THE NIGHT BEFORE we faced the Patriots in the first conference championship game of my career, I gave a speech. I didn't sit down and write it beforehand—I just spoke from the heart, and the guys really, really enjoyed it. I told them that iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another man.
This is an article from the Feb. 15, 2016 issue
When you transition from one team to another, you don't always know where you're going to fit in, but when I joined the Broncos in 2014, they chose me as a captain. That let me know that my hard work had paid off, that they wanted me to lead. During the speech I was shivering. I had a tear here and there. I knew I had hit home when I looked at the other guys and the whole room was quiet and I saw trickles and bleary eyes. That's when I knew that everybody was on board.
After we beat New England, I was so focused on the Super Bowl that I walked straight to the locker room. I forgot about the celebration. They had to bring me out. I walked into the locker room, and the people inside said, "Hey, DeMarcus, we're going to go celebrate and do confetti and stuff. We're the AFC champions." Oh! Oh, O.K. I walked outside.
Throughout my career, I always told myself that the only way I was going to attend a Super Bowl was if I played in it. In the past I would come out to the game, work, do media appearances, but I'd be home on Sunday, watching the game with my family. Being in the Super Bowl is what I've been waiting for since I arrived in Denver, since John Elway called me almost two years ago. It was hard to leave Dallas, especially since I'd been a Cowboy for nine years. I had gotten used to the trainers and the owners and my teammates. But I had a chance to play for a great team, with John Elway and the owner, Pat Bowlen. This league is about change.
The Broncos told me they wanted me not only to play for them but also to be a staple of their defense. I saw them bring in Aqib Talib at cornerback and T.J. Ward at safety, and the team told me, "We're really beefing up the defense because defense wins championships." That's what I've always been predicated on. I'm in. Where do you want me to sign?
At the time Denver had just lost the Super Bowl to the Seahawks 43--8. The next season, 2014, we had a chance. We got into the playoffs but didn't pull it out. I feel like those times and another year of maturity really helped us get to where we wanted to be: the Super Bowl. We were enjoying where our feet were, but we still had business to do.
Last Saturday night at the team hotel, I just said something heartfelt about what this game means to us—to Peyton Manning and me, because we both talked. But also, how much they mean to us: the players, the defense, the offense, and how much everyone put in this year. The hard work coming back from all the injuries. The ups and downs. And now it all came down to this one moment.
First thing we knew was that the Panthers are the No. 1 running offense in the NFC, so we had to stop Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, all of their supporting cast. We said, If we can make them one-dimensional and pass the ball, we can unleash the guys like me and Von Miller and Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, and we can get pressure on Cam. We were able to do that. You give it to our offense to score enough points so that the Panthers had to pass the ball, and they couldn't run a lot of those trick plays. That's how we were able to get pressure on them.
Earlier this season Ray Lewis asked me if I thought we were a great defense. I said, "We're good. We were the No. 1 defense in the NFL this season, but the only way you're great is if you end up being No. 1 and you win the Super Bowl with that defense." That's when you etch in stone that you're a great defense.
During the speech I was shivering. I knew I had hit home when I looked at the other guys and saw trickles and bleary eyes.
How much impact can a pregame speech have?
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