Terrance Knighton takes a little time out of his pregame warmups to play catch with a young fan.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —** You've probably heard of professional athletes' rituals or superstitions. Some are more famous—or perhaps more notorious, I should say. Some say more about their dedication, and some are borderline outlandish.
Terrance Knighton has one, too. But his is a bit more down to earth, grounded in a bit of his own history.
Before every game, Knighton partakes in the pregame stretching and drills like everyone else, but once those conclude and the players have free reign to do whatever they need to do to get ready for the game, Knighton heads over to the sideline. With a football in one hand, he gazes across the crowd before finding a young fan add into his warmup process.
Sometimes it's a bit more difficult finding a Broncos fan, like when he's on the road, but he always seems to find someone somehow.
And then they just play catch for a little while. It's really that simple. It always ends with Knighton giving the ball to the child, as a little extra souvenir to make for an experience they'll never forget.
It all started when Knighton was with the Jaguars. It was more of an impromptu decision than anything. After they played catch, the boy asked Knighton if he could have the ball. The defensive tackle didn't see anything wrong with that.
"I was like 'Yeah,' and he had the biggest smile on his face," he said. "I think I had a really good game that game. So after that, I just decided I would do that every week and whether it's home or away, I look for a Broncos fan or a kid."
Though it's a small gesture, Knighton knows that taking a short moment out of a busy day for him could make something more longlasting and impactful for young kids. Maybe it could even be something formative in their life.
"You just don't know sometimes the effect that has on a kid," Knighton said. "That kid I was playing catch with could be the next Peyton Manning just because of that moment."
Even if they don't become the next Peyton Manning or Terrance Knighton, he knows outreach from athletes can mean a lot in other ways, from the big gifts to the small.
"As a child, I didn't have that," Knighton said. "I didn't have the means to be at an NFL game or be around professional athletes where I grew up at. I just know it would have meant a lot to me as a child to see that, and it probably would have kept me out of trouble. I just want to pass that on to other kids that have the opportunity and don't have that opportunity."
At a time when Knighton's moved into an influential role as a captain as part of the foundation of the league-leading rushing defense, he's showed leadership on the field and off it.
"Whenever I get a chance, I talk to a lot of young kids," he added. "I still even go back to Jacksonville and I'm still active in that community, so once I build relationships with people, especially kids that don't have people to look up to and don't have the means to experience things, I try to be as much of a blessing as I can."
So the next time you come to see a Broncos game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, you can keep an eye out for Knighton making a young kid's day usually along the home sideline.
"You always want to focus just on football, but you've also got to see the impact that you can have on people's lives, doing what we do."