I have not kept it a secret that I have been a loyal and unwavering Bronco fan since 1960. I was at the first game they played in Colorado, where I attended with my dad and his buddies. Every year after that we would come up to Denver to see the hapless Broncos. I remember being at a Charger game in about 1965, where there might have been 10,000 fans scattered though-out the old Bears baseball stadium. We roamed around in bands of teenage boys where we had pretty much free reign in the stadium.
In 1984 I came into possession of two season tickets in the South Stands which was called MILE HIGH. I was there for John Elway’s debut at 22 and now he is pushing 60. In my Orange and Blue memory bank I have reams of moments of agony and ecstasy. A few years ago I had to have a serious talk with myself. Summed up it went like this—“Mark either you have to treat this like entertainment provided by overpaid young genetic freaks, or you need to give it up. It’s not that important.” I chose to enjoy the Broncos and not let them determine my worth as a human being.
Over the last 61 years I have watched a lot of players. In 1985 my son Mateo and I met Karl Mecklenburg in Pueblo. He had speaking engagement on behalf of the Tennyson Center and we were his hosts. He asked if he could take us for a soda. We spent the next hour being driving around by that gentle giant who told us his story of choosing football over medical school. I literally crashed into John Elway at the Cherry Creek Mall as we both turned around a blind corner. He was on his cell phone herding four kids into the mall. We laughed as I watched his kids get away from him as fast as they could to go Mall it Up.
Last night a banner came up on my TV screen that 33 year old Damariyus Thomas, a retired Denver Bronco, was found dead at his home. I listened as the tributes poured in about DT. They all pretty much said the same thing—a very kind, shy, genuine and humble young man. This morning I heard again the story of when he was 11 and his mother and grandmother were arrested and sent to prison for drug dealing. I heard about a young boy whose primary concern were his younger two siblings. They told of boy who went to manhood overnight. He should have been another
statistic and instead he thrived and most of all, gave. He often said what made all the difference were people who loved him and believed in him.
Story after story was told about his genuine love of kids. About his willingness to give totally of himself but never pointing to himself. When he retired he said, “I don’t want to be remembered as Damariyus the football player, but for the kind of man I am becoming”.
It happened right in front of me. It was overtime and the Bronco playoff game against the Steelers. Tim Tebow threw a perfect pass to DT who headed down the sideline. He have a perfect ‘straight arm’ to the Pittsburg safety, and then bolted into the end zone. The game was won, just like that.
“DT was a better person than he was a player, and he was a Hall of Fame player. That tells you how good of a person he was. He treated my kids like they were his own. He was there for every teammate’s charity event.” —Peyton Manning.
DT #88 lived to give. Football was just something he was great at playing. Life was something he was good at living.
Onward and Upward, Mark