It was 1977, probably one of the most memorable years in my life. It was 30 plus years ago, but some things you never forget. The Broncos were picked to finish last in the AFC West which had been dominated by the Oakland Raiders Here we are – playing in Super Bowl XII, facing the Dallas Cowboys, in New Orleans, in the Super Dome. A day etched in my mind that I will remember forever.
Here I am, after all these years, back in the “Big Easy”. This time I come back to New Orleans as an observer and coach. We were invited to come down July 10th – 13th to participate in this year’s NFL 7-on-7 National Tournament. Thanks to the Broncos Organization for sponsoring a team consisting of 12 athletes and three coaches from Colorado. I wish I could take credit for the idea to include me, but I give that credit to Cindy Kellogg. She thought it would be a great trip and she was so right. I say “Thanks” for making it possible.
I would like to also thank Wayne Voorhees, Head football Coach from Legacy High School, and Tom Thenell, Head Football Coach from Bear Creek. These two coaches, whom I have the utmost respect for, are not only great coaches, but great people. I couldn’t have enjoyed their company more. It is no surprise to me why they are so successful.
To be eligible, players had to attend the High School Player Development Program, sponsored by the NFL. The 12 players on our team were from three different high schools. I want to name them because I think they are all special.
From Bear Creek:
Zach Thenell – QB
Armoni Brewington – WR
Dylon Chafin – DB
Josh Adams – DB
Tommy Flanagan -RB
Cody Nolte – LB
Beau Trigsted – LB
Bryson Romero – LB
Aston Renshaw – DB
Nathan Pickens – DB
Travis Sears – WR awarded Sportsmanship Award
From Fort Lupton:
Zach Nash – LB
I think we must have had four or five practices before going to New Orleans. It was pretty tough on the kids due to the fact they all were right in the middle of their own school’s camp. So for these 12 guys it was double-duty practice. They would finish their camp, take about an hour break and practice again for the 7-on-7 team. They made it!
Thursday July 10th – We boarded United Flight 1601 at 10:12 a.m. bound for New Orleans (no one was late). I really didn’t know what to expect from the team because our guys were tired for most of the practices. We talked assignments a lot. We arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport at 1:51 pm. When we walked to get the shuttle for our rental van I realized why I didn’t miss the South. It was very humid. After picking up our van it was a pretty tight fit with luggage and 15 riders. Coach Voorhees drove and I was the designated navigator. We were packed together. Good thing we didn’t have far to go to the hotel (Mattiott Metairie at Lakeway).
We get checked in and there is a welcome meeting at 7 p.m. All teams were present except Carolina. They had run into difficulties with their plane and had to be bused in on Friday. The Hotel was jammed with 16 teams; eight represented the AFC and eight represented the NFC.
Miami Dolphins Seattle Seahawks
Houston Texans San Francisco 49ers
Denver Broncos Atlanta Falcons
New York Jets New Orleans Saints
New Enlgand Pats Carolina Panthers
Indianapolis Colts Washington Redskins
Cleveland Browns Minnesota Vikings
Baltimore Ravens NY Giants
Friday, July 11th – Breakfast started at 7:30 am and we started Round-Robin play from 8 am to 3 pm. We played our first game against the Houston Texans which we lost 17-34. What a way to get started in the tournament. It looks like we were still on
Colorado time. Our next game was at 10:15 am versus the Miami Dolphins, which we lost a little bit closer 20-28. I’m starting to worry just a little, but we showed great improvement over the first game. Our next game at 11:45 versus the Cleveland Browns, which we won in overtime 31-28. I’m starting to smile now. Our next game was at 12:30 versus the Baltimore Ravens, which we won 28-10. We are gaining confidence, as we won our next game against the New York Jets 38-21. That was the last game of the day. We finished 3 and 2 – not bad for the first day.
We went back to the hotel to get ready for a tour of the 9th Ward and a tour of the Super Dome and dinner at the Saints Training Facility. It was an action packed second day for all of us.
Saturday, July 12th – Second day of the Round Robin Tournament. We start our first game versus the New England Patriots and won 21-17, and you could see our confidence rising. Our next game was against the Colts and we won in a very close match that went into overtime 20-14. Our record for the Round Robin Tournament was (5-2).
Now its time to set the brackets for the single game elimination bracket.
#1 Dolphins (6-1) #1 Seahawks (7-0)
#2 Texans (6-1) #2 49’ers (4-3)
#3 Broncos (5-2) #3 Falcons (4-3)
#4 Jets (5-2) #4 Saints (4-3)
#5 Patriots (3-4) #5 Panthers (3-4)
#6 Colts (2-5) #6 Redskins (2-5)
#7 Browns (1-6) #7 Vikings (2-5)
#8 Ravens (0-7) #8 Giants (2-5)
We won our first single game elimination against the Colts and lost in the semi finals to the Jets who went on to play Seattle in the Championship which Seattle won. Seattle was undefeated throughout the whole tournament. They were very impressive.
Let me just say how proud I am of the young men we took down to New Orleans representing Colorado and the Broncos. We didn’t win it all but we showed what team work is all about. What I was most impressed with was that our kids had the most votes for sportsmanship, voted on by other coaches. Travis Spears from Legacy won the Sportsmanship Award. This really made my trip back to New Orleans really special. I will always cherish the moments and time I spent there. It will always be a special place for me.