More than 100 Montezuma and Dolores county students had football practice with some very special guests at Cortez Middle School on Friday.
Two Denver Broncos players, two cheerleaders and Miles the mascot taught a junior training camp at the school to start off their first Salute to Fans tour stop in Cortez. About 115 kids from Mancos, Dolores, Cortez, Dove Creek and Towaoc participated in the event, which was organized by Onward! A Legacy Foundation and sponsored by El Pomar Foundation. It was closed to the public, but many relatives and friends came to cheer on their children as they practiced throwing, passing, tackling and other skills with the pros.
Corey Nelson, a linebacker in his fourth year with the Broncos, and Will Parks, a safety in his second year, threw and caught footballs with the young athletes and showed them how to run and tackle. The two cheerleaders, Sydney and Jozie, demonstrated the same moves, plus some pompom twirling, and Miles did his best to catch a few passes with his hooves. Several local football coaches also helped organize the practice drills.
Nicci Crowley, public relations director for Onward, said the training camp was her “baby” and had taken weeks of work to organize, but she was very pleased with the turnout.
“We’ve got a good representation of kids who play peewee football here,” she said.
Most of those kids were enthusiastic Broncos fans, judging by their loud cheers as soon as the players came onto the field. Middle school student Dorrian Hilliard said he wants to become a professional football player himself someday.
“(I want) to meet a good Bronco player, and show them how good I am,” he said.
Elementary student Kail Wayman said he hoped to learn some new skills from the athletes.
Although Parks and Nelson did give kids a few pointers during the drills, the emphasis throughout the event was on fun. Both players complimented kids every time they hit their target while throwing or successfully caught a ball, and they often paused to take group selfies with their young fans.
The junior training camp will be a feature of every stop on the Salute to Fans tour, which will include 11 cities, starting in Cortez. Broncos special events coordinator Scott Lantis said the tour is one of his favorite yearly programs.
“To see the passion of people that are this far away, it’s awesome,” he said. “You get a chance to see some amazing scenery out here in some parts of Colorado that I’ve never visited.”
The junior training camp offered young fans some one-on-one time with the athletes, but the general public would get a chance to meet them later in the day, during a free event at Parque de Vida at 4:30 p.m.