This is one of those blogs about a player most of our fans have never heard of.
Dan DeRose was a linebacker of distinction for the University of Southern Colorado (now Colorado State University-Pueblo) back in the early 1980′s.
After his career, like a lot of players, he was on the hunt for a free agent contract with an NFL team, and the Broncos were happy to extend one to a regional player who had enjoyed a productive college career.
DeRose lasted until the Broncos’ final cut in 1984, then kept trying out and staying in shape.
Eventually, in 1987, the NFL owners decided to go with replacement players during the three-game NFLPA strike, and DeRose latched on with the New York Giants, starting all three replacement games for New York.
When the strike ended, so essentially did the playing career of Dan DeRose.
Many guys never play in college, letter in college, achieve success and fame and get a pro tryout. Fewer yet can ever say they started a regular season game — replacement or not — in the National Football League. So for a hard-working, regular guy, that’s pretty good.
And for most, that would be the highlight of and end of the story. But not for Dan DeRose.
The other day I had the honor of receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Sons of Italy in America, which caused me to be at the same banquet luncheon as Dan DeRose, who was honored with the fraternal organization’s highly prestigious Golden Lion Award.
Dan has been busy, and extremely successful, since waving goodbye to pro football. I have seen so many guys whose highlight was the playing career. For Dan, that was just the jumping off point to a marvelous business and philanthropic life.
He was honored for his key role in resurrecting the football program at CSU-Pueblo, which has since seen a huge surge in enrollment, campus development and community enthusiasm, sparked largely by the football program that people said could not be revived.
DeRose returned to Pueblo, got into and grew the family business, and never forgot about his love of football and his home city of Pueblo.
He first started a semi-pro team called the Pueblo Crusaders, who won the national semi-pro championship. But that was just enough to whet his appetite.
Dan DeRose said let’s revive football at CSU-Pueblo, and everybody said it could not be done. Think about it: college football is a very expensive sport requiring more uniforms and a bigger stadium than any other competition. Once a school gives up football, it never goes back.
But CSU-Pueblo did, and almost exclusively being pushed along the way by DeRose.
He founded Friends of Football and raised about $13 million to reinstate football at CSU-Pueblo. After a 23-year absence, the school (nickname is ThunderWolves) returned to the football field in 2008. DeRose was the ringleader in raising the money, getting the donations, and not insignificantly, making donations himself.
He pointed out Sunday that his parents were “the only two people in the room with a football stadium named for them,” referring to the beautiful, perfectly-sized Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl, where CSU-Pueblo plays its home games.
Not limiting his philanthropy to football, DeRose is a regular contributor to the Pueblo branch of Sons of Italy by annually financing college scholarships for local high school graduates.
Truly, Dan DeRose has made his mark as a great man in the communities of football and philanthropy. It was an honor to be honored alongside him.
So he might be a “Bronco” that most fans have not heard of, but think of him the next time you read about a football game played by the CSU-Pueblo ThumderWolves. They would not be here without him.