A day before it will host the Broncos 2012 preseason home opener, Sports Authority Field at Mile High opened its doors to players, coaches and fans for the inaugural Kickoff Luncheon.
The event was attended by every player on the roster and each member of the coaching staff. Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Saccomano said the presence of every player made Friday afternoon memorable for everyone who attended.
“It’s really cool,” Saccomano said. “In the history of the team there have been different luncheons that have been done by different organizations, or pep rallys. But to have one in which all the coaches and all the players attended, they were all introduced and got to sit among the fans. And the fans of course bought tables, a lot of them by companies, and the Broncos charities got the money for that, which is a great thing. It really was a big event that seemed to go really well and hopefully it’s the beginning of another tradition.”
An hour after their final practice of this year’s training camp, the Broncos hustled over to their home stadium in time to enter the luncheon one by one to the applause from fans of all ages. The players sat at tables with fans who were able to get to meet their favorite players and eat lunch with them. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard said he enjoyed being able to connect with his fans.
“It was a great atmosphere with the fans and stuff,” Woodyard said. “They got a chance to really tell us how they feel about us. You get to chance to really appreciate everything that they go through throughout the season, putting the effort in and cheering for us. It makes us appreciate them a lot more.”
The participants packed the west end of the United Club Level of Sports Authority Field. Before the meal, fans enjoyed several unique opportunities. The two Super Bowl trophies that Denver won in 1998 and 1999 were on display for fans to take pictures with. Former Broncos players Billy Thompson, Karl Mecklenburg and Simon Fletcher were on hand to sign autographs, as were the cheerleaders. Both Miles and Thunder were also there for fans to take pictures photos with.
At the conclusion of the event, several lucky fans walked away with autographed Broncos memorabilia, including helmets signed by quarterback Peyton Manning and Vice President of Football Operations John Elway. The prizes were awarded to winners of both a silent auction and a raffle, with proceeds going to various charities including The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver.
One of the highlights of the luncheon was a series of fan questions answered by Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway and Head Coach John Fox. The first question Fox answered was about how much the fans help raise the excitement level for the football team.
“I know in practice, training camp can be rough,” Fox said. “It can get a little bit monotonous, a little bit grueling. It’s the dog days. The fans do a great job for our players, and particularly at training camp practice. I can’t speak enough about our fans at our scrimmage that we had at the stadium. It was incredible to have 40,000-plus fans there. Our games are arguably the best home-field advantage in the National Football League.”
In an answer to a question about the difficulty of the Broncos’ schedule, Elway pointed out that no team in the league has it easy.
“Any time you win your division you’re going to get a tough schedule,” Elway said. “I think when you look at the NFL and you look at the margin of error within the NFL, everybody has a tough schedule. Anybody can beat anybody on a given weekend.”
Later, Fox talked about the difficulty of adjusting from the college game to the NFL. But he said he still expects big contributions from his rookie class.
“At the end of the day it’s still (football) and a lot of rookies make a big splash right away,” Fox said. “And we’re counting on our rookies to do the same thing.”
One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon was prompted by a gesture from Elway. When asked about his favorite moment in football history, Elway paused and smiled.
“In football history,” Elway said, hesitating and smiling. “Right there, without a doubt,” he added, pointing at a picture of him in action during one of his Super Bowl victories.