Down, set…hike! Former NFLers calling Steamboat home
October 30, 2015
With football season in full swing, on any given week you'll find locals on barstools cheering on their favorite team. Just don't heckle the opponents too loudly; there's a good chance the fan on the next stool over played for the opposing team.
While Steamboat has its share of Olympians and other athletes — skiers, bike racers, rodeo stars you name it — a few folks once made their greenbacks on the gridiron.
Perhaps the legacy owes itself to the late Doak Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1948 and earned a spot in the NFL Football Hall of Fame for the Detroit Lions before settling in Steamboat. But it's more likely due to our easy-going lifestyle and scenery, far removed from stadiums and paparazzi. No matter your team allegiance, following are a few NFLers you might run into in the lift line.
Tim Krumrie didn’t start skiing until retiring from the NFL in 1994. But he quickly headed for greener — or whiter — pastures once off the gridiron, moving to Steamboat after visiting throughout the '90s so his family could learn how to ski.
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"We heard it was a great place for kids to learn," he says of kids Kelly and Dexter learning to ski here when they were young. "We traveled throughout the Rockies to find a place for a second home and Steamboat stuck out. It's a real town, not just a ski resort."
Krumrie and wife, Cheryl, bought a home here in 2005 and moved to Steamboat full-time in 2010, just a decade after he was enshrined in the University of Wisconsin Hall of Fame where he was a three-time All-Big Ten defensive tackle, two-time All-American and leading tackler each of his four years. The 1982 captain, he still holds the school record for most career solo tackles with 276.
He took that same tenacity to the pros, playing 12 years for the Cincinnati Bengals, where he started 166 games and was a two-time AP All Pro and played in two Pro Bowls as well as the 1989 Super Bowl. After his playing career, he coached 15 more years with the Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs.
In 2010, he even helped coach the Sailors. ("That was fun," he says. "It let the kids learn I was once just like them — a small town kid who worked hard"). The Tim Krumrie Award is handed out annually to the outstanding high school senior defensive lineman in Wisconsin.
Voted by Sports Illustrated as the best player to ever wear number 69, Krumrie also holds the distinction of receiving one of the all-time worst injuries. in the NFL; in a Joe Theisman-esque injury in Super Bowl XXIII against the 49ers, he broke his ankle and tibia in two places.
Watch a game with him, and he might also tell you about how he helped launch Brett Favre’s career: he knocked the Packers' starting quarterback out of the game, opening the door for back-up Favre.
But now he's loving his time out of the limelight and off the playing field in the Yampa Valley, where he often came to high altitude train in his playing days.
"We both grew up in the same small town and love it here for all the same reasons people come here for vacations," he says. "It has a great small town atmosphere and great hiking and biking, and a close airport in Hayden and Denver for whenever I have to travel."
While he now works for Denver's CereScan as a brain injury advocate and as an ambassador for the NFL’s Heads Up program building youth fundamentals, he well-deservedly enjoys all things Steamboat, from fly-fishing and horseback riding to once biking the Tour de Steamboat and running the half marathon — albeit at a speed slightly slower than he used chasing quarterbacks.
Living in Steamboat for more than a decade, it's oddly fitting that former NFL kicker Steve DeLine, 54, got his start kicking field goals through a cattle gate in a roping arena at his family's North Park ranch. The tactic, and kicking for Denver's Mullen High School, paid off as he kicked for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987 and 1989, and the San Diego Chargers in 1988.
Like cowboying, kicking came naturally for him and it's largely been a family affair. After moving to North Park at age 16, DeLine taught kicking to his younger brother, who went on to earn a scholarship at CU. DeLine then reasoned that he, too, was a decent kicker, so he walked on at CSU.
The two siblings played each other in 1986, with the elder DeLine kicking three field goals and two extra points for a 23-7 CSU victory.
"We have a great family rivalry," says DeLine, whose son, Ben, also kicked for CSU.
DeLine moved his family – including wife, Karen, Ben, 26, Erika, 23, and Joe, 18 — from North Park to Steamboat in 2004.
"We love it here and so do the kids," he says. "The only thing we regret is not moving here sooner."
