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'Just giving back, doing our part': Broncos rookies begin shaping their bond with the Denver community

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — While many Broncos have departed Denver to get some time away after the completion of the offseason program and before the start of training camp, one group has remained in town together.

That would be the team's 20 rookies, who have continued to get acclimated to their new jobs over the past week through team-building activities and other training sessions. On Wednesday, they took part in one of the most important sessions, an introductory community event to help assemble care packages for several local organizations.

For years, a community day has been part of team tradition for Broncos rookies to help ingratiate them into their new hometown.

"When players are coming to a new team in a city or market they aren't familiar with, we find that there is overwhelming interest in giving back to the community, but they may not know where to begin," said Executive Director of Community Development Allie Engelken. "From a rookie's perspective, you're new to the area, so the rookie service day provides an opportunity to learn the Denver community in a hands-on way. Today, for example, we were working to support local organizations within the team's philanthropic focus areas while introducing rookies to nonprofits and specific needs within our state. We find this day so important because it's their immediate connection into their new community."

In addition to helping players learn about some local organizations, the event also provided a first opportunity for them to understand the importance of community service to the organization and the area.

"It's definitely something that they put a lot of emphasis on," running back Javonte Williams said. "A lot of teams already went home … but for them to keep us back and have us doing community service and things like that, it just shows how important it is and how much they care about the community and the fans."

Though it wasn't quite a return to normal in the sense of traveling across the Denver metro area to visit various community partners like they'd done in previous years, having the event at all resumed the tradition after COVID-19 protocols forced a one-year break in 2020.

"Last year, our outreach was adapted to accommodate various COVID restrictions and was heavily based on individual preferences," Engelken said. "This year, being able to bring back a larger-scale rookie project not only served as a bonding experience for the class, but showed the rookies that together as a group, they have a platform and the potential to impact their new community through thoughtful and strategic ways. Collectively, they were able to learn about local community needs and support 500 individuals in just 45 minutes."

Though the Broncos are in the midst of time off before training camp later this summer, the group of rookies came together to assemble care packages for local organizations.

Players were split into four stations to make the following care kits for organizations that received financial support from the team's Community Grant Program:

  • Back-to-learning packs for children at the Black Canyon Boys & Girls Club
  • Women/LGBTQ+ shelter kits to provide basic needs and mental health support for women and transgender individuals
  • Dental kits for refugees served by Project Worthmore's dental clinic
  • Salute to Service kits for veterans served by Project Sanctuary to show appreciation and provide mental-health tools

The kits may have varied a little from one station to the next, but the goal was the same for each player: simply to help put a smile on the face of the recipient.

"I always try to do my part off the field, just make somebody's day, doing my part," cornerback Pat Surtain II said. "Things like this is what makes me happy."

As Surtain and the rest of the rookies start their NFL careers, hopefully this event will be serve as just the start of a long commitment to helping in their communities, and eventually they'll be able to return to giving back more directly with in-person community activities as the COVID restrictions are eased.

"I'm really excited, as the season gets going, to learn more about it and participate in more things, especially as the COVID things are kind of going away and more community things are going to be open," center Quinn Meinerz said. "I'm a huge believer in giving back to the community. I do that a lot in Wisconsin, so I'm excited to give back to the community in Colorado and in Denver."

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