"Tis a happy thing to be a father onto many sons..." Shakespeare, King Henry the VI, Part III
It's the week that some of us have been waiting for: the week when the Denver Broncos will wrestle with the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have a relationship and a friendship; the roots of both go deep. They are far more than mentor and disciple. They are currently professional equals, and their teams will meet on a level playing field and fight for victory in a single contest. It's a great story, and a great opportunity for the Broncos. Many will be the discussion of each team's strengths and weaknesses, and that's as it should be. I wanted to know something a little deeper.
I love to study football; its history, its systems, coaching, scouting, formations and schemes, film breakdowns and stories. I love to know where the players come from, what has driven them, why they traveled the road that they have. And I've been just as interested in its coaches. for those that know me, I also promise to keep this one substantially shorter than Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples.
Question - Is Mario Haggan an ILB, an OLB or a coach? Answer - he sure is. And that explains a lot. It explains why the Broncos were glad to give him a contract extension on Wednesday and why he was also announced as a team captain on the same day.
He is a product of relative poverty, a man who knew that sports were a way upward in his life. Mario Marcell Haggan was born on March 3, 1980, in Clarksdale, Miss. He comes out of the Deep South, a man who went to college at Mississippi State following an All-American status while at Clarksdale High School. While there, he was named first-team all-state by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and played in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game... Mario also led his team to the state Class 4A championship in 1997. As a senior, he recorded 158 tackles with three fumble recoveries. He also earned All-American status with USA Today. Even so, the offers to play in college didn't exactly roll in, but he found interest from a few. As is his way, Mario wanted to stay near home.
As the glow from Thursday's game starts to fade every so slightly, and the nervous anticipation of opening the 2009 season on the road in Cincinnati begins to build, it seems appropriate to take a few moments to look back at the path taken and the job done by rookie quarterback Tom Brandstater - his background, his performances and his development. I think that despite the widely differing opinions that folks have as to the path the Broncos have taken to get here, and the variance between our visions of the future, there are probably relatively few Denver fans who don't recognize that they have caught a glimpse of a team as it could be. The aggressive defense, the excellent TO ratio, the high caliber play from the first string and the third and the play of a rookie quarterback who seemed to play with ice in his veins and passion in his heart, who made passes at all levels, moved well and showed how quickly he picks up the new scheme rang in a harmonious chord.
In Texas, football is a religious experience. There are three states - California, Florida and Texas - that lead the country in candidates for the NFL, but Texas has an energy all its own. The fervor of their passion pounds through the veins of fans and young players like the rush of liquor: hot and furious.
High school football games are held on Friday nights. Small towns swell; big towns are flooded with pickups, station wagons and SUVs pull in, loaded with the faithful. The atmosphere is carnival-like, but the mindset of those in the experience is far more serious than that. For Stephen Darcel McBath, it carried with it an initiation into the mysteries of the game that came to McBath at a very early age. He would soon rise to the top of the Texas football pantheon.
McBath wasn't a name that many of the Broncos fans were familiar with before April's draft. Names like Louis Delmas and Patrick Chung were more commonly known and another player in the defensive secondary wasn't exactly what most of the members were looking for when his name was called. A protesting murmur rippled through the posts. What was Josh McDaniels thinking? On Friday night, with Brian Dawkins sidelined by a hand injury that required a simple surgery, we got to find out that Darcel McBath is a solid young player.
Some men, they say, are born to ramble. Ryan McBean may be one of them. His road has already taken him to Jamaica, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Denver.
Ryan McBean was born in Kingston, Jamaica as the son of Donnett McBean on April 23, 1984. He came to the United States when he was 14, moving to Brooklyn, NY for a few months. Then it was back to the road, this time wandering to Euless, TX. Texas is one of the 'Big Three' (with Florida and California) for finding talent among high school football
McBean soon found a home there; Ryan made the football team at Euless' Trinity High School and immediately found some success. He was a first-team All-District selection after his senior season as well as the district's Defensive MVP. He was also named first-team All-District by the Dallas Morning News.
The Denver Broncos are officially looking for leadership.
