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Saccomano: New Schools, More Players to Scout

Posted Jul 21, 2014

Jim Saccomano reflects on training camp and how schools that aren't football powerhouses can produce top-tier players.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- We have arrived at the first week of National Football League training camps. Denver Broncos fans are at the pinnacle of emotional anticipation, but this applies to all the fans in all the 32 NFL cities and fandoms.

I have often said that football training camp is the greatest meritocracy—everyone arrives, in different clothes, from different backgrounds, but when they take the field they are equals.

The best move forward.

There are a lot of players in Broncos history who come from schools that many have never heard of, including Missouri Southern (Rod Smith), Yankton College (Lyle Alzado) and New Mexico Highlands (Lionel Taylor).

We have great scouts, and they find players wherever they might be.

Thus, take note of the fact that seven new college football teams will take the field for the first time this fall, increasing the number of schools across all NCAA divisions and the NAIA offering football to 767, an all-time high.

The seven new programs launching in 2014 are Arizona Christian University (Phoenix), the College of Idaho (Caldwell, Idaho), George Fox University (Newberg, Oregon), Limestone College (Gaffney, S.C.), Missouri Baptist University (Saint Louis), Paine College (Augusta, Ga.), and Southeastern University (Lakeland, Fla.)

All seven schools have full schedules for the 2014 season.

A big round of applause for them, from me, at least.

In addition, 12 new programs played their first season in 2013 and nine schools will begin playing football in 2015-16.

There were five new schools in 2012, eight in 2011, six in 2010, five launched in 2009 and eight programs kicked off in 2008.

Of course, many people will shortsightedly say they do not care, because they only care about schools that have major players, at one time or another.

One thing I have learned from a lifetime in football is just that: all schools have major players at one time or another.

And we are interested in every player who can make the Broncos better.

Many years ago I was sitting with Pat Bowlen, talking with him about things I wished to write in his biography, and I asked if he had any direction to offer.

He said he did not, but then casually added, “I want to be number one in everything.”

And with that casual comment he gave me a key concept not only for Pat’s biography, but the mantra that drives the entire Broncos organization, from the top down.

And that is why we scout every player.

For each camp in the last decade of play a non-drafted player has made the Broncos out of training camp. And every one of those guys played somewhere, at a real big university that is on television every week, or at a tiny little college than never gets a sniff on TV.

Nobody ever heard of Yankton College.

But the Broncos never had a more ferocious pass rusher than Lyle Alzado, who was a key starter for the Broncos on our first Super Bowl team and who later was on a world championship team with the Oakland Raiders.

You scout them all, and everyone comes from somewhere.

So welcome aboard to the seven schools kicking off their football programs in 2014.

The cycle of fresh competition renews itself at 32 NFL camps this week, and this year there will be an all-time high of 767 college and universities working toward championship goals as well.

Hats off to all. Let the play begin.