Now that the Denver Broncos are completely immersed in our annual four-game preseason games, the prelude to what is a hoped for tremendous season, let’s remind ourselves that these games really do have value.
Like artists on the Left Bank with their caps pulled down rakishly and their noses turned up just so, some critics have a great time every year putting down these games.
While I certainly agree that veterans are ready and closes to ready very quickly, what with all the offseason work in the weight rooms and in authorized OTAs, we have to remember that there are a lot of young guys, in many cases unknown names, all taking advantage of every minute of playing time in an attempts to impress the coaching staff.
They want to stay, make that final roster.
And as I have said so many times that you get tired of hearing it (so thanks for reading another version of the same song!), talent comes from everywhere.
The first thing a player does when he arrives here every day is to take off his civilian clothes and put on a team uniform — the only differences among player uniforms are the styles of pads and face masks, and the names on the back.
Then they take the field to compete in one of the world’s greatest meritocracies— the best guys play, the best guys stay.
So just a quick look back at some who stayed despite being unknown to all but the most hard core followers of college football:
Chris Kuper — a fine lineman who was the 161st player selected in 2006.
Mike Anderson — running back taken in round six, with pick number 189 in 2000.
Byron Chamberlain — Super Bowl backup tight end taken in the last round, pick number 222 in 1995.
Terrell Davis — Ring of Famer, should be a future Hall of Famer (absolutely!!), the 196th pick, round six, 1995.
Wide receiver Rod Smith — Ring of Fame, two Super Bowls, never drafted at all.
Wide receiver Steve Watson — 300 catches, never drafted at all.
Tom Nalen — Super Bowl center twice, 2013 Ring of Fame inductee, taken with the Broncos’ THIRD pick in the SEVENTH round (that is really late in the draft!), pick number 218, 1994.
Keith Burns — linebacker who can line up Super Bowl rings was number 210, seventh round, same year as Nalen, 1994.
And that 1994 draft shows what can happen AFTER Mel Kiper has done most of his talking!
Shannon Sharpe — YES….SHANNON SHARPE….was taken in the seventh round, pick number 192, in 1990.
Tyrone Braxton, who was too short, too light, too slow, and all he ever did was make championship plays year after year and win ring after ring year after year (including three in college!!), was one pick away from being Mr. Irrelevant, selection number 334 in the 12th round (yes, the 12th) in 1987.
But Tyrone is not even the most notable Bronco to ever be selected in the 12th round.
Karl Mecklenburg, Ring of Famer, starter on three Super Bowl teams, was taken with selection number 310 in the `12th round in 1983.
So the 1983 draft began with John Elway (via trade) and ended with Karl Mecklenburg. Pretty strong!
I could go on, and on, but you do get the idea.
So watch the preseason games, enjoy them, let the players play and the coaches coach and evaluate, and remember that sometimes the biggest discovery comes after we thought we knew everything about a young guy and his chances.