was not in the discussion when we got there.”
And head coach Vic Fangio didn’t appear anxious to take Bush at No. 10 either.
“He definitely was one of the better players in the draft,” Fangio said. “I don’t know if we would have taken him if we didn’t trade. He was certainly one of the guys we talked about, but we just felt the trade value trumped the guy we would get there.”
A lot of fans on Twitter had a similar reaction - many were excited, quite a few were bummed their favorite defender whose first name was Devin wasn’t chosen and a lot were just happy the Broncos didn’t pull a Giants move and take a QB project.
Of course, Shannon Sharpe approved.