With the acquisition of former New England Patriot Le Kevin (pronounced leh KEE vin) Smith, the Broncos have once more gone for a player who was a leader during his collegiate career. Playing for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Smith teamed with Titus Adams over his last two seasons there to a top-level pair of defensive tackles on a 4-3 line. Smith himself contributed a stellar swim move and 6 sacks to a defensive line that accounted for a total of 50 sacks, the best in the USA, over Smith's senior year in college (2005). NFLDraftScout.com referred to him as the 'high energy leader' of that line. This importation continues a pattern that has carried over since the first of the Josh McDaniels/Brian Xanders free-agent signings was confirmed. Character matters. So does intellect. And, after the bend-and-break defenses of the past few seasons, physical and mental toughness are now flat-out requirements.
When we glance through the summer's roster for the Denver Broncos, there is a palpable sensation that pulls at our thoughts; a pattern of character, respect and leadership that has influenced the way the team changed itself in the draft and in free agency. The powerful vehemence that Brian Dawkins exudes, the mature humility of Andra Davis, the intellect of Tom Brandstater, the maturity personified by Knowshon Moreno; these men are perhaps the best-known among our newer acquisitions.
But since the first interview I saw with him, there has been something about David Bruton that has piqued my interest. Perhaps it's the implied contradiction between the manners of his his soft-spoken Midwestern drawl and the inherent violence, controlled as it may be, of his chosen profession. Perhaps it's the open way he talks of his love for his son Jaden, who will turn 4 on November 9, 2005. this year. The Broncos will be playing a Monday Night Football game against the Steelers . Whatever it might be, there is something about David Bruton that draws me to him - and to his story.
There are a few things that you can count on with Tom Brandstater. He's a big quarterback with nearly perfect size for the position. Drafted with the 1st pick of the 6th round (pick #174), Tom Brandstater is a 6'5", 222 lb. solid physical specimen. He's very intelligent and finished his degree in communications at Fresno State in only three years, also earning academic honors each year, a three-time Academic All-WAC choice. He's already finishing his Masters degree in psychology. His last name is pronounced Brand-STATE-ur. And after that, no one really agrees.
Born in Mableton, Georgia on January 31, 1987, Kenny McKinley was a sought-after quarterback at South Cobb High School. Kenny earned All-County honors as a junior and senior. As a junior in 2003, he racked up 1,575 yards and 12 scores passing and rushed for 400 yards and eight touchdowns more. McKinley threw for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 750 yards and 12 more TDs during his senior year, and was ranked as the 57th-best athlete in the country by Rivals.com. You can catch four recruiting videos of Kenny from high school at Mableton here:
Prior to the draft, NFLDraftDog.com commented,
South Carolina's Kenny McKinley (6' 0" 189 lbs) doesn't get much respect and I don't know why. He has gotten it done on the football field for years. He has been a four year starter with 2,781 career yards and 19 touchdowns. Now he goes to the combine and has a very solid performance. He ran a nice 4.44 forty and had the 2nd best 20 yard shuttle time of 4.10 seconds.
When the Denver Broncos bargained with Chris Simms this offseason, they believed they were taking on a talented backup quarterback to cover for Jay Cutler if he went down to injury. Coach Josh McDaniels felt that Simms had the pedigree and the potential to be a solid backup, and the higher-than-normal contract cost backed that up. It didn't take long for Simms to receive a chance to show that he is more than a backup - he's currently competing against Kyle Orton for the starting position. In order for us to start understanding the value of this, we have to go back to where it all started.
You certainly could argue that Chris Simms has the best NFL pedigree, being the son of famous NFL QB Phil Simms. He was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey on August 29, 1980 and attended high school in nearby Franklin Lakes, NJ. A standout athlete, he played basketball as well as football. He was a two-time All-State football player and the 1998 USA Today Offensive Player of the Year. He initially committed to the University of Tennessee and then de-committed, choosing instead to attend the University of Texas, where he would major in history.
Arriving at Texas, Simms found that he was in a long conflict for the starting job with Major Applewhite. Each of them did well at various times and weakened at others. Their battle went back and forth for two full years. Over the course of Simms' tenure at the University of Texas, he set several records; their current status follows...