At Broncos training camp, optimism pours off fans as new season approaches with new star quarterback and coach
Jim Luallen has seen it all when it comes to the Denver Broncos: From the Orange Crush defense to the Mile High Salute — to disappointments from losing three Super Bowls, to the taste of victory with winning two straight Super Bowls to close out the Hall of Fame career of John Elway, Luallen has been through it all during his 50 years living in Denver.
But, as he watched this year’s Broncos training camp Tuesday morning at the UCHealth Training Center in Centennial , he said is the most optimistic he’s ever been heading into the new season.
“I feel very optimistic,” Luallen said. “This is the most optimistic that I’ve been since Peyton Manning came in and showed that he’s recovered from his neck surgeries.”
Manning would also close out a Hall of Fame career by winning a Super Bowl in a Broncos uniform. That same optimism seems to be spreading to other fans. Colton Ford’s mood about the team is definitely different from previous seasons.
“I’ve watched every season and all the bad games for the last six years. I’m excited to see some wins this year,” said Ford, who grew up in Englewood.
So much positivity stems from an offseason where the Broncos ruled the headlines on a national level.
The Walton-Penner group’s purchase of the team from the Bowlen Family is virtually a done deal. The group includes former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, and it was announced Tuesday that legendary Formula 1 racer Sir Lewis Hamilton is also joining the ownership group. The proposed sale is now awaiting a final vote by NFL owners on August 9th to approve the deal and make it official.
“I’m glad that the drama is over and looking for kind of a smooth ride and some consistency and less uncertainty around things,” said Catherine McCullough, who lived in Denver for 10 years and traveled from Fargo, North Dakota, to attend the Broncos training camp Tuesday.
Fans are also looking for consistency at the head coaching position. Nathaniel Hackett was tapped to overturn six years of misfortune, where the Broncos missed the playoffs in each season. Defensive minds Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio combined for a 30-51 record with no playoff appearances over that period. Hackett brings his extensive experience with quarterbacks. Most recently, he was offensive coordinator for the reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
“We need somebody who exudes positive, optimism, as well as knows the league and knows his X’s and O’s. That checks it all off my book,” Luwallen said. “For the last six years, we’ve been lacking the head coaching department.”
Probably no addition to the team was more closely watched than the one that occurred in early March, when the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson, the most-highly touted Broncos quarterback since Manning. Since the trade, fans seemed to have forgiven Wilson for when his Seattle Seahawks thrashed Manning and Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII. Now, they’re depending on Wilson to return the Broncos to their winning ways.
“With Russell in the back, I’m excited,” longtime Broncos fan Raul Rojas said. “Hopefully, he can be back to his prime where the Seahawks were at one time. Who knows? We’ll see.”
Broncos fans know they’re in arguably the toughest division with the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Like other Broncos fans, Ford wants the team to more regularly beat the Kansas City Chiefs, who have held a tight grip on the AFC West title since 2016. They have also been to four straight AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls — winning one of them —over the last four years.
“I’m most definitely excited to beat the Kansas City Chiefs this year,” Ford said. “That‘s one of the excitements I have. I just want to bash (Kansas City Quarterback Patrick) Mahomes and the whole team in and finally get that win after so many years of losing against them.”
For Rojas, it’s the Las Vegas Raiders that he wants to beat.
“I’m looking forward to playing the Raiders a lot this year,” Rojas said.
The Denver Broncos wrap up training camp on August 11 with a joint practice with the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams will kick off the preseason at Empower Field at Mile High on Aug. 13. The Broncos open the regular season at the home of Wilson’s old team, the Seattle Seahawks, on Sept. 12.
For all the hype going into the season, Nick Burke wants the Broncos to do what every football fan wants their team to do.
“I’m hoping they can win us a bunch of championships,” Burke said. “At least a few.”
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