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Way Back When: A Southern California prelude to an anniversary


In two weeks' time, when we play the New York Jets, the Denver Broncos organization will recognize the members of the Broncos' Super Bowl XXXII team to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise's first world championship team.

But sooner than that, our next game is against the Los Angeles Chargers, who of course moved back to Los Angeles after more than five decades in San Diego.

You cannot play every year in a city for nearly sixty years without retaining specific memories of that place, from streets to smells, to victories and losses.

And thus, combined without upcoming reunion, I cannot help but remember that great victory in Super Bowl XXXII.

I vividly remember head coach Mike Shanahan talking to the team on the Monday after our AFC Championship Game win at Pittsburgh. He said, as I recall, "You guys went on the road and beat the Chiefs in Kansas City. A very tough place to play. Do you want to do that again? Of course not.

"You guys then went on the road and won the AFC title in Pittsburgh against the Steelers. Another very tough place to play. Again, that would be tough for any team to repeat.

"Now, we have the Super Bowl, and we go to San Diego. One of our favorite places. We know the stadium, the locker room, the entire city. We always win there."

The team enthusiastically nodded its approval of the coach's words.

Of course, he left out the fact that all of our victories in San Diego were against the Chargers, and this time we were facing the defending world champion Green Bay Packers, who had already been established by the betting world as the favorites by nearly two touchdowns.

No matter, frankly.

I was in that room and felt the same way as the players did. The Packers did not know what was coming their way.

Our offense featured four future Hall of Famers in quarterback John Elway, tackle Gary Zimmerman, running back Terrell Davis — who went on to become the first player to win Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors in his hometown — and tight end Shannon Sharpe.

The defense was led by another future Hall of Famer in Steve Atwater, who played well enough to be named MVP, were it not for Davis.

The entire team oozed with confidence.

During the week leading up to the game, I told selective people — those who I could really, really trust — that we would go through the Green Bay Packers like grain through a goose. Or words to that effect. 

The entire week was special; it seemed magical. We practiced at the Chargers' team headquarters. Mike Shanahan was in total command of a well-oiled machine all week.

And I remember his pregame speech to the team, assembled in the locker room and quiet enough to hear a proverbial pin drop.

"OK, men," he said. "Let's go show the world what this football team is all about."

And that Broncos team charged onto the field and into history.

When we play the New York Jets, that team will be honored in its 25th anniversary remembrance.

But this week we are playing the Chargers. Back to their ancestral roots in Los Angeles, in a brand new stadium, but I will be thinking of days gone bye.

I can remember standing on the playing field in San Diego and waving to my wife in the stands. I can still sense her nervousness as we were about to beat the Packers.

And this week, I will be sitting next to her in the stands, literally the first time in nearly a thousand Bronco games that I will have sat in the stands for a road game.

In fact, this will be my 994th pro football game in person, but that win on the Chargers' field 25 years ago was number one, our first world championship, and it will always be special to our entire band of brothers, wives and significant others.

Shanahan also added one other comment when he talked to the team.

"There is nothing like the feeling of putting that ring on your finger."

And he was right.

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