DENVER — Eight months after Erie football first stepped foot onto Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, some of the Tigers returned to kick off a new year.
The Class 4A state championship game, which ended with a 41-34 Chatfield win, allowed the high schoolers to experience the life of an NFL player, if only for a fleeting moment.
“It was super cool,” senior defensive tackle Logan Gilmore said of the Dec. 4, 2021 game. “Obviously, kind of wish it ended differently, but it was very surreal to be here and be in their locker room and everything.”
On Monday, the Tigers returned to the stadium’s suite level for a media day put on by the Broncos and the Colorado High School Activities Association. There, they answered questions from the press, underwent a few photo shoots with Broncos photographer Gabriel Christus and took a tour of the facility to see where the magic happens. CHSAA also provided athletes with a few lessons on how to properly talk to the media and engage on social media.
Senior outside linebacker Evan Rearick took the opportunity to hone his interview skills.
“I don’t really do many interviews, so this is a fun turn of events for me, kind of different,” Rearick said. “I did an interview one time in Texas and I said my name twice, so I’m just always nervous when I go in front of a camera.”
The Tigers weren’t the only local athletes to take center stage at the event, as Silver Creek golfer Ben Harding and Mead football also took turns sharing the mic for the media.
Mead, which fell to Fort Morgan in the Class 3A state title game back in December, played their final contest down in Pueblo. The Mavericks didn’t receive the same NFL experience that the Tigers did, making Monday a first.
“Just being able to go out here is definitely an experience. There’s nothing like it,” Mead senior guard Zach Dibella said. “It was really cool. I mean, I’ve been in the stadium a few times for sure, but being able to see it from a different perspective is amazing.”
Harding, who has already played in a few tournaments this year, took the opportunity to talk about his expectations following a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament last fall. While his sport revolves around the course rather than the field, he relished the opportunity to appreciate the home of some of his favorite athletes.
“I’m a huge sports fan, huge football fan,” he said. “It was really cool to kind of walk around, see where all these great players have been and it’s cool to definitely learn some stuff about the media and about social media and all that stuff.”
The event featured 17 of Colorado’s best football teams, as well as 26 top athletes from the other fall sports. CHSAA, under new leadership from commissioner Mike Krueger this season, utilized its partnership with the Broncos to promote some of the state’s top talent.
“Hopefully, it’s a wonderful experience for the kids,” Krueger said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about, what we do, why we exist. To give the media an opportunity to help us kick off the year, there’s a palpable sense of excitement and I hope that everybody felt that today. We think it’s a great opportunity for our kids to get out here and showcase their teams, themselves, their communities, and we’re excited to provide that opportunity, working along with the Broncos.”