Published: June 12, 2013
ENGLEWOOD - The smell and the smoke crept into south Denver about when the Broncos were wrapping up their final workout.
For Ben Garland, this is a recurring nightmare.
His grandparents lost their home in the Waldo Canyon fire. One year later, on Tuesday, Hal and Sharon Garland were forced to evacuate their new home north of Colorado Springs.
"It was tough to go through it the first time," Ben Garland said Wednesday at Dove Valley.
The Garland family doesn't deserve this. No one impacted by the ruthless Black Forest Fire does.
Mercifully, his grandparents are safe. So is their new home, which, Garland said, was roughly one mile from the flames.
"I know the first time (last year) we were taking it serious. We just thought it was going to pass it over and the firefighters were going to take care of it," he said. "The second time it was real scary. They packed up real quickly and were ready to go."
Garland is a 6-foot-5, 274-pound lineman with the Broncos. This offseason he was moved from the defensive side to offensive guard.
After spending last year on the practice squad, the former Air Force standout maintains the same career goal: suiting up for the Broncos on Sundays as a member of the 53-man roster.
Like I wrote last December, don't bet against him. Whatever the challenge - singing in a choir at Grand Junction Central, starting every game as a junior and senior as the Falcons nose guard - he succeeds.
"We're very proud of him," Hal Garland told me in the fall.
Ben's grandfather served in the Philippines and Korea as a 27-year Air Force man.
"It's unbelievable that Colorado's had this many fires this soon," Ben said. "It's a devastating fire at Black Forest. A lot of people have lost their homes already. Lots of prayers go out to those families."
Last year during the Waldo Canyon fire, Hal and Sharon Garland actually stayed with Ben in Denver after being evacuated.
During this minicamp, the Broncos practice once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Players hit the weight room and attend positional meetings in between.
At each opportunity, Garland taps on his cellphone to search for updates on the fires - and to make certain his family is safe.
"Being an academy guy, I've got a lot of friends and family down there," he said. "I know a lot of people who are moving out and evacuating and getting their family together. It was a tough time for a lot of my closest friends."
On the practice field, Garland said he must separate football from real-life developments affecting his family.
One man's wish: football soon becomes the only priority.