Adventures in Social Media: Exploring, the digital frontier and Colorado’s top athletes

1180

This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

Any young athlete aspiring to make it big in the professional ranks might be wise to do what Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall did. That is, do what (now retired) Denver Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware did.

Ask around NFL circles and you will be hard-pressed to find some more widely respected or better liked than Ware. Although he made a living pulverizing offensive linemen and punishing quarterbacks, the four-time first-team All-Pro edge rusher is regarded as one of the all-time good guys on and off the field. The sure-fire Hall of Famer was named a captain of the Denver Broncos in his very first season with the club, all based on his reputation earned over nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. Now that’s a sign of respect.

Respect was a topic of conversation Marshall found himself dead in the center of throughout the 2016 season. It was not about the respect of his teammates, which is high. (Playing out the 2015 season at an unbelievably high level despite having a broken screw in his foot for the entire season earned him plenty of on-field respect.) No, Marshall and the word respect came to the tip of our collective tongues early in the season when the University of Nevada product chose to join his former Wolf Pack teammate Colin Kaepernick (of the 49ers) in kneeling for the national anthem before games to raise awareness about race relations and social justice in the United States.

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshh54) on

Did Marshall have respect for the men and women who fight and fought for America’s freedom? Did the general public have to respect his right to protest?

The debate occupied conversation across radio airwaves, print and digital news, and especially on social media. Marshall never shied away from the conversation, one that continues to this day. As recently as March 3 of this year, Marshall was on Twitter and Instagram continuing to explain to his followers and the world at large the impact that his protest had – both positive and negative. Even into this year Marshall used a picture of that silent protest as his Instagram avatar.

Marshall’s perspective, which helped earn him the Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni of Color Courage Award, was no doubt shaped in part by Ware. Following Ware’s announcement that he was retiring from the league, Marshall said, “D Ware was probably my favorite guy in the locker room. The most humble guy you would ever meet. Always has a smile on his face. He loved helping the young guys come along. And he helped me in a way he doesn’t even know. We’re going to miss his leadership in the locker room, on and off the field.”

A quick scroll through Ware’s Twitter and Instagram confirms Marshall’s claim. It’s a collection of words and images that show Ware exactly as he is – a kind, thoughtful, fun-loving, family man deeply rooted in his faith. He uses his fame and fortune not only to travel the world, but to help and motivate others. In a post taken atop a mountain right here in Colorado, Ware said, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon and couldn’t get on the express elevator to success. I kept my head down and took the stairs … appreciating the challenges and fortunately still climbing. #Grateful”

Marshall, now one of the senior leaders of the Denver defense, and his social media are taking on a similar look and feel. So much so that Marshall took a page right out of Ware’s book – his travel book, that is.

Following Denver’s win in Super Bowl 50, Ware and Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas journeyed over 9,000 miles from Denver to South Africa to celebrate their historic season. During the 2015 season, Ware and Thomas had discussed the possibility of going on safari, but only if the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Their hard work was rewarded with not only a shiny ring, but also the trip of a lifetime.

Whether posing in a game truck, snapping a tourist shot at the Cape of Good Hope, relaxing by the campfire or posing for a selfie with the king sof the jungle, the ear-to-ear grins on Ware and Thomas’ faces tell you all you need to know about how much these Broncos liked their South African safari.

Last afternoon game drive. Let's see here ?. Predator vs. Prey #SabiSands

A post shared by Demarcus Ware (@demarcusware) on

The 12,000-plus “likes” that their selfie with a pair of lions earned on Ware’s Instagram tells you all you need to know about the reach and influence sports stars have on social media. Combined, Ware claims more than 1.33 million followers on Twitter and Instagram.

Yup, you see the lions back there. #LifeOnTheReserve

A post shared by Demarcus Ware (@demarcusware) on

Hello from the other side

A post shared by Demarcus Ware (@demarcusware) on

Marshall’s sphere of social influence isn’t quite as large, yet, but his 236,000 combined followers bore witness to the linebacker’s own trip to South Africa this past offseason, including the humanitarian work he did there.

Not only did Marshall experience the flora and fauna of many of South Africa’s most-famous sites, just like Ware and Thomas, he also spent quality time with children at a Cape Town orphanage. The linebacker known for delivering big hits on opposing players called it a “humbling experience” and said he was “Glad that we could give back and leave the kids with smiles on their faces.”

The trip wasn’t all smiles, however. Marshall and his travel partners (dubbed “The Band”), including former Broncos Omar Bolden, Duke Ihenacho, Mike Adams and Tony Carter, all fell victim to seasickness while on an ocean excursion. The Band wasn’t alone, though. One commenter on Instagram noted, “This is funnier than @demarcusware and @demaryiust88. Last years trip when the sea got them to [sic].”

