By Brandon Krisztal
Denver Broncos P.R. Maven Patrick Smyth (@PSmyth12) indicated in the tweet associated with this picture that 123 media members attended The Broncos first practice of the season. The start of training camp, means Summer, in essence is over for almost all of the media members in town, and obviously for everyone associated with The Broncos. Every season brings on something different, which got me thinking, it’s kind of like going back to school, or in this case, football school.
As kids we used to get some sort of combination of nervous and excited. I remember in third grade I woke up, thought my digital clock said 8:00. So, I ate a bowl of cereal, and then put on my new Bugle Boy outfit my Mom had bought for me. I wasn’t sure why anyone else in the house wasn’t awake, when I walked closer to our living room VCR and saw that it was 3:17, not 8:17…so, I fell asleep on the couch and wrinkled my new “back to school outfit” almost beyond the point that any iron could save it.
Thinking back on the first day of school made me wonder, do these Denver professional football players get more nervous about the start of training camp, or the start of school when they were a kid. So, I asked a few:
The most popular new Bronco, wide receiver Wes Welker said, “Probably the first day of training camp…Whenever you’re a kid, they’re not paying you to go out there and perform—you’re kind of on your own. So there’s a little more to it now.”
Safety Quinton Carter got hurt in training camp last year, and missed the entire season, but he was out there mixing it up today. Following practice, he said, “Honestly, it’s like the same kind of feeling. You’ve got some butterflies in your stomach, but, I mean, I’m always optimistic,(to) come out here, still hurtin’ a little bit, you know I’m ready to roll.”
Ronnie Hillman was The Broncos starting running back on Day 1 of his second pro training camp, and when asked what made him more nervous, practice or the first day of school? he said, “it depends which year you’re talking about?” I let him pick and he said, “Freshman year of high school.” So I said, let’s go with that, and he responded, “First day of training camp! Definitely. This is my livelihood…you know, in high school you just get along. Now, this is how I make my living, it’s a lot different now.”
Broncos Rookie Defensive End Quanterus Smith may have doubted this day would come so soon, or at least on the first day of practice considering he tore his ACL in November at Western Kentucky. But, No. 69 was out there with the rest of his teammates, adorning his bulky, but, necessary knee brace. As for what made him more nervous, the first day of school or today’s first training camp practice as a pro, he said, “I’d say the first day of camp, a little more than the first day of school…I think it went well, my knee wasn’t bothering me, it cooperated with me, so, I think it went well.
It’s long been known that 15-year vet and future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey doesn’t like training camp. Thus, I asked him, with the high expectations, is this one any different? “I don’t think anybody loves the grind of it, but we love to compete,” Bailey said. “We love to be out here with a bunch of guys we like playing with, so I’m looking forward to it. I get more excited about it now because I don’t have a lot of these left. More of mine are behind me, so I try not to take it for granted.”
As for the other future HOFer on the other side of the ball, quarterback Peyton Manning, is heading into his 16th camp and by all accounts, he loves practice more than anyone, maybe ever. “It’s great to get back on the football field and the practice and get to some football,” Manning said. “Get some Xs and Os. Just football 101, if you will. I know I was excited this morning driving over here.”
So, for most, if not all of the players, there may be more nerves than the first day of school. But, with expectations sky high and Peyton Manning running practice, it makes sense that there’s more nerves after all, it’s Football School…