Fans flock to Broncos Caravan at Stocker

Former Denver Broncos wide receivers Vance Johnson, center, and Mark Jackson, right, sign autographs for fans during Thursday’s Broncos Caravan stop at Stocker Stadium.

A day that topped 100 degrees in mid-July didn’t stop a mob of Western Slope Denver Broncos fans from getting decked out in orange and blue Thursday and gathering at Stocker Stadium.

Football season is fast approaching, and thoughts of the Denver Broncos beginning training camp later this month are seeping into the minds of Broncos fans, of which there are many on the west side of the Rockies.

Training camp hasn’t arrived yet, but Thursday night the Denver Broncos Caravan brought a prominent reminder to Grand Junction that we’ll be cheering the Broncos again soon.

Complete with former Broncos players, cheerleaders and Miles the Mascot, the caravan rolled into town to spend a day with fans and show their appreciation.

Former Broncos wide receivers Vance Johnson and Mark Jackson came to sign autographs and be photographed with their fans. The former teammates made up two-thirds of the famed “Three Amigos,” a trio of receivers crucial to the success of the Broncos in the late 1980s. Johnson and Jackson were favorite targets of John Elway during a four-year span in which the Broncos appeared in three Super Bowls.

Jackson famously concluded “The Drive” with a touchdown catch from Elway to tie the 1987 AFC Championship game against the Cleveland Browns.

The two pass catchers have remained friends since their playing days ended.

“We have been close since our early twenties,” said Johnson, who still lives in Grand Junction.

The third Amigo, Ricky Nattiel, also keeps in touch.

“We just spoke on the phone today,” Johnson said.

Although all three haven’t been in the same room together for 15 years, a reunion may be in the works. According to Johnson, the Broncos are engaged in talks with Taco Bell to make a commercial starring the three friends.

As for the current Broncos roster, Jackson and Johnson are optimistic about the upcoming season, especially with the most high-profile free-agent of the offseason, quarterback Peyton Manning, signing with Denver.

Asked how he thought Manning would play this year compared with his Colts years, Johnson replied, “I think he’s going to be better because he has John Elway to be his mentor.”

Jackson also has high expectations, adding, “8-8 would be a disappointment,” referring to Denver’s regular-season record last season, which was good enough for a playoff berth.

Johnson, who is about to open a restaurant in Grand Junction, said he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else than Colorado.

“I couldn’t leave Colorado after the way the community treated me. I don’t ever want to leave,” he said. “The awesome thing about being a Bronco is you’re a Bronco for life. It’s being a part of a community.”

The caravan also brought fun for the kids, as many of them participated in a mini combine, measuring their broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard-dash time with the same equipment the pros use.

Music blared at Stocker, and four Broncos cheerleaders performed a dance routine for the elated crowd.

Fans also had a chance to win signed memorabilia and Broncos tickets. One fan won a football autographed by John Elway in a raffle drawing.

“It’s awesome,” Broncos fan B.J. Ingram said of the caravan. “I stepped in front of my friend when we got our tickets. He’s pretty upset about it.”


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