News: In the trenches: AF Lt. fills Broncos offensive line needs
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – After a long offseason and spending last year on the Denver Broncos practice squad, Benjamin Garland, also a member of the armed forces, is ready to give it another go.
Garland, a Grand Junction, Colo. native and a member of the armed forces said it’s always been a dream of his to play for his favorite team.
Before entering the 2013 three-day mini-camp, Garland was caught off guard as he was told he would be transitioning from defensive tackle to offensive guard. That took him by surprise as he’s never played the position outside of some Broncos scout teams.
Garland said he played some offensive line in high school, but not guard. He said it’s completely different now, because he’s going up against the best of the best.
Nonetheless, as the team is several days into training camp, Garland said he’s glad to have the opportunity to try out.
“(It’s) extremely challenging; its way more difficult than it looks,” Garland said. “(It’s) so much a mental game where you have to understand the whole dynamic of the defense and how just a small move from a defensive player changes the play completely.”
With so much to learn in only a short amount of time, Garland said that’s not going to stop him from giving it all he’s got during the duration of training camp.
“That’s my goal: To make the team and contribute to the team the best I can,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can every single day to make sure I’m a part of this roster.”
He said he feels coaches and staff members have been working well with him to give him a good shot at making the team. One coach in particular, offensive consultant Alex Gibbs, has taught Garland the most since the transition.
“He’s been an NFL coach for so many years, and he’s a legend in the offensive line world,” Garland said. “(He’s taught me) how to step properly, how to move, read linebackers.”
Garland stressed how critical it is to take what he’s learned and give it all he’s got during training camp, because the smallest of things are being examined by coaches and staff.
“They’re looking at everything from what time you show up to meetings; they’re looking at how hard you work at every single drill,” and whether or not you’re stretching or goofing off, he said. “They’re looking for the best possible team to put together to try and win a championship.”
Garland said what keeps him going and being part of a championship-caliber team is his pure love for the game.
What makes it even better, though, is the opportunity to also pursue his other passion in life: serving his country.
As a first lieutenant for the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, Garland served his annual commitment during the early part of 2013. Garland said his time with the Guard was valuable and he learned quite a bit. He was sent on a TDY to Jordan as part of the State Partnership Program public affairs exchange. During the visit, his team demonstrated U.S. Air Force public affairs operations, for which Garland did a presentation on media facilitation.
“It was a cool opportunity; I loved it,” Garland said. “There’s nothing like going over there. (I’m) just glad I got the opportunity to experience that.”
Capt. Kinder Blacke, 140th Wing Public Affairs, said Garland is an excellent Airman and co-worker.
“He came to work really gung-ho, ready to contribute to our team and willing to help in whatever way he could,” Blacke said. “Everyone really liked him; he’s really easy going, down to earth and he’s really friendly. He’s willing to talk to everybody and anybody about what he does for the Broncos and what he does here with the Guard.”
Blacke said she admired Garland for going out and pursuing his two passions, by being in the NFL and serving his country. She and her team at the 140th Wing are some of Garland’s biggest fans and are hoping for the best.
As for Garland, although it can be challenging and tasking at times to pursue both his dreams, he said it’s well worth it.
“I get to put on the two best uniforms in the entire world. I’m more proud to wear each one, every day,” Garland said.