The NFL has clearly become America’s favorite sport and that popularity fueled the expansion of a seemingly never-ending season. This week that “offseason” technically began.

As the Denver Broncos began organized team workouts Monday one person behind the scenes is the most important person in that building. No, it is not Gary Kubiak, not John Elway either. It is Luke Richesson, the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

Richesson, a seven year NFL veteran coach, has been leading the Broncos roster in their training the last three seasons after maintaining the same position for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2009-2011. According to the team site Richesson was named the NFL’s 2013 Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by Samson Equipment and American Football Monthly. Monday he began guiding the old and new faces on the team in their first week of team workouts.

According to DeMarcus Ware, head coach Gary Kubiak’s emphasized Richesson’s role in the team’s first full meeting Monday.

“It starts right here in this room and it’s about the small things. Taking care of all the small things from the fundamentals and doing everything you need to do in the classroom. He (Kubiak) called Luke out and said, ‘It’s your turn. We’re going to make sure that we’re very conditioned; we’re the best conditioned team in the NFL. He put that on Luke. This right now is your turn, Luke. We’ll holler at all of the off-the-field and classroom stuff later, but right now it’s your turn to really get the guys in shape.’ Luke is ready. I’m ready for that.”

Richesson has trained several professional athletes and before the NFL he helped train NFL veterans and many future NFL players at Athlete’s Performance in Tempe, Arizona. His knowledge of a vast array of fitness techniques and his implementation of very specialized workouts has made him one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country.

With his vast knowledge Richesson has gained the trust of players like David Bruton Jr., who has been around the team for several seasons; he has also made a big impression on Ware, a notoriously fit player and health nut. Ware continued his praise of Richesson and his staff Monday.

“It’s actually really amazing. When you think about the three years that I was hurt, had certain injuries, and now having a whole offseason where you can work out, get your body right and that’s compliments to the strength and conditioning staff, to the training staff and how they do things.”

The Broncos are in the earliest phase of their offseason workout program but it represents a very critical moment in the season. Richesson and the strength and conditioning staff are the only coaches that can be on the field for these workouts and the early days of the offseason are when injury prevention is on the minds of every player, which is a sentiment Ware has tried to preach to his younger teammates.

“I sit right here and I tell them, ‘You have to stretch before you work out. You have to make sure you do these types of workouts because during the season, if you don’t get your body prepared for it, you’re going to be one of those guys where you’re going to get those ankle injuries or those leg injuries.’ Injuries are part of football, but you have to get your body really equipped for that.”

Bruton echoed Ware’s statements and commented on how the team follows Richesson’s lead in order to be prepared when the regular season begins.

“Luke and his staff, they do a great job. They ease us in the right way. Our number of injuries as far as muscular tears went down tremendously since he’s been here. We focus on a lot of functional stuff and a lot of things where we get certain areas of our body to fire that we were not necessarily accustomed to or we don’t usually do when we go train.”

Wednesday Ryan Clady briefly explained the importance of the early days of workouts and how they differ from the regular season schedule.

“I think it’s always important just to try to get stronger and faster in the offseason. During the season you’re just trying to maintain so this is the time to improve your body.”

Von Miller understands that mentality and has once again shed some weight in the offseason. While he acknowledged changing up his nutrition, he also knows the importance of getting back with his strength coach to continue his pursuit of greatness.

“I’ve been with Luke for awhile now. Luke’s been huge in getting me right. Over the offseason, I wasn’t here in the offseason. I spent a little bit of time in California and Miami. I really didn’t take days off. Right after the Super Bowl, I started working out. I wanted to make a point with myself that I wanted to step up with nutrition and just work out every day,” Miller said Wednesday. “I always have that positive mindset. ‘We’re going to be the best defense. We’re going to be the best team out there. I’m going to be the best player in the NFL this year.’”

The Broncos are just three days into the long offseason program but the importance of Richesson’s workouts cannot be overstated. His role is seldom mentioned but his credentials speak volumes and the players’ words and actions just hours into the season speak even louder. For a brief moment in the seemingly endless season Richesson is the most important person in team’s pursuit of the Lombardi trophy and it looks like he has earned that recognition.

Email Sam at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @SamCowhick.

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