In the 2014 season, the Denver Broncos have caught a form of the injury bug. This season's viral mutation seems to attack linebackers. It started near the top of the lineup and has kept up.
It attacks all starting linebackers not named Von. While injuries from sprained ankles to concussions have been included, left leg and knee injuries have ended the season for standout Danny Trevathan. Brandon Marshall missed two games at the end of the season, forcing Denver to turn to the unknown Todd Davis out of powerhouse Sacramento State.
The fans and staff were looking forward to seeing Marshall and Trevathan together in the playoffs. Trevathan’s third left leg injury of the year, a dislocated patella, has put paid to that dream. Happily, Marshall is due back for the playoffs.
Without warning, the outside door was suddenly flung open. Knowing what might happen, Brandon picked up the smallest child - one of his cousins - and fled to a bedroom.
He could hear his mother Barbara and his older brother Marcus yelling at a figure. It was his own father who was screaming and threatening them. Another younger cousin ran to a different bedroom. But Brandon’s father chased the child down when it was heard dialing for help. He slapped the phone to the floor, knocking it from the child’s hand.
From there, Barbara faced him down in the bathroom, where the adults' yelling turned to scuffling. Brandon crept to the doorway of the bathroom. He saw the furious look on his father’s face as he left the residence. It has stayed with him over the years.
Marvin Austin was born to his single mother, Donna Johnson, on January 10, 1989, in Washington, DC. Athletic as a child, by the time he was in high school, Austin was already a rising star.
He began high school at Coolidge HS, although other, bigger schools had made a run at bringing him on. As a junior in 2005, he helped Coolidge to the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title game for the first time since 1986. It ended badly, though, with a 43–14 loss to rival Dunbar.
Coolidge assistant coach Moses Ware moved over to Ballou HS in 2006 and took Austin with him. That turned out well, as Ballou met Dunbar in that year's title game. This time, Austin, Ware, and Ballou triumphed 34-33. Austin made the All-Metro HS First Team as chosen by the Washington Post, in both 2005 and 2006.
After having lost Rahim Moore to a lower leg compartment injury, with young Duke Ihenacho playing physically but erratically, and Mike Adams a better backup than starter, Denver recently found some help at safety in the form of T.J. Ward.
A former second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, Ward was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2013. The Broncos are betting that his physical playing style will benefit the way their defensive secondary holds off both passing and running games.
T.J. Ward was born Terrell Ray Williams Ward Jr. on December 12, 1986, in San Francisco. He's one of three children of Terrell and LaNeita Ward, and has a brother and a sister.
Roderick ‘Rod’ Smith was born in Texarkana, on May 15, back in 1970. He was all-league, all-area, all-state, and an all-state game choice as a senior at Texarkana High School in Texarkana, Arkansas. He earned two letters in football and basketball, and one in baseball while in high school. He attended college at Missouri Southern State, a Division II school.
While he was there, Rod set conference records with his 3,043 career receiving yards and 34 touchdowns. He broke his own school’s receptions record with 153, and as a senior, he was voted All-American by the AP, Kodak, Football Gazette, and NCAA Division II sports information directors - in other words, nearly everyone who covered Division II. In his senior season alone, he caught 63 passes for 986 yards and 13 TDs. He was a finalist that year for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is given annually to the top Division II football player.
In 1994, he completed his studies with three degrees - economics and finance, general business, and the third in marketing and management. He was ready for his post-football life, which has been as successful as he was on the field. I follow him on Twitter just for the pleasure of it, and have found him to be one of the most positive and supportive folks I’ve had the pleasure to read.
On Thursday, March 15 of 2012, Denver jumped into the free agent pool and came out clutching veteran free safety Mike Adams in its hooves. Was it the money or the atmosphere that brought him into the Broncos fold? According to Gray Caldwell, Michael ‘Pops’ Adams began by saying, “Nice to be here: the weather’s nice.”
