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Mile High Morning: Broncos' My Cause My Cleats designers breaking barriers in the world of sneakers

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The Lead

Across the NFL in Week 13, players, coaches and executives laced up extra special cleats designed to benefit the community. The league's 'My Cause, My Cleats' initiative allows NFL players to choose a cause and represent it on custom cleats, several of which are then auctioned off with proceeds benefiting the organizations.

While the causes on the cleats are the focus of the initiative, there is an underlying bonus for the players — it's the only time during the season that they can flash their sense of fashion and wear custom cleats during a game.

To connect players in need of an artist to deliver the sickest designs for their kicks, the Broncos partnered with Denver artist Breanna Berry, "the self-appointed 'Drip Queen' of Colorado shoe art," according to 9NEWS.

Berry has been the Broncos' official shoe designer for My Cause My Cleats for three seasons. She also regularly designs custom shoes and cleats for players, which they wear to practice or during pregame warmups.

"This is my third year working with the Broncos," Berry said. "It's been so dope. It's fun pressure."

This season, Berry designed 61 pairs of cleats for Broncos players and executives.

"This is the most I've done, this year. In 2019, I did 48 [pairs], in 2020, 51, and this year 61," she said. "All of these causes are near and dear to the players' hearts, so to be able to make that come to life for them, [it] means everything."

The players choose the organizations they want to represent, and have a hand in designing the cleats as well. There is a wide array of causes and designs, ranging from more eclectic and bright designs to incredibly personal depictions including names and portraits of lost loved ones.

"Some people want like names, like of their family members, some people want them simple, some people want them to have fun and be crazy," Berry said. "I love the ASPCA ones, [where I can] put a little dog on them! The ones with portraits, I like to do."

Berry spent eight weeks crafting the 61 pairs of cleats, but she was not the only person to design a pair for the Broncos this season.

Safety Justin Simmons looked outside the Broncos' usual shoe designer to create his pair this season, turning to one of his favorite organizations for inspiration.

"Simmons met 16-year-old Eunique Lee during one of his frequent visits to the [Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club] last spring," 9NEWS' Arielle Orsuto wrote. "He was inspired by her artwork and creativity."

Lee's first assignment was a pair of shoes for Simmons, who loved her artwork and asked if she could customize a pair for him.

"I showed him some of my work and he was like, 'If I bring you some shoes, any old shoes, can you do that?' and I was like, 'Of course, anything,'" Lee said. "I kind of surprised him and made them look like they were Broncos shoes, but I did some research and found out his two favorite anime characters. He was just so surprised to see how I could turn those into what he actually wanted."

Those shoes would prompt Simmons to ask for Lee's help with his 'My Cause, My Cleats' pair, which represented his Justin Simmons Foundation.

"They're really, really, really cool. I think she did an amazing job. She's super talented," Simmons said. "I think that's what's so special and why I like doing what I do with our youth, they're so talented and so special and all you have to do is give them the time of day. And you can see it and you know, they need that."

The fact that both of these Broncos' shoe designers are women is a rarity. In a sneaker world that has long been dominated by men, Berry and Lee are setting the stage for more female sneaker designers to come.

"In this specific field of visual arts, the importance of visibility and empowerment isn't lost on either of these women," Orsuto wrote.

For Lee, the opportunity to connect with Berry and learn from her success has been incredible.

"There's not really a lot of female shoe customizers, so I can, like, follow after and learn experiences from her through customizing shoes," Lee said.

Berry appreciates the opportunity to mentor the next generation of female shoe designers.

"I love that and I just want to continue to inspire, motivate, and lead everybody to a good path in their artwork," Berry said.

Below the Fold

Rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II continues to be a bright spot for the Broncos this season, even during a tough loss to division rival Kansas City on Sunday night.

Surtain allowed only one completion on the night, and hauled in his third pick in two weeks — his first against Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.

Surtain has been a ballhawk through his last two games, recording three interceptions (including his first career pick-six) and three passes defensed. He has not allowed a single TD during that span and has allowed a mere 27.5 passer rating.

"Patrick Surtain II continues to allow little of anything to be completed his way," Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner wrote. "In this one, he yielded all of one catch for 14 yards and came down with his fourth pick of the season."

The Unclassifieds

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