UPDATE (2/3/2014): Bronco Latinos’ Super Bowl dream turns into a nightmare
Of all the plaudits given Denver Broncos guard Louis Vasquez, the one most special to him is one that doesn’t come with a piece of hardware.
They don’t give any medals or trophies for not allowing your quarterback to be sacked, and Vasquez is only of two linemen among the 38 guards who played at least 900 snaps in 2013 to not permit a sack, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
And that special for Vasquez, the 6-foot, 5-inch, 325-pound Mexican American from Corsicana, Tex., who was also the only Bronco besides quarterback Peyton Manning named an All-Pro this season.
The payoff has been that Vasquez is one of the reasons the Broncos will be playing in the Super Bowl Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks along with two other Latino teammates – running back Knowshon Moreno and center Manny Ramirez.
Three Latinos on a Super Bowl team
It may be historic – the first time three Hispanics have been starters on a Super Bowl team. The National Football League says it does not keep those kinds of statistics, but an unofficial check of former Super Bowl teams suggests this is unprecedented.
“I don’t think there’s ever been two Hispanics on the same team,” says Vasquez.
Ramirez is also Mexican American, and Moreno’s father is from Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, the task of keeping Peyton Manning safe can’t be overstated, especially given that he underwent fusion neck surgery in 2011 at the age of 35 and has come back to have the greatest season of any quarterback in NFL history.
“Just having great players around me helps,” says Vasquez, crediting his teammates for making his All-Pro recognition possible. “Everybody else looks that good, guys like Peyton just make you want to elevate your game. Again, it’s humbling, and I can’t thank my teammates enough.”
But he’s done more than just protect Manning. In becoming one of the league’s best run blockers, Vasquez this season helped blow open holes for Moreno who this year had his first career 1,000-yard season.
“He’s been firm up the middle and in the run game (with) the push he gives,” Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase says of Vasquez. “You can always feel like, ‘Hey, when we need to get a yard, if we go behind him, he’s going to get it for us.’”
In the Super Bowl, the Broncos will also be counting heavily on center Manny Ramirez, Vasquez’s fellow Tejano who played with Vasquez for two seasons at Texas Tech and who call each other “my brother.”
“Manny was freakishly strong,” recalls Washington State coach Mike Leach, who coached the pair at Texas Tech. “He could bench 550 pounds, and I’m not sure if I’ve had anybody else who could do that.
“Louis was just more talented than everybody else. I used to hope somebody on the other team would hit him in the mouth early the game, because then he would just explode and really wreck people inside.”
They have done the same at Denver where the Broncos’ ground game developed into one of the league’s most productive by season end, averaging 4.86 yards per carry from Week 12 onward, fifth-best in the NFL.
Completing the Broncos’ starting Latino trio is Moreno, one of the most emotional players in the game – so emotional that he has shed tears on the sidelines that have produced photographs that went viral on the Internet.
They also landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“I think it was awesome,” says Moreno of his cover boy photo. “It’s a cool thing… it looked pretty sweet.”