Broncos have eight players born in the Golden State on their roster.
After the Broncos’ 20- 18 victory over the Patriots in the AFC championship game, running back C. J. Anderson sat in the locker room with a smile larger than any he has flashed all season.
He is going to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons, but this one is more special because of the site of the game.
“I’m going home ... for free,” Anderson said.
Home for Anderson is Vallejo, Calif. He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards at Jesse M. Bethel High School, just 30 miles north of San Francisco and 65 miles north of SantaClara, the site of Super Bowl 50 next weekend.
For Anderson and many other native Californians, the area of San Francisco, Santa Clara, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and smaller surrounding cities is known as “The Bay.”
Eight players on Denver’s 53man roster were born in California, plus four more who are on injured reserve. There is a little bit of a divide. Anderson, safety T. J. Ward and linebacker Todd Davis lean to-
ward The Bay. Running back Ronnie Hillman, defensive end Malik Jackson, long snapper Aaron Brewer and center SamBrenner grewup in Southern California near Los Angeles and San Diego.
Tight end Virgil Green, as he describes it, is “right smack in the middle” of the state, from Tulare.
In a state known for peaceful beaches and warm weather, California provides a place of comfort and excitement for some of the Broncos’ key players.
“Whenever I go home, it’s something about where you come from — the air, the grass, the sounds— it just brings up memories,” Ward said. “I smell that grass and it reminds me of playing Pop Warner. So it’ll definitely take me back to when I was dreaming about this moment.”
Ward is from San Francisco and attended De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif. There he was a part of a 151- game winning streak, and he has hoped of someday playing in front of his home fans again.
Nowhewill be back there for the biggest game of the season, and he can’t wait to smell the Bay air.
Davis, like the rest of the Broncos, is excited to play in the backyard of his friends and family. He attended Sacramento State, and is only two years removed frombeing on campus. He is planning a couple visits during Super Bowl week to see some of his old teammates, as well as family and friends.
“The only problem is so many people are calling for tickets,” Davis said. “I got about 15 tickets, but I have had about 80 people calling me. Friends from back home, friends from Sac State.”
Davis said his family gets first crack at the tickets, but a few friends will come too. Each player receives two complimentary tickets, with more available to buy.
Anderson said he won’t have time to make a trip back to his hometown. He will be all business during Super Bowl week.
He will look across the field next weekend to see Carolina Panthers linebacker ShaqThompson, another Bay Area native whom Ander- son played against in high school and college. The only difference is Thompson will be playing for the same thing Anderson is and only one of them will walk away happy.
Veteran tight end Vernon Davis isn’t fromCalifornia, but he played 9 ½ seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. They traded him to the Broncos in October.
“It all seemed surreal tomewhen we first got the win over the Patriots ( in the AFC title game),” Davis said. “I was like, ‘ Wow, we’re actually going back to Levi’s Stadium’ ( where the 49ers play their home games). It couldn’t get any better than that.”
The Broncos’ Californians all agree on one thing — playing the Super Bowl at home will be satisfying only if they get to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“Fiftieth Super Bowl in your hometown,” Ward said. “I don’t think you can write a better story than that unless we win.
“When we win.”
Broncos safety T. J. Ward, at practice Friday, is looking forward to being back in the Bay Area for Super Bowl 50. “I smell that grass and it reminds me of playing Pop Warner,” he says. John Leyba,