Over the years I have photographed many losses. Some losses were close, leaving you with that heartbreak feeling you might have experienced in junior high.
Others maybe not so close, leaving you with a sense of bewilderment.
I struggle sometimes in those types of games trying to capture the moment, or a key play or even better a bright spot in a rather difficult environment.
Fortunately for me, last weekend’s best images came before kickoff.
I met avid Broncos fan Addison Mitchell on the sidelines along with his mother Val and father Jack, and Stefan Hoch, his best buddy and teammate on his Houston high school football team during Broncos warm ups.
Addison and his entourage were on the field as guests of the Make-a-Wish foundation.
Addison has leukemia. According to his folks this go around isn’t quite as good as the previous battle. He was in remission but had a recent check up that discovered a reoccurrence of the disease.
He looked every bit the part of a healthy strapping teenage athlete adorned with a blond crew cut and a 24 dark blue and orange jersey.
You guessed it. Champ Bailey is Addison’s guy. So the two got to greet one another on about mid-end zone of the southwest corner of Denver’s sideline around 1:30 p.m.
Like most teenagers in that type of situation, Addison was a bit reserved but Champ made him feel right at home. Both sported big smiles and Bailey offered up a mix of cheery and supportive words.
When their final handshakes released I believe Addison was floating several inches off the turf.
However, he had to quickly ground himself because he was just told another Broncos ambassador wanted to meet him.
As players jogged back to the locker room, Tim Tebow angled directly toward the Texas teen. Number 15 shouted out, “Addison? How are you?” As expected Addison shyly responded with a soft smile.
The exchange was even livelier and when Tebow offered up an autograph, Mitchell shoved his recently autographed Bailey football towards the rookie. Tim rebuffed and proudly presented a football he had during warm ups for a signature.
The union was cemented with a Tebow bear hug and several soft-spoken words planted close to Addison’s right ear.
Eyes locked, smiles radiating, one of two priceless moments and two wonderful photographs.
- Eric Lars Bakke, Denver Broncos Team Photographer