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Sundays with Sacco: A new season begins

The Lombardi Trophy for Super Bowl 50 is forever, but time waits for no one.

This week the annual NFL Scouting Combine will take place in Indianapolis, an event that signals the new season like blooming plants mark springtime.

If you are a fan, you should not rush forward to put the Denver Broncos' third world championship in the rear view mirror. Enjoy it, celebrate it, savor it.

But if you are a college player or a member of an NFL scouting department, it all starts anew this week.

The top players, as invited by the NFL, will descend upon Indy to be measured, weighed, watched, probed, prodded and interviewed. No stone will be unturned to make sure the top-ranked guys really are what they are said to be, and just as much effort will be expended examining players projected to go on Day 3.

As Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway says, "We don't draft All-Pros, we develop them."

You don't argue with the GM whose team has had the most wins in football the last four years and who has built two separate Super Bowl teams, one with a league-leading offense and the other with a league-leading defense, in a three-year span.

Maybe one of these years the voters will get it and vote him Executive of the Year.

Or maybe they are just so used to John Elway being great at whatever he does that others get the votes for just that reason. He is just expected to do great things, so it is never a surprise when he does so.

Take a trip back to NFL Combines past with photos of Broncos from their showcases in Indianapolis.

While Broncos personnel people and coaches have barely had a chance to catch their breath since winning Super Bowl 50, the staffs that were eliminated early or who did not make the playoffs have had several weeks to get ready for the combine.

So when you win, you have to make up a month, one detail at a time.

My advice is to completely ignore the fact that there are an awful lot of players, especially from smaller schools, that fans and media have not heard of.

So what?

The Broncos found C.J. Anderson, who went to a JUCO after high school, then on to Cal, where he started just two games in his two full
seasons playing for the Golden Bears.

The Broncos found Chris Harris, Jr., who went completely undrafted after a fine career at Kansas and has blossomed into one of the best corners in the game and a key player on the best defense in the NFL.

The Broncos found Britton Colquitt, also a free agent signing, and he just completed as good a postseason as many can remember any punter having, another cog in the world-championship team.

Elway has said that the Broncos "cherish" the late-round picks, as the Hall of Famer knows full well that great players come in all shapes and sizes and get drafted in every possible round, and some never get drafted at all.


Elway's blind side was protected for nearly a decade by Dave Studdard, a ninth-round draft choice by Baltimore who was cut by the Colts before "Studley" came to Denver.

Elway also completed a lot of key passes to wide receiver Steve Watson, an undrafted free agent.

Elway went to the Super Bowl three times with free-agent placekickers, Rich Karlis (twice) and David Treadwell.

Not only was Karlis a free agent, he was passed over so many times by so many teams that he eventually signed with the Broncos after impressing in an open, 476-player tryout camp, to this day one of the most bizarre sights I have ever worked.

It was the Star Wars bar scene brought to pro football.

So Elway knows better than most just what it takes.

He himself is one-of-a-kind among pro football GMs, a Hall of Fame quarterback who was raised by a marvelous coach and personnel man, Jack Elway, who taught him all the right things about the job John now does.

Jack is so proud, I believe, and John honors him every day.

And it all starts anew this week in Indianapolis.

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