ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Training camp is about competition.
When camp begins, there are 90 players in the locker room. A few weeks later, only 53 will suit up for the team’s season opener against Pittsburgh.
On Tuesday, that competition yielded to camaraderie.
Earlier in the summer, the house of defensive lineman and 1st Lt.
Air Force Academy Association of Graduates (AOG) President and CEO William Thompson was on hand after practice to present Garland with a pair of replacement sabers and an Air Force football helmet as Mays and the defensive line looked on with pride.
“Me and the guys wanted to get together and get you some of the things you lost,” Mays told Garland. “We know you’re a good person – a great person – and we just wanted to make sure we did whatever we could to help you.”
Garland, who was surprised by the gesture, expressed his gratitude to the group.
“This means a lot to me,” he said. “This means the world to me and my family. (The sabers) were one of the biggest things my grandma and grandpa were sad about losing, and they’ll be so happy. Thank you so much.”
Garland said that he had tried to contact the Air Force to get replacements, but with his mind focused on competing in training camp, he hadn’t been able to.
Fortunately for Garland, the collective efforts of his teammates got the job done.
“We have connections,” Mays said with a smile. “It worked out well for us and we are glad that we could do something to put a smile on his and his grandparents’ face. He’s a great guy, an awesome guy, a great player. You want to do special things like that for a person such as Ben. The personality that he has—he always comes to work eager and willing to get better. He’s an awesome human being as a whole and I’m just glad we were able to get him something.”
Garland originally gifted his sabers to his grandparents, who he credits with helping him successfully graduate from the Air Force Academy.
In all that the family lost in the fire, Garland said the sabers were among the most missed.
“Those sabers were my grandparents' and we only get two,” he said. “That saber is a symbol of graduating from the Academy and all that hard work and making it through. Just giving it to my grandparents – they’re the ones that got me through the Academy. It meant a lot when I gave it to them and it hurt a lot when we lost them.”
“That’s just the Broncos,” Garland added. “It is a strong, tight team. It was unbelievable that they did that for me.”
Even though they are competing against Garland for a roster spot, Mays and the rest of the defense went out of their way to help their fellow teammate.
“The fact that we were able to get them is awesome and even better that we were able to give them to him,” Mays said. “We’re family, no doubt about it.”