ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Damani Leech begins his tenure in Denver as the Broncos' new team president, he'll combine more than two decades of experience across the NCAA and NFL league office with the benefit of working for a singular team.
The Broncos' new business leader spent the previous eight years at the NFL league office — including the last three seasons as Chief Operating Officer of NFL International — and also spent 17 years with the NCAA. Through his work with those organizations, Leech gained experience that will help him as he leads the Broncos forward into a new chapter.
"At the league office, you have the benefit of really seeing across all 32 clubs and understanding what makes things really successful in this league," Leech said Monday at his introductory press conference. "I plan to take a lot of those learnings — whether it's data, practices, experiences — and really try to connect that with what we do here that's already successful and look for opportunities to make it even better."
Leech said he learned that the best organizations "have a growth mindset and an innovation mindset" and "have zigged when others have zagged." In Denver, he'll aim to apply the same approach — and he stressed the importance he gained from his work with the NFL and NCAA when he interviewed with the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group.
"As somebody who has more of a league or headquarters experience and profile, [I] wanted to make it clear to them not only that I was interested in [the role], but that I could be an asset given that 30,000-foot view I've had of sports organizations, both professional and college," Leech said.
Leech's experience and vision stood out among the team's various candidates, and Owner/CEO Greg Penner said the Broncos' new president fulfilled the organization's hopes for the position.
"We were mainly looking for characteristics that were the right fit … which was someone that was forward-looking, collaborative [and] the values had to align with ours as an ownership group," Penner said. "And then it was looking at the experiences. … All the candidates had very diverse experiences, but Damani really rose to the top with his experience at the NFL and working with 32 different organizations and growing the business on an international basis."
Leech's experience at the league level was also critically important to his candidacy.
"It was definitely an important part of the process," Penner said. "His understanding of how the league works and the relationships he's built across the league working with all 32 organizations is going to be invaluable to us. He's been involved in growing a part of the NFL and understanding how to grow a business is important. And then just the connections he has in sports and business will be particularly important."
Penner said Leech really impressed the group with a prepared document that laid out both objectives for himself and for the organization's business operations. As Leech explained Monday, his objectives will focus on helping the Broncos find success both on and off the field.
"Our currency around here is winning," Leech said. "We are a football club, we are a football organization. All the oars are in the water in that direction of being a successful football club on the field. My responsibility is to work with [General Manager] George [Paton], and I'll do that. We have a great relationship already to support football and business. These two things can't be successful without each other. We'll have great communication — great candid, open communication. But my focus is outside the lines. I won't be picking players or calling plays, I'm focused on the fans and the community, growing our fan base tremendously in Broncos Country and doing what we can to make our players successful on the field and off the field."
Leech said his experience as a collegiate football player at Princeton can help him empathize and understand the goals and challenges facing the football team, but he'll again rely on his business acumen as he looks to help the Broncos find off-field success.
While success can easily be measured on the field, it can take on different forms away from the white lines. Penner mentioned revenue, fan engagement, community impact and culture as ways to define winning as a business, and Leech said he'll also try to dig deeper to measure success.
"I think going a layer deeper will be important for us as an organization to really define [success]," Leech said. "I'm big on data, I'm big on metrics and accountability. You actually do define winning by how many people are coming to the stadiums, how many people are engaging on our social and digital properties, how many people are buying our licensed products, how many people are we connecting with in the community [and] how many people are on the season-ticket waiting list. There's a lot of different ways to measure success. I think the key for us is to be aligned on what those definitions are and what our goals are and track those over time."
And as the Broncos chase those goals, Leech acknowledged there's a different appeal to working for a team compared to the league office.
"Winning," Leech said. "Winning. When you're in the league office, you don't often win and you don't often lose. To be a part of an organization that's committed to winning on and off the field was incredibly attractive. But then also having an emotional investment in that success and the outcomes was really attractive."