DENVER - This should be where Kapri Bibbs is most comfortable. This should be where he sees things others don't see, gaps of freedom in a swarm of 21 bodies, the easiest path to a touchdown. This is the goal line.
Instead, this is where his mind goes blank. The adrenaline leads to sudden memory loss, he says. This is where we came to remember Kapri on a first-name basis, and where, as a running back at Colorado State, he set a school record with 31 touchdowns. He remembers none.
"I feel like, when I get near the end zone, I black out," Bibbs says. "When I'm close to the end zone and I want a touchdown so bad, sometimes I don't remember half the runs. I have to go back later and look at the film, just to remember what I did."
Will Thursday night be the last time we remember Bibbs in a Broncos uniform? That's up to the Broncos and, in a way, Bibbs. The fourth preseason game on the schedule, at Dallas, doubly serves as his final audition to make the team.
Bibbs, an undrafted rookie, survived the first cut. The final cut must be completed Saturday, though I expect the Broncos announce their 53-man roster a day early.
That makes Thursday the Bibbs Bowl, or the (John) Boyett Bowl, or the (Shaq) Barrett Bowl, a last-ditch showcase for the players fighting for a coveted roster spot. By Friday night, Bibbs could be a member of the Broncos ("A dream come true," he says), a member of the Broncos practice squad ("the worst-case scenario for me") or a member of another team ("If that's God's plan, I trust it's the best path for me").
The Broncos have five running backs. All five are in their NFL infancy, combining for an average of less than season in the NFL. Last season the Broncos carried four. Keeping five on the 53-man roster would be a stunner.
"What grade would I give myself (for this preseason)? I would give myself a grade that says I should be able to stick around for a while," Bibbs says. "I don't have a specific grade. I feel like I've done a good-enough job to stick around. I want to be a part of this organization and what they've got going on here."
According to the usual timeline, Bibbs would be playing on Friday instead of Thursday. Colorado State meets Colorado on Friday at Sports Authority Field, and this would be Bibbs' junior year with the Rams. Bibbs declared early and went undrafted.
Awarded a mulligan, would he return to CSU?
"Not at all. This is the decision that I made, and I'm making the best of it right now," Bibbs says.
If the NFL were a true meritocracy, based on preseason performance, I think the running backs should rank like this: 1. Montee Ball 1A. Juwan Thompson 3. C.J. Anderson 4/5. Ronnie Hillman/Bibbs. But the NFL doesn't work that way. Draft picks enter training camp with an unspoken advantage in the race to secure a roster spot.
An enjoyable fellow, Bibbs maintains a healthy sense of humor leading into a preseason game that will help decide his professional future.
"Peyton is the hardest-working person I think that I've ever seen. When you hear Peyton Manning say, 'Good job, Kapri,' it's pretty special," Bibbs says. "But I can't think about it too much, so I don't mess up the next play. Then he'll be yelling at me."
He questions my idea Manning one day will run for president.
"I don't know about president," he says. "He might be sheriff."
He believes CSU coach Jim McElwain and quarterback Garrett Grayson will guide the Rams to victory against the rival Buffs on Friday ("35-17," Bibbs predicts).
"I think Grayson is going to show out," Bibbs says.
Now, if only he could remember all those touchdowns.
"When I'm down there at the goal line, it's like I have no control over my body," Bibbs says. "It's hard to explain. It's just like God has control over your body and you're in a video game. Then you look up and you're in the end zone."