Getting the chance to play for your childhood team a great experience for Geer and Garland
DENVER — Ben Garland and Riar Geer grew up watching and rooting for the Denver Broncos. Tonight, the two Western Slope players will try to make their cases to make the team.
The Broncos play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third preseason game of the season at 6 tonight at Invesco Field at Mile High.
The first required cut date is Tuesday, and Garland and Geer hope to avoid being on that list. The final cut date is Sept. 4, with the regular season starting Sept. 9.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Geer said. “Walking out on the field for the first time being a Broncos fan wearing a Broncos jersey, it was absolutely awesome. I had to step back for a minute and get myself refocused on the game instead of all the outside stuff.
“It’s that moment a dream kind of came true. It was a crazy experience. At the same time, I want to make this team so bad. I had to make myself stop being happy and get into football mode.”
With their families in the stands, Geer and Garland suited up in Broncos orange and played against Detroit on Aug. 21 at Invesco Field.
“It’s an amazing, unbelievable experience to be out here with the veteran players and all the guys out here,” Garland said. “Playing at Invesco Field is a dream come true. It was louder, more exciting. It was everything you imagined watching as a little kid.”
Geer played at Invesco at the University of Colorado, when the Buffs played Colorado State, but Saturday was only the second time Garland was in the stadium. Last fall, one of Garland’s friends had tickets to a Bronco game.
He never imagined he’d be playing on the field one year later.
“I was thinking about graduating, becoming an Air Force pilot and starting my career that way,” the defensive lineman said. “I want an opportunity to be an Air Force officer, and I have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to play in the NFL. It’s tough.
“The NFL is not guaranteed and a long career in the Air Force is not guaranteed. Both are challenging and hard to do.”
The Air Force Academy graduate has until April to decide whether he’ll apply for early leave or start pilot training.
Garland (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) is required to serve a 5-year commitment with the Air Force, but after two years he can apply to be released early from active duty. He could serve the remaining three years later as a reserve.
If he doesn’t apply for early leave, he has a 10-year commitment, beginning with pilot training.
Although Garland is in the midst of tryouts with the Broncos, he is still required to work in the Air Force strength and conditioning division.
Garland found a familiar face in Broncos camp in Geer. The two played against each other in high school.
“We hung out, talked about Grand Junction some and old times playing (high school football),” Garland said.
Geer has bumped into other former Buffaloes and is learning from another former CU tight end, Daniel Graham.
“Dan’s been great,” Geer said. “He gives me a lot of pointers and is willing to see me succeed. He’s helped me with my blocking. I’m a big fan of Daniel Graham.
“It’s almost unreal how things worked out for me. I’m definitely blessed.”
Although Geer (6-4, 250) is fourth on the depth chart with Nathan Overbay and newly acquired Kory Sperry, a Pueblo native, he’s getting a lot of snaps with Graham and Richard Quinn out with injuries.
“People are fighting for their jobs constantly,” Geer said. “Any chance you get to be on the field, you have to be ready to go. You have to know your stuff and be ready to play at a very high level, physical level.”
A quarterback in high school, Geer has shown the ability to change positions and succeed. If it takes another position change to make it in the NFL, so be it.
“Whatever I have to do to make it in the NFL,” he said. “If they tell me to block or to play fullback, I’m willing to throw my body out there to make the team.
“It’s a great opportunity to show what I can do, if not with this team, at least I have some game film to show to some other teams. That’s a nice bonus.”
Geer could find himself at least on the practice squad if he proves he is an adequate blocker to go with his pass-catching skills.
“I have a lot of work to do,” he said. “It’s a very tough game. I definitely had some good plays, but I definitely had some very bad plays I wish I could have back. I’ve got to learn from my mistakes and try to make myself better.”
Work ethic goes a long way toward surviving the league-mandated cuts.
“I would say, do things that take no talent,” Garland said of his advice to young players with NFL dreams. “Work harder than everyone else. If you see someone working harder than you, work a little harder.
“Pay attention, focus on the small things. If you do those things, that’s what gets you noticed. That’s what I learned in the Air Force. Work hard at absolutely everything you do.”