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.
Denver draftee Mike Mohamed understands the role of a linebacker acquired as a sixth-round pick (189 overall) in the modern NFL. He’s going to have to start out on special teams and show that he can be a core player for that squad. Special teams are 80% about desire and inner fire. It’s how a player gets noticed by the coaches.
“Yeah, definitely,” Mohamed said. “I already know that’s kind of my ticket. I’ve done them all throughout my college career. Like I said (earlier), I’ll go in wherever they need me.”
Born on March 11, 1988, Mohamed grew up in Brawley, CA and attended Brawley High School, where he played linebacker and tight end for head coach John Bishop. Mohamed was a natural leader from an early age and he led his Wildcats squad to the CIF section championship game and semifinals during his junior and senior seasons. For his efforts, he was named the Imperial Valley Defensive Player of the Year and was the team MVP as a senior, registering 62 tackles, five sacks, 14 tackles for loss and six blocked punts. He was a First-Team All-Imperial Valley League selection and a second-team medium schools All-State choice by CalHiSports, and was also made a member of the San Diego Hall of Champions defensive team. Mike was offered scholarships from both San Diego State and California. A natural athlete, Mohamed had also played forward on the basketball team as a junior. Always a top scholar, Mike was also chosen for the San Diego Union Tribune All-Academic team as a high school senior.
Joe Mays comes from a city that knows a little bit about middle linebackers.
Joseph Lamont Mays was born on July 6, 1985 in Chicago to Renice Mays and Charles Williams, the city that brought the NFL Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher. Joe attended the Hyde Park Career Academy in Chicago where he began to play football his junior year. Although he’d grown up wanting to be Michael Jordan, it didn’t take him long to realize that he just didn’t have the body type for the NBA game. When asked why he made the move from basketball to football at that time, Mays replied,
I'd say the fact that you could hit somebody and not get in trouble for it -- just letting out some frustration. At that time, I had a little bit of frustration with everything that was going on in my life. Once I got to football, I kind of embraced it and enjoyed it. Then I started to love it and wanted to continue to do it.
Over the past few years, Denver fans have had to look hard to find things to really cheer about on the Broncos. The media has long stood by the abiding principle that if it bleeds, it leads, and that’s led to seemingly endless negative stories about this player and that one, people who make the news by creating negative incidents. One such problem of Denver’s was shipped to Miami in exchange for a couple of second-round picks, and has been little mourned by Broncos fans. Tim Tebow has been both praised and trashed for his desire to share his religion with others. Then there’s Quinton Carter.
If you’re a Broncos fan, you’ve already heard the basics: While still in college, Carter decided to use the platform of his considerable ‘Q’ - his name recognition - and started a non-profit organization called SOUL - which stands for Serving Others through Unity and Leadership. The 501(c)3 non-profit organization he founded, based in both Carter’s hometown of Las Vegas and in Norman, where he attended the University of Oklahoma, works with inner city youths from the ages of 11 to 14 to provide them with football camp training that gives the youths a chance to see the value of teamwork and sportsmanship. That’s laudable, but Carter takes it a long step further than most programs by adding classroom work and lectures about decision-making, nutrition and the value of education.
When it came time for the 45th pick in April's draft, Broncos fans were in general looking for a lineman - preferably a defensive tackle, but a right tackle would have been fine with most of us. When Rahim Moore’s number was called, some fans lapsed into outright stupors - they WHAT? REALLY? What the ….? Others simply threw things at their sets, cats or walls. They didn’t need to have worried.
A little time has passed, and the Broncos' new brain trust has shown some good reasons why they’ve gone the route that they have. Perhaps most interesting to me has been keeping an archive of all the comments made by head coach John Fox, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and linebackers coach Richard Smith as the team moves forward. I’ve also kept one on special teams coordinatorJeff Rodgers, who has specifically mentioned his pleasure in gaining two safeties, three linebackers and a couple of TEs who can fly down the field. In the broad strokes that have been drawn up for the fans' benefit, the team has avoided giving too many specifics, but has outlined just what the Broncos want to do to get back into the role of a perennial playoff prospect. Four things headed the list, mostly for the defense: