JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Several Broncos enjoyed a homecoming this week, about 1,700 miles from Denver.
Those are the players with New Jersey roots, as the team prepares for Super Bowl XLVIII while jumping around the Garden State. The Broncos are staying at a hotel in Jersey City and practicing at the New York Jets’ training facility at Florham Park in advance of their Super Bowl date against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
That’s all close to home for safety Mike Adams, who was born in Paterson; defensive end Robert Ayers, who is from Jersey City; running back Knowshon Moreno, who was born in Bedford and attended high school at Middletown South; and defensive end Shaun Phillips, who attended high school in Willingboro.
Other members of the team – including coach John Fox – have personal or professional bonds with the area strong enough to say they would add meaning to winning a Super Bowl here.
But so far no one has gone as far as Adams, who in the wake of Denver’s AFC championship win, floated the idea of walking from the MetLife Stadium to his hometown – 10 miles or so – in uniform.
“I was just thinking, if I go to the Super Bowl, I’m walking home,” he explained this week. “I’m keeping my equipment on and I’m walking home. That’s how it started.”
No one is yet sure how it will end. Adams hasn’t firmly committed to the idea.
But he has used to the week to talk about his hometown. He admits he grew up in a city that had troubles and still does. But he said those problems show up in the media often enough, and his preference was to talk about the good memories.
“Playing football in the street, and your grandmother calling you when the street lights come on, telling you it’s time to eat dinner,” he said. “I think those were my favorite memories. And moving out of the way for cars to go and pass; things like that. … That’s probably one of the negative things I can say about it: You don’t get the kids playing in the street, throwing the football around anymore.”
The area also has special meaning to Phillips.
“This is where I started playing football,” he said. “I didn’t even touch a football until I was in ninth grade. I grew up in Philadelphia, and when I moved to Jersey, that’s when I first tried football. It’s pretty much where it all started for me.”
Moreno said his local connection would make a Super Bowl victory all the sweeter.
“It would be awesome, especially in your hometown,” he said “My family will be here to enjoy the moment also.”
Fox expressed similar sentiments even though he was born in Virginia, attended San Diego State, and has coached in every time zone of the continental United States. But from 1997 to 2001 he was defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, and it apparently left quite an impression.
“I was very blessed,” he said. “I worked for a great organization. … Great area: both the New Jersey and the New York side. Very avid fans; very much into their football, regardless of what side they are rooting for. … It would mean a tremendous amount to win it here.”
Anchoring the middle of Denver’s offensive line are two players of Mexican heritage who strive to work for the good of the Latino community: center Manny Ramirez and guard Louis Vasquez.
“It’s awesome to know that we have such a large group -- especially the youth out there -- watching us,” Vasquez said. “Hopefully it opens their eyes to say anything is possible, no matter what it is.”
Ramirez’s particular emphasis is trying to keep kids away from drugs.
“I’ve seen what it’s done to other people, and in my life, I don’t need it,” he said. “I’m already a big guy; I don’t need anything else to slow me down. … I hope that I’m able to lead by example with the way I live my life.”
Vasquez was one of three NFL guards to start all 16 regular-season games without allowing a sack. He was named first-team All-Pro for the first time in his five-year. Ramirez started every for the first time in his seven-year career.
“They both have been tremendous,” Fox said. “… They’re very close friends, as well as teammates. But I couldn’t be happier for and proud of any two individuals with how hard they’ve worked, and how well they played.”