Bronco stands tall for children

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You don’t want to be a running back, or a slot receiver who has the audacity to enter the area of the gridiron that Denver Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard patrols.

But if you’re a kid who lacks Peyton Manning-like protection from life’s hard knocks, don’t worry.

Wesley’s got your back.

Woodyard paid a visit to the state Capitol last week to show his support for a legislative resolution that designates April as Child Abuse Awareness Month.

The resolution, which was adopted by the General Assembly, calls upon “all citizens to educate themselves on how they can be the one to make a difference in the life of a child, and prevent child abuse and neglect.”

Woodyard is no stranger to causes involving children.

He often advocates on behalf of CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates for children — and for his own charity, 16 Ways, which benefits kids from underprivileged backgrounds.

“To me, it’s important to step up and be a part of the community,” Woodyard said in a recent interview with Colorado Community Media. “It only takes one person to make a difference in a child’s life. And when you’ve been given the platform that I’ve been given, it’s important to take advantage of it.”

State Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, a sponsor of the resolution, is involved in many child welfare-related issues at the Legislature. She said that awareness of these types of causes is heightened whenever community members of Woodyard’s stature are involved.

“Sometimes it’s the celebrity or somebody who can draw the attention of the community,” Newell said. “And he has been a great addition to the child abuse prevention community because he’s drawing in people who are sometimes not necessarily involved.”

About the only thing that rivals Woodyard’s impact in the community is his play on the field — especially on the heels of his performance last season. Woodyard, 26, a Broncos team captain, had a breakout season at weak-side linebacker.

He had career numbers in categories that included tackles, sacks and interceptions.

But then there’s the way the season ended.

As a lifelong Broncos fan, I can honestly say that I still haven’t gotten over January’s playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. I remember collapsing on my couch after the game, like my heart had just been ripped out of my chest, straight out of some Aztec sacrifice ritual.

Seriously, my voicemail and text-message inbox was flooded that night with messages from concerned friends who were making sure that I hadn’t taken a leap from the top of downtown’s Republic Plaza.

So, yes, it was a painful loss, to say the least — and that goes for the players, too.

“It’s one of those things that I don’t think you get over,” Woodyard said. “But it motivates me. It motivates my teammates.”

If the Broncos are going to advance further in the playoffs this season, they’re gonna have to do it without a key member of their defense.

Pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, a fan favorite in the Mile City High since 2006, will be in a Ravens uniform this season, following a bizarre episode from last month that involved a signed, $8 million contract not being sent to the NFL in time for the league’s deadline.

OK, so “bizarre” doesn’t do the incident justice. I mean, who transmits a document literally worth millions of dollars via a piece of machinery that gets less use out of it than a Donkey Kong Atari video game? What, carrier pigeons weren’t available?

But, I digress.

“I’m gonna miss Doom,” Woodyard said of Dumervil. “Doom was a role model to me. He taught me to be a man on and off the field. His leadership and play will be missed.

“I talked to him the other day and I told him that I hope he breaks the sack record in Baltimore, but not against us.”

But there are plenty of things for Broncos fans to be excited about this season. Among them will be having another guy named Wes to cheer for on game days.

“Oh, we’re very excited,” Woodyard said of the addition of Wes Welker to the Broncos receiving corps. “He’s an extreme competitor and we’re so happy to have him on board.”

Not only is it gonna be nice to have the former New England Patriots standout on our team, Broncos players are just as thrilled about not having to defend against him.

“Absolutely,” Woodyard said, laughing. “I know (Broncos cornerback) Chris Harris is excited about that. Those guys had some battles.”

Woodyard recognizes that he and the Broncos did a lot of good on the field last season. But don’t think for a second that he doesn’t want to accomplish bigger and better things.

“When you think you’ve arrived, that’s when you hit bottom,” he said. “It was a good season, but I could have done so much more. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be where I am, but I’m looking forward to this season.”

Vic Vela is the legislative reporter for Colorado Community Media. Email Vic at vvela@ourcoloradonews.com, and follow his legislative updates on Twitter: @VicVela1.

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