On Tuesday night, several Broncos coaches, including Head Coach Vic Fangio, took time out of their busy spring schedule amid Phase 2 of the offseason program to speak with 120 high-school football coaches from 45 high schools to share knowledge of the game.
Fangio opened the 11th annual High School Coaches Training Clinic, which was sponsored by Gatorade, Children's Hospital Colorado and IHOP, by speaking about why he holds high school football coaches in such high regard, and why that level of the sport left a huge impact upon him.
"I started my coaching career as a high school coach," Fangio said. "I coached three or four seasons back in my hometown. I had a great high school head coach who ended up being the second-winningest high school head coach in the state of Pennsylvania in Jack Henzes. So I had a great influence both when I was a player in high school and as an assistant coach under him, and I know the impact you high school coaches can have on players, on our game and on the overall community as a whole. I always have a soft spot for them.
"When I started coaching, really all I wanted to be was someday be a high school head coach and be a teacher and that would be it, but things happen. I always like high school football coaches. I think they're the foundation for a lot of the things we do in football."
The high school coaches were able to have a discussion with Fangio and to ask him questions about philosophy, motivation and other topics as part of the initial and main session. Then they broke out into four separate groups, each led by a different position coach.
In starting out his meeting, Running Backs Coach Curtis Modkins focused on leadership before getting to the finer points of the position and practice.
"It's a lot more to it than saying, 'We want you to work hard and we're going to work hard, we're going to do this and we're going to be tough,'" Modkins said, reflecting on his high-school years as a player. "There's a lot more to it. That's the end result; for you guys to get to that point where you can get them and you can take them to somewhere you haven't been or they can't go without you, you have to have connections with them. You have to connect. There's a misnomer that football is about relationships. It is to a point, but it's more about connections. You can have a relationship with somebody and it be a bad relationship. You have to find a way to connect with them, and if you connect with them, then you can take them to those places that are tough, and that require a lot of hard work and require some pain and struggle and sweat."
For those interested in the secondary, Defensive Backs Coach Christian Parker also gave advice for practice procedures, like pre-practice drills he likes players to work on, and Outside Linebackers Coach John Pagano shared his advice from working with edge rushers.
In Wide Receivers Coach Zach Azzanni's breakout room, he and other coaches went through the kind of hand drills he likes to have his players do, the importance of blocking at the receiver position and other finer points on coaching his position group.
"We work on it a lot," Azzanni said of blocking. "I'm kind of old school that way. I believe in blocking, and I believe in it for a lot of different reasons. There's different ways to get your wideouts to buy in to blocking. You can just be, 'Ah, it's all tough, we're just going to block.' The other way is a combination, which is what I like to use. We block on the perimeter better than anyone, in my opinion, in the NFL. And I get my guys to buy in to that, and I'm constantly reinforcing that with rewards throughout the season because, number one, it helps our football team, and we all know that. Number two, I appeal, in this league, I appeal to injury. If we don't do our job on the perimeter because we decide to take a play off or be soft, well, guess what, our $10-million tailback just took a helmet to the knee and he's out. Now we're all worse."
After the breakouts, a representative from Gatorade gave a speech on nutrition options for recovery and a physical therapist from Children's Hospital Colorado Sports Medicine Center made a presentation on strategies for reducing the risk of injury.
Overall, the second virtual High School Coaches Training Clinic featured a wide array of perspectives on everything from broad topics like teaching leadership and how to foster hard work in adolescents in football to the minute details of specific drills the coaches can teach players at different position groups.
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The Broncos will have some of the best offensive talent at their respective positions, according to Pro Football Focus. In new rankings of the top wide receivers and tight ends entering the 2021 season, PFF puts Courtland Sutton at No. 28 among wideouts and Noah Fant at No. 11 among tight ends. "Fant is part of a young, ascending receiving corps in Denver that just needs a quarterback to emerge," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "He made a big leap from his rookie to sophomore season in 2020, improving his receiving grade from 61.4 to 80.3."