By Dave Socier, The Pueblo Chieftain
Welcome to Camp Greeley, 1983. Hot and sticky. One of those late morning scrimmages was in bloom, the clackity-clack of pads waking up a press corps that otherwise snoozed its way through blocking drills. We stood and watched and chuckled. Dan Reeves was perplexed. His high-powered offense was going nowhere. Out of a clear blue sky had dropped this fellow who looked like Odin, the Norse God of War, and undersized 6’3″, 230-pounder from Minnesota we had been told was a defensive lineman. Look down the list. No. 77. Name: Karl Mecklenburg.
What he was, an afterthought, a 12th-round draft choice, this man terrorizing Reeves’ offense. He would stick around for eleven seasons; play more defensive positions than they had names for; in 1985 became famous for knocking Marcus Allen on his keister; turning into the Broncos Media Guide coverboy in 1988; leading the team in tackles in 1989; being selected for six Pro Bowls; and playing in three Super Bowls.
Mecklenburg, who still lives in Denver, concluded his Broncos career in 1994 with 79 sacks, was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 2001, with his former teammate Dennis Smith.
Ever the humble warrior, Mecklenburg’s first utterances when told about the 2001 Ring of Fame honor was to mention that he would take such an honor, “with a grain of salt,” that such an honor was bestowed on him not only through his efforts, but those of his teammates.
His rags to riches story, the tale of the boy who couldn’t make squat on his local Edina, Minnesota, high school teams, cut from the hockey, baseball and basketball teams, finally making the junior varsity football squad. This late bloomer got a small piece of a small pie to play football for two years at Augustana College, then transferred to the University of Minnesota. He was 230 pounds and a nose tackle, voted second-team All-Big Ten, but the pro teams were not impressed.
He traveled to Camp Greeley in August 1983. Remember 1983? The team had just traded for a rookie quarterback John Elway, so that watch was on, and little else mattered. Mecklenburg, with his speed, agility and relentless pursuit of the football, had to make it on his own. It was the right time for this late bloomer to bloom.
Defensive Coordinator Joe Collier had him lined up as a defensive end. Line coach Stan Jones thought Mecklenburg was too small for the line. Linebacker coach Myrel Moore looked at him, and in 1985 asked that Karl be moved to linebacker. “When they moved me to linebacker, that was the whole thing (that made my career),” Meck recalls.
“In the 10th game of 1985, Rick Dennison twisted his ankle and I got the start. That was the Marcus Allen game (when Mecklenburg hit Allen one nano-second after he caught a swing pass, smashing hit to the turf.)
“I played seven different positions,” he went on. “That was testimonial as to how good the coaches and players around me were (because) every time I moved somewhere, someone had to do something else, too.”
And when the smoke cleared, Mecklenburg stood tall: All-Pro, Hall of Fame, Ring of Fame.
Don’t give up, don’t quit. That’s the difference between successful people and those that aren’t.