It was your basic 70-degree March day in Denver. Happily, the Broncos signed him before the next traditional spring snowstorm rolled on in (and I’m sorry to hear about the late drought along the front range - all the best to those who were or are displaced by the forest fires that are plaguing that area). Regardless - one of the things that clinched his decision was the warmth within the facility, far more than the weather without. The coaching of John Fox went a long way toward greasing the wheels to a mutual agreement.
At this time of the year, a lot of the athletes who will compete at Combine are working out intensively at a variety of gym complexes that often house the athlete and will generally offer nutritional programs, a full kitchen for meals that are specifically designed to permit maximum performance, and a Star Wars workout facility. Machines for testing oxygen intake and CO2 exhalations sit alongside the treadmills that they will be used with. The cold pools that reduce muscle inflammation are filled with shivering, shaking prospects. There are machines for every muscle, and a wide range of other training devices as well.
I’ve written before on Charles Dimry, a one-time Broncos cornerback, and his facility, a franchise of Velocity Performance. There is a big fish in this growth-industry pond that used to be Athletes Performance Institute. Now it’s just Athletes Performance, but nearly everyone still calls it API. Luke Richesson was with them for 10 years. API turns out top professional athletes on a consistent basis - they’re booked solid during the predraft training cycle. Professional athletes from a variety of sports train there year-round.
New Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was born in Castro Valley, CA on April 4, 1963 and attended Hayward High School, in California. Del Rio was active in sports from an early age, and he played football and baseball for the school, where he was a teammate of former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. Del Rio was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays right out of high school, but after some thought, he decided to attend college at USC. He was recruited by John Robinson, and history records that he made a very good decision.
He continued his sports career with the Trojans, playing both baseball and football for them. In football Jack was a linebacker - 6’2” and 246 lb by the end of his time there, he started for the Trojans for four straight years. During that time, he was a consensus All-American as a senior as well as runner-up for the Lombardi Award, but didn’t wait for then to shine. USC went 30-15-1 while he was there, ranking in the top 20 teams in the country three of those four years. In addition to playing in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, he was the MVP of the Rose Bowl in 1985.
Pro Football Weekly’s All-Rookie Team came out this past week. Everyone knew that Von Miller would be on it. What people didn’t expect was that undrafted nickelback Chris Harris would be joining him. I’ve talked a lot about Miller, so I’ll pass for today - but what do you know about Chris Harris, other than his coming out of ‘nowhere’ and nailing down the starting nickel corner position after ripping it out of the hands of veteran Jonathan Wilhite?
The Broncos not only went from 4-12 to 8-8 and from the bottom of the division to the top this season, but they had a lot of players who got some well-deserved recognition for their play at season’s end. There have been no shortage of awards and compliments, and it’s been a while since that’s been true. The one that I got the most enjoyment from is probably the one that no one saw coming, and that was Harris' honor. A supposedly too-short (at 5’9 and a quarter inch but 192 chiseled lb.) cornerback who has been talked about as a free safety out of Kansas, even a brief glance through his college record makes the fact that the Combine overlooked him even stranger.
Sometimes, living in a small town gives you things that you have to wrestle with. In Eaton, Colorado, population 2,690, life is pretty much what it’s always been in small towns. They publish the school lunch menus in the local paper each week next to recipes from Eleanor’s Kitchen, and the yearly Eaton Days of early July are named after a pioneer in irrigation who used the waters from the foot of the Rocky Mountains to turn the arid plains into abundant farms and agriculture and who settled in that region.
The Farmer’s Market runs from June to early October and features all the normal events - sidewalk chalk art, foods both organic and otherwise and local musicians all are part of the annual happening. Not much changes, and little of it changes quickly. But the hard work ethic that permeates many of the small-town agricultural areas also infuses the young men who hail from there and the sports that provide much of the small town entertainment are as much a part of the landscape as the high-plains winds that scrub the fields and the crops that fill them in the summer and harvest seasons.