Join Matt Newill on his journey when he said he was "Up For Whatever" and took a whirlwind trip around Sports Authority Field at Mile High during the Broncos' game against the Chargers.
DENVER — **Even in a crowd, it's hard to lose sight of Alfred "Big Al" Williams. Matt Newill, a Broncos fan and admirer of the 6-foot-6 former Broncos defensive end and linebacker, spotted him as he walked around near the tailgate area outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High. After trying to make his way in Williams' direction, Newill had a lapse in his concentration and a friend tried to point him in the right direction.
And then he felt Williams' massive mitt land upon his shoulder. He spun around, his mind rushing, but with camera equipment there to greet him in addition to the two-time NFL champion, Newill knew what he thought was a chance encounter was about to have more in store to it than he had expected.
"When I turned around, first here's this enormous human being, and then there were like four cameras and an audio boom," Newill said. "At that exact moment I knew something was going on, but at that point it was kind of on."
The two exchanged some pleasantries before Williams posed the question: "Are you up for whatever?"
Newill, an Indiana native who has been a Broncos fan "for a long, long, long, long time" and moved to Denver five years ago, had heard of the Bud Light ad campaign and so naturally, he agreed. His mind could only imagine what would await him at the game if he said yes. Williams then boomed out the question again in front of the crowd milling about around them, and the two chest-bumped and Newill set out to begin an eventful afteroon and evening.
They started off with an arm-wrestling match over conversation. "He definitely let me win," Newill said, though he added that he declined Williams' offer for a rematch. After that, then the excitement really began.
Newill and Williams parted ways and the fan was led to the tailgate area to join the Stampede drumline band. Now, it should be noted that Newill says he's no musician. He said his music-playing experience is pretty much a fourth-grade recorder class. To his credit, he did pass with a C, to his recollection. So, naturally, he was given a pair of cymbals and then a drum to play in the middle as they formed a circle around him. "It was incredibly loud and pretty awesome," he said, though he noted his rhythm skills might have left something to be desired. "That's probably why they left it out [of the commercial]," Newill added with a laugh.
A short drive in the Broncos helmet car later, Newill was the guest DJ for Bud Light's crew high above the crowd. With the pregame warmups underway, he then was escorted to the field where he watched the player introductions from right by the inflatable Bronco tunnel.
Surprises came from all directions at Newill all day, but I'm not sure he expected one to come from above. The Broncos' Thunderstorm parachuting team dropped in as they do at all Broncos home games, and this time they came bearing a gift for Newill: a football autographed by Pro Football Hall of Fame Broncos running back Floyd Little.
But his favorite part was right before kickoff when he met Terrell Davis, who taught him the Mile High Salute, autographed his jersey and taught him the proper way to carry a football to prevent fumbling. He showed Newill the right technique and invited him to attempt to strip the ball from his hands. No dice.
"Then he said 'Try to punch it out,' I couldn't and I tried to punch it with both hands and I tried to do that and couldn't," Newill said. "And then he had me do it and then he just slapped it out of my hand immediately."
Davis then showed Newill how to stiff arm, but thankfully he didn't practice that technique on him.
"I was out on the field and I had no clue what was going on, but it was right before kickoff," Newill said. "There was a ton of energy on the field and we were right by the sideline by the players. He kind of snuck up on me, right in front of me. And he's like this huge man, and then he walks up and was so nice. He shook my hand and was laughing, and thought it was really cool. I asked him some questions and he was just very engaging, which in that scene was very intimidating, so that was probably the coolest."
As the game began and the Broncos jumped out to an early lead, Newill was still busy seeing the ins and outs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. He traveled up to the audio/video control room and cued up a touchdown graphic on the Thundervision scoreboard, and then got to watch Dave Logan and Ed McCaffrey do their radio show in their audio box.
From there he went back down to the field, where he met Thunder and fed the purebred Arabian gelding some carrots. Just before the half, Newill went up to the Bud Light suite to meet a number of former players, and to eat before getting the second half of his day underway.
At halftime they went back down to the field and Newill was introduced to the crowd on the scoreboard, and then he was given some new apparel and equipment: an NFL photographer's vest and a camera.
For much of the third quarter, Newill moonlighted as a cameraman, shooting pictures of the action on the field as the Broncos maintained a 14-point lead through the quarter. The Broncos' lead continued through the fourth quarter and Denver took home their sixth win of the season.
With the game won, there were only a few things left on the docket for Newill. He went down to the catacombs of the stadium to watch the postgame press conferences from the Coca-Cola Fan Cave adjacent to the room where Head Coach John Fox and Peyton Manning spoke to the media. Then Newill gave his own press conference as the final event of the evening. Well, sort of. All the media had left so he just posed for some photos from behind the podium instead of giving a stunning speech.
"The Broncos did an incredible job planning it," he said. "And the fact it took like six and a half hours — I walked around that stadium like four different ways and times. I was totally exhausted by the end of it because they had planned so much. And every thirty minutes, someone would surprise me.
'It was by far the best fan experience you could ever have in any game."
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