The old guys are back.
And so is the winning atmosphere that has been interwoven into Denver Broncos culture since that first winning season back in 1973.
One of the joys that I have had in this, my 35th Denver Broncos training camp, is being able to reconnect with so many Bronco greats at our practices.
Considering that we have had just five days of practice so far, I think it is very impressive that the visitors have included members of every Super Bowl team in team history.
Those of you who are regular readers of this site, as well as followers of the other many media outlets reporting daily on the Broncos know that a lot of guys are stopping by.
Camp began with newly elected Ring of Fame member Rod Smith addressing the team in his own particular fire-and-brimstone style, and then John Lynch did a presentation as well when camp began—John flew into and out of Denver the same day strictly to talk with the team.
On Sunday all-time safety Brian Dawkins was a visitor. Dawk asked PR where he could stand and watch, and PR told Dawk, “Wherever you want to be, whenever you want to be there.”
Linebacker Karl Mecklenburg is talking regularly with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and is at practices, as coordinated between the two of them.
Super Bowl Most Valuable Player running back Terrell Davis has been here, Alfred Williams of course is here regularly as a local talk show host, and it is common to see Alfred exchanging concepts and stories with his fellow alums.
Mark Schlereth, who owns the same rings as Terrell and Alfred, was here with his parents the other day, and on that same day tight end Clarence Kay was a visitor. While his name might be less familiar to the youngest of fans, Veteran ticket holders know he was one of the National Football League’s great blocking tight ends and a starter on the three Super Bowl teams that Denver had in the 1980’s.
When ESPN was here for their four days of live telecasts to kick off camp, Tom Jackson was here as part of that team and he visited with a lot of players and coaches, and owner Pat Bowlen even slipped over to the ESPN tent to share a hug and warm memories with TJ, one of the most inspirational Broncos ever. The owner visited with TJ for 20 minutes in the ESPN tent, sharing the stories and thoughts as only the closest of friends can.
Tom’s close friend Billy Thompson of course has a special bond with TJ, one that will never go away.
Keith Bishop, who played nine seasons with the Broncos is now the team’s vice president of security after a career with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He too is at the practices sharing memories.
And just yesterday, former general manager John Beake was at practice and had lunch with Mr. B following the morning session.
One of the guys I particularly enjoyed seeing this a.m. was John Grant—John Grant was a defensive end for the Broncos from 1973-79 and was on Denver’s first American Football Conference championship and Super Bowl team back in 1977.
He and I talked about the Orange Crush days and John agreed that the return to orange as our primary jersey color this year is “perfect!” This year Grant and his USC teammates are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Trojans’ national championship team on which he started and earned numerous national honors.
That is a lot of visitors from a lot of different eras, spanning 1969 (the year Billy Thompson was drafted) to the present and including members of every Super Bowl team in Bronco history.
These guys have got a lot of rings and a lot of pride in their team and how they played when their turn was called.
One of the most common themes expressed by every one of these great Broncos is that he feels welcome here.
To a man, they have praised the culture and atmosphere created by owner Pat Bowlen, team President Joe Ellis and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway.
A culture is established from the top. You can only do what the top guys allow you to do. And by feel, touch, sense and any other way of labeling it, this is an atmosphere open to great Broncos over the years. You can feel it everywhere in the building.
The season is yet to be played, with all the ups and downs that every one of them holds, but a championship atmosphere is back in Dove Valley.