Pardon the interruption ☝?️ #Seasick #reelthymecharters #hookedonafrica

A post shared by Demarcus Ware (@demarcusware) on

After the seasickness kicked in ?. Man down, Band down!! lol oh we was hurt

A post shared by Brandon Marshall (@bmarshh54) on

Yes, Ware and Thomas suffered their own bout of seasickness during their South Africa trip one year prior. Now, that’s taking a walk in a mentor’s shoes seriously!

Social media may be a conduit for very serious matters like religion, race relations and social justice – matters Marshall doesn’t shy away from – but it’s also a place to bring friends and family together, celebrate community, be adventurous and have a laugh. Marshall and Ware are two of the best among Colorado athletes when it comes to being active and engaging in these capacities, but they’re far from alone. Star athletes in the Mile High City have made social media a conduit into their lives and their adventures.

While out and about on his world travels, DeMarcus Ware has posted more than a few pictures of himself with a rod and reel in hand, joining a large group of Colorado athletes who count fishing among their recreational activities.

The Colorado Rockies opened the 2017 season with 14 consecutive games, the longest such streak Major League Baseball. By day 13, it was clear that outfielder Charlie Blackmon was ready for a day off. Just before Blackmon and the Rockies squared off against the Giants in San Francisco, the centerfielder posted a photo on Instagram with the wistful caption, “This happened last off day. #troutsflyfishing #burgerkinghands”

The shot is of Blackmon in a stream, decked out in waders and a boonie hat, gripping a gorgeous rainbow trout. @Chuck_Nazty, as you’ll find him on Twitter and Instagram, has also posted pictures of his epic hikes in Hells Canyon (Oregon) and Glacier National Park (Montana) and fishing in Pensacola (Florida). There’s even a hilarious roadside shot of Blackmon after he pushed the limits of the “empty” light on his Jeep’s fuel gauge, and lost.

This happened last off day. #troutsflyfishing #burgerkinghands

A post shared by Charlie Blackmon (@chuck__nazty) on

Hidden lake in Glacier Park, Montana. Trying to get away from the "humans". @aashleync

A post shared by Charlie Blackmon (@chuck__nazty) on

You know that game you play where you push the limit of the "Empty" light? I lost.

A post shared by Charlie Blackmon (@chuck__nazty) on

Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche fancies himself a fisherman and outdoorsman, as well. Duchene takes it to a whole different level, however, as he does some of his fishing on the frozen lakes of Canada. During a six-day layoff between games this past January, the Avalanche center snuck back home to Haliburton, Ontario to rekindle his passion for ice fishing. Hockey may have occupied most of his time over the past decade, as he suggested on Instagram, but the 26-year-old still finds joy in adventuring out onto the frozen ice and trying to drum up dinner.

It should come as no surprise that Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing, chooses to adventure by hunting and fishing. Truex was born and raised in a fishing family, and Bass Pro Shops has been a longtime sponsor of the New Jersey native, who has to squeeze in hunting and fishing trips into NASCAR’s grueling 10-month season. His timeline is understandably filled with shots of great gear and great big fish.

Among the other highly popular forms of outdoor recreation for Colorado athletes is, fittingly for this issue, golf. The sport attracts players across the spectrum. Sure, everyone knows that pitchers like to get out and swing the sticks on their off days and especially during Spring Training. But via social media you can also track the golf exploits of the Avalanche and Broncos.

Broncos punter Riley Dixon and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders both spent time this offseason working on their golf game. Getting out on the course gave Dixon a chance to connect with football royalty, Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton. Sanders, meanwhile sharpened his skills at the Tour 18, which features a replica of the famous 17th hole par 3 at TPC Sawgrass. Avs center J.T. Compher is a regular on the links, including at The Ridge at Castle Pines.

Great spot for one of the last few rounds before the season starts up

A post shared by Jt Compher (@jtcompher) on

Golf makes for an easy and accessible summer adventure, even when venturing out of town, but it’s not nearly as unique a form of recreation as you’ll find on the timeline of Avs defenseman Erik Johnson.

Last offseason Johnson spent time at horse racing tracks across the country, including right in his own backyard in Colorado. He posed for pics at the historic Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, at the Preakness alongside Tony Romo, and with his own race horses, Crosscheck Carlos and Shane’s Girlfriend. That’s right, Johnson owns a pair of 3-year-old horses that have raced from Del Mar to Santa Anita to Arapahoe Park, claiming four wins between them.

Of course, no catalog of summer adventures in Colorado would be complete without a trip up a trail, which brings things back to Ware and Marshall. When we first spotted Ware on this adventure in social media, he was standing atop a peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. His timeline also features pictures with his two young children exploring Colorado’s natural beauty, including the historic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater.

Might be the favorite one @ericamelissa_ ?

A post shared by Demarcus Ware (@demarcusware) on

Marshall took a crack at a historic Colorado trail, himself, recently. The linebacker tackled the infamous Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs. There are no youngsters tagging along, yet. Perhaps that will be the next big adventure Marshall undertakes in the footsteps of his mentor. If he does, we’ll all be lucky enough to follow the adventure on social media.

SHARE