DENVER — Trevor Siemian's football career got its start, for real, in a ninth-grade English class in Orlando, Fla.
He had played before — flag football, at least. Flag football at the local YMCA with 4- and 5-year-olds often devolves into one big broken play, and li'l Trevor, a tailback-turned-quarterback, would take the pitch on an end-around and run all over the place until he scored a touchdown.
"He was like a little Archie Manning in disguise," his father, Walter Siemian, said from the family home in central Florida.
In those days Siemian was the first kid chosen, a no-brainer pick, an obvious selection as the quarterback. That eventually would change, as you may have noticed.
Baseball was Trevor's first love. He was a stud, really, the kid who was better than everybody else, assigned to play shortstop when he wasn't pitching. When Trevor was 13 he traveled with the Orlando Reds, a club program, to a tournament at nearby Disney World. The opponent was a select team from Puerto Rico, and Trevor played shortstop for the six-inning game. It was 6-6 at the end of six, and their coach called Trevor to the mound in relief. This was in Orlando, remember, in the heat of summer.
"And we're going into the 12th inning," his father recalled.
With Puerto Rico leading by a run in the bottom half of the inning, Trevor came to bat. The Orlando Reds had a runner on first and two outs. Here, let Dad finish the story.
"It was a 1-2 pitch, high and outside. He made contact and it seemed like a high fly ball that would fall inside the park. I saw the center fielder backing up and backing up and the next thing you know it's flying over the fence. We won. They named Trevor MVP."
Golf was inevitably an option. One of his teaching professionals, a man who had worked with Ernie Els, told Trevor he had a natural swing and easy demeanor that portended big things on the golf course. Football didn't truly come into the picture until later.
Then that English class happened and everything changed — for Trevor Siemian, his family and, now, for the Broncos. The English teacher doubled as the junior varsity coach and asked Trevor if he had interest going out for the football team. They needed a quarterback.
Sure, he said. Why not?
Monday morning at their Dove Valley headquarters in Englewood, the Broncos introduced Siemian as the 24-year-old from Northwestern who will succeed a quarterbacking legend, Peyton Manning, and help to lead the Super Bowl champions into the 2016 season.
Sure. Why not?
The scene Monday on the Broncos' practice fields can be best described as weird. Or unorthodox. Or unexpected.
But let's just go with weird.
Under thundering clouds that soon would summon tornado sirens, the Broncos trotted out the usual suspects at quarterback: Mark Sanchez, a former first-round pick and veteran of two AFC championship games; Paxton Lynch, another first-round pick and, at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, a video-game prototype; and Siemian, a seventh-round pick who, at the start of training camp, had the worst odds in Las Vegas (plus-245) to win the starting job for the Broncos.
And Siemian had won the starting job for the Broncos.
"I believe in this kid," coach Gary Kubiak said.
On Sept. 8, in an NFL Kickoff game that last year drew 27.4 million viewers, Siemian and the Broncos will host Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. One quarterback has one NFL MVP, the other has one NFL snap. The Broncos will be the first Super Bowl champs to open the next season with a starting quarterback who never has thrown an NFL pass.
How's that for a sports story?
"I'm not trying to be Peyton," Siemian said Monday. "Those shoes are way too big to fill."
Siemian celebrated the big news by texting his mom and dad. He has described himself as a "boring" interview. He rented a sweet apartment in Cherry Creek for his first year in Denver, then moved to Denver Tech Center to be closer to the practice facility. Hollywood, he's not.
The NFL has certain unwritten rules by which things are supposed to operate. One is that you need an elite quarterback play to win a Super Bowl. Denver's defense countered that a quarterback can't win if he can't stand up. Another is that pedigree (Sanchez, of USC and those title games) and promise (Lynch, by his draft status and striking raw talent) supersede almost everything else.
Ol' Kubes countered with an old-school, utterly American approach to Denver's quarterback dilemma: May the best man win. The best man, in this training camp, won.
"Is it a lot to ask of a young kid? Yes, it is," Kubiak said. "But it's not a lot to ask of our team, and I believe in our team."
Trevor Siemian's first time in Colorado was a family vacation in Steamboat Springs.
Along with parents, Walter and Colleen, and older brother, Todd, 5-year-old Trevor donned a cowboy hat and set out to conquer a dude ranch aboard his trusty steed, "Wharf." When "Wharf" stopped to munch a bite of grass, Trevor told the horse that was "bad manners" and their journey should continue. Another time, 3-year-old Trevor asked his mom why a parking lot was being built in a park: "Mom, those were God's trees." Another time a second-grade teacher commended him for standing up to a classmate who was bullying one of his friends.
"I could always reason with Trevor. Even in his terrible 2s, I could always say, 'Trevor, why did you do that?' and he would give me a respectable answer," Colleen said. "It didn't matter what it was. Trevor always figured things out along the way."
Walter and Colleen met in 1983 at a hospital in Buffalo, N.Y. Dad was a surgeon, mom was an ICU nurse. They moved to Orlando, where Trevor was born and raised, switching between 7-irons, batting gloves, football helmets and roller hockey pads. With two quarterbacks from Florida — Lynch is from Deltona — the Broncos play two games in Florida, at Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Mom and Dad flew out for Saturday's preseason game against the Rams.
"He loved that dude ranch so much, I always reckoned he would end up out west," Walter Siemian said.
Harvard and Northwestern were options for Siemian out of high school, and he chose the Big Ten. His initial plan, his parents said, was to play both football and baseball, but the duties of a quarterback, combined with the school's strenuous academic program, left him all-in on football.
His favorite athlete as a kid was Yankees great Derek Jeter, his dad said.
"He liked the way Jeter handled himself on the field and how he always stayed out of trouble and competed with dignity," Walter said. "Then he saw Peyton Manning and told us what a class act Peyton was. Peyton left an indelible mark on him."
It appeared everything would change, again, when Siemian sustained a serious knee injury during his final season at Northwestern. Not long afterward, in the family car with his mom and brother, Trevor said to no one in particular: "I wonder if I'll ever play football again."
Looks like he will.
For Siemian, his chosen sport looked like it would be baseball. Then it was football. It looked like football until the injury. Then it looked like he might go into commercial real estate. And for the Broncos at quarterback, it looked like it would be Brock Osweiler, then Sanchez or Lynch.
Now the starting quarterback of the Broncos is Trevor Siemian, and isn't that something?
"It's one thing we always taught him," his father said. "We always have a Plan B."