CAL­I­FOR­NIA LOVE

Bron­cos have eight play­ers born in the Golden State on their ros­ter.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By CameronWolfe

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.”

The Den­ver Post

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,

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