Denmark’s relationship with his own father was at times problematic, which he says is typical in the neighbourhood in which he grew up in Jacksonville.
“My dad and my mom split up when I was young. He wasn’t around much. He owned a tire shop, repairing tires for 18-wheelers. If I wanted to work, I could be around him. But that was the only way,” says Denmark. “It was OK because it paid well and it meant I always had some money in my pocket. My friends at home, only a few of them had their dads in the picture. To me, a boy needs a father. It’s easy to go the wrong way and make the wrong decisions. A father can help steer you down the right path.
“My relationship with my dad was strange. When I told him I wanted to go to college and play football, he didn’t want me to go. He wanted me to work with him. That’s messed up. But I didn’t want to work there. We figured things out a little later and when he died (in 2012), we were in a good place.”
Football always came easy to Denmark. He could run and he could catch. Eventually, he found his way to the NFL and spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons on the practice roster with the Jacksonville Jaguars before making the move to the CFL in 2011.
“I was offered a contract by Edmonton coming out of college. (Eskimos scout) Paul Jones came down and he had on these Grey Cup rings on his fingers and he said to me, ‘If you want one of these you’ll sign with us.’ I had only seen the CFL on TV a few times. It was always Calgary and Toronto. I thought there were only two teams in the league,” Denmark says with a laugh.
He rebuffed Jones to join the Jaguars and eventually signed in Winnipeg.
Denmark says he left the NFL because he wanted to play in games and not just make money as a practice player.
“In the end, I’m not confined to just being a football player. I can do other things and I will when football is over. I could have hung around and eventually got to play in the NFL. Why do I say that? Well, and I don’t mean to put anyone down, but I was better than the guys ahead of me that were playing,” he says. “Almost all those guys who were in Jacksonville have ended up in the CFL.
“I wanted to play. You only have so much time.
‘Every rep in practice, time in the film room. I noticed him right away when I got here. He does things the right way’