HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo.** – Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders put smiles on the faces of youth football campers when he made a surprise appearance at Ed McCaffrey's 14th annual football camp Thursday afternoon at Valor Christian High School.
Sanders' unexpected appearance incited gasps and cheers from the participants, ranging from ages 8-15 of all skill levels.
"…walking up to the stadium here, and hearing kids scream my name and they start running to the fence, and I'm like, 'Wow. That's unique. That's special," said Sanders. "That's why I play this game: for that love right there, to inspire children and inspire people and it definitely felt good to be out here today."
Led by McCaffrey, a former Bronco and three-time Super Bowl Champion, and a staff of coaches and former NFL players, including former Broncos fullback Kyle Johnson, the camp features more than just football drills, with guest speakers and coaches helping build on and off the field life skills.
"…I think that's the life lesson that football teaches you: how to work with other people who might be different than yourself, to get something done and be part of something bigger than yourself," said McCaffrey. "You learn about overcoming adversity, hard work, teamwork, sportsmanship, and we try to relay that message — probably the same message that parents try to instill in their kids — but sometimes when a former NFL player or somebody that they recognize, they've seen on television, and tells them, maybe it means more than what their parents say or their teacher says."
In addition to signing autographs for the kids, Sanders answered questions from the campers and emphasized his formula for success in life and on the field.
"It's all about hard work and dedication, and it's not only based off football, it's based on education, it's based off anything," said Sanders. "I firmly believe that if you walk up every single day and you work hard, that doesn't mean that you'll be successful. The dedication part is the most important thing about that formula… Dedicating yourself to your craft."
Sanders and the Broncos are currently in the midst of a five-week break before training camp starts on July 31. While he says he's enjoying the break and is planning on taking a vacation soon, he's also excited about camp, putting the pads back on and piecing together the offense.
"…I like the offense," said Sanders. "The more and more of the offense we put in, throughout OTAs, I got more comfortable. Obviously [without pads on] it's tough to really see what the offense is about because it's predicated off the play-action pass, and Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward they weren't biting on the play action so obviously I spoke with [Head Coach Gary] Kubiak and he said to just wait. When we get those pads on and the running game gets going, it's going to be a lot of opportunities for playmaking abilities. I'm looking forward to it."