Byron Chamberlain is part of a great legacy with the Denver Broncos. He won Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII at the end of the nineties, heralding the only time the great side has won the most coveted prize in American Football.
It is something he is incredibly proud of but as a Broncos fan, it’s also something of a legacy that can’t continue.
“It was a great thing that happened in the ’97 and ’98 seasons, to be a part of those two teams, and I know how important it was, and still is to the Broncos fans. But I’m a fan too and I pull for that team and I really want them to win this weekend.”
For Byron, such time has passed since the Broncos won, that he has team mates now who are on the coaching staff. “It’s not just about the team but when you’ve got guys on the coaching staff like Rick Dennison who you won Super Bowl’s with, it’s even more personal. I’d love to see those guys win the Super Bowl.”
They’re not going to have it easy however, and all the talk ahead of the game is all about the Carolina Panthers and one man in particular – Cam Newton. He may be flamboyant off the field, but he does his talking on it too.
“For me, what we do defensively is going to be key to any win on Sunday,” says Byron. “Cam Newton has the X Factor, and if we allow him to take over we won’t have any answers. Offensively there isn’t a great deal that concerns me about the Panthers, so if we can get some turnovers, capitalise on some bad plays and run the ball, then it’s possible.”
While Cam Newton is the man everyone is talking about from the Panthers, Quarter Back Peyton Manning is the name on people’s lips in Denver. Could this be the last game for the Broncos legend?
“Peyton is a very prideful person, he is very aware of his importance and legacy within the Broncos and the game itself. He’s also very aware that he has had injury problems this season and he didn’t play well earlier on. But you know, in the playoffs he has really stepped up his game, and it would be a great narrative for him to come back from the lows of the season and win a Super Bowl.”
Will it be the end? “Who knows, but it definitely would and could be a great ending to his career. We sent out our Quarterback John Elway that way in 1999 and there was such pride that we could do that for him. He had an incredible game, he was voted MVP, and there’s no better way to bow out.”
The Broncos at least as a franchise understand what it takes to win a Super Bowl. The Panthers have been beaten finalists but never held aloft the Vince Lombardi Trophy, so for them, history could be made with a first win. But how do you manage to cope with Super Bowl Sunday from a playing perspective?
“It’s unreal, you know, it’s something you’ve dreamed off all your life and something every footballer aspires to, so to be there, is pretty special.
“There’s lots of hype and hoopla, so you have to really stay focused and remember what is at stake – winning or losing the Super Bowl. With anything in life you have to make sacrifices and I remember that at my first Super Bowl, someone who had won one before told me that all the parties in the build up to the game are for the friends and families, gives them something to do, they’ll be a party when you win.”
And was there? “Oh man, it was the best party! There aren’t many parties better than when you’ve won a Super Bowl. Mind you they throw a party for the losing side too, I don’t fancy being at that one so much!”
But while Byron gives advice about staying focused it is all about the balance.
“Make sure you’re prepared, make sure you’re ready and on the day the prep room team is just how you want it to be. But while you’ve got to remember it’s just a football game, you’ve got to enjoy that moment too. Being in a Super Bowl, winning a Super Bowl may only come around once in your career. Greats like Dan Marino, got to the Super Bowl in the second year of his career but never made it back again, so you’ve got to get a balance, don’t lose sight of your end goal, but don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy being there.”
What people in the UK may miss or not appreciate about some of the franchises is how bonded the groups are. For Byron, he feels the Broncos as an extended family. “Without a doubt being part of that Broncos family is fantastic. You know we have such tremendous fans, they are loyal, they are knowledgeable and they really rally behind the team. We also have such a great owner in Pat Bowlen, I believe he’s the best owner in the league, but he’s had some health problems and he can’t be here for the game. I know how much everyone wants to win it for Pat too and I know that coach Gary Kubiak will have some great plays ready to go.”
And after the Super Bowl, what then?
“I’ll be back in the UK to pick up some of the work I’ve been doing previously with AFD and helping to get more Brits into the game of football. I love getting people more and more people into our game so look forward to celebrating a Broncos victory with you!”