ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Emmanuel Sanders was a little bit uneasy with needles as a kid.
"I remember when I was like 7 or 8, needles bothered me a little bit," he said, smiling. "But not anymore," he added with a laugh.
Sanders was just one of a 25 or more Broncos players who turned up at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Tuesday for the Bonfils Blood Center's 17th annual Denver Broncos Community Blood Drive, distributing T-shirts, taking pictures with fans and escorting donors to donor beds.
"This is actually my first blood drive," Sanders said, "and when I first walked in I was like 'Wow, this is what a blood drive looks like.' It's huge."
The event has grown to be the largest single-day blood drive in the history of Colorado, and one of the largest in the nation. Around 1,500 people show up to donate at the Drive for Life every October.
DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders, and others were at the 17th annual Broncos Community Blood Drive Tuesday. Check out all the action here.
This year, the structure of the event was tweaked from years past to make it more fan friendly, with a "Fan Zone" where players participated with donors in bag toss or throwing a football and the Broncos' Super Bowl trophies were on display for pictures.
"It's not an autograph session," Bonfils' Dianna Hemphill said. "It's more of an interactive experience, so our donors really have gotten that one-on-one connection with the players. And we've gotten some really positive feedback and I think it's something the players have enjoyed as well as our donors."
The turnout from the community was large, with a steady stream of donors filing into the stadium. DeMarcus Ware was impressed by the amount who came out.
"People are here, every hour on the hour giving blood," he said. "It's great to see them here and seeing that they're having a great time."
"It just shows how important it is."
Hemphill said she's been impressed every year by the support from both the community and the team to an important cause, where one donation can save or benefit up to three people.
"Blood is such a critical component of our community because it can't be synthetically made and the only way it can go to help save lives is by people donating it," she said.
"It's unbelievable the amount of support we've seen from the Broncos. I don't know how many people would give up their Saturday or Sunday to go and volunteer, and that's exactly what these guys are doing."
While many players supported the cause on their day off, wide receiver Jordan Norwood, who is on injured reserve, showed up despite just recently being allowed to walk freely since having knee surgery.
"Today's one of the first days I get to walk around without crutches and a brace, so I'm really excited to meet some people, meet some fans and help out," he said. "I wasn't expecting it to be this big to be honest, but the community does a great job of coming out."
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