DeLine helped coach the Sailors, and son Ben, to several playoff appearances, and he's helped his son, Joe, now a senior, along as well. "I've had more fun with Sailor football here than I did everywhere else," he says. "It's just classic Americana."
In a classic coincidence, in a 2009 win by CSU over CU, Ben accounted for the same number of points DeLine did in his win 23 years earlier: three field goals and two extra points in a 23-14 win.
"It was the exact same number of points, to the day," says DeLine, who still ranches, both locally and in North Park, and is a partner in Denver's Prost Brewing Co.
Joe is now in his final year playing for the Sailors, though DeLine admits it's sometimes tough to sit in the stands through a game. "Watching your kid do it is a lot harder than doing it yourself," he says.
Living in Steamboat, however, gives him as good a feeling as he ever got splitting the uprights. "It's the closest thing to Shangri-La as you could get," he says, adding that he still enjoys skiing, biking and more. "I don't think there's any place on the planet better than Steamboat."
You might not want to get too rambunctious on a City of Steamboat Springs bus if Gary Campbell is your driver.
The longtime Steamboat local and bus operator is well used to stopping people in their tracks. Born in 1951 in Honolulu, Campbell played running back for the University of Colorado — remember his 42-yard TD run that helped beat Oklahoma, which had gone undefeated for three years? — before being chosen in round 10 of the 1976 NFL draft as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. From there he went on to play linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1977 to 1983 in the height of Walter Payton's era.
All along he'd visit Steamboat as often as he could.
"As soon as the last game of the season was over, we'd get in our car and drive out here the following day," says Campbell, 63. "Then we'd head to Honolulu and back here again before going back to Chicago for the pre-season."
While he admits he doesn't follow football much anymore ("Though I am a Green Bay Packers fan," he says), he admits that in his prime he relished those Waimea-sized hits. "As a linebacker, I will say I used to like hitting people," he says. "I was very lucky to play pro football. I was never the best, but I was the best that I could ever be."
Campbell moved to Steamboat permanently in 1998 with his second wife, Kathleen, with two of his three children from his first marriage — Alohi, 37, and Mehana, 32 — living here as well.
"I've pretty much been here forever," he says. "I like the access to the outdoors Steamboat offers, and the weather is near perfect."
His friends and family in Hawaii often come to visit, he adds, and he rolls out the welcome mat with genuine Steamboat hospitality. He does the same when driving for the city, joking with riders who are privy to his iPod's 10,000-song play list.
"I try to make the bus a good, relaxing place to be," he says of a job he maintains is far easier than sacking quarterbacks. "Most people like the music I play."
He also works as a part-time contract laborer for the U.S Postal Service delivering mail, so take up any tardiness disputes at your own risk; as with his bus driving, he's as punctual with his postal deliveries as the hits he delivered to ball carriers
Ghana is a long way from the gridiron, and that's fine with longtime local Aaron Finch.
Finch, 56, who coached the Sailors to a whopping 52-18 record from 2004-2010, returned to Steamboat in September after a yearlong stint in West Africa as part of an executive economic development program hosted by his alma mater Stanford. "It's a program for small and medium-sized businesses over there," says Finch. "I worked as a business coach for a broad range of companies."
He had plenty of experience to draw upon. With an MBA from Stanford, after his coaching career with the Sailors he served as chief operating officer of Ft. Collins-based Otter Box, a maker of protective smartphone cases, before co-founding tech company 1 Oak Technologies, whose products and business applications spun into two other companies.
All this follows an earlier life centered around football instead of finance. After graduating from CSU, Finch signed as a free agent center for the Buffalo Bills in 1982. Getting cut, he then signed on with the Denver Gold of the inaugural USFL league before moving on to greener, less physical, pastures.
"I never made a regular season roster in the NFL," he freely admits, "and that's probably a good thing. Pro football careers are pretty hard on offensive linemen. After two years of getting cut I took the hint."
So Finch moved to Steamboat with his family in 1998, including wife, Catherine, and children Christopher, now 24, and Liz, 22. Here, he quickly gravitated toward helping local kids enjoy and succeed at the sport as much as he did. He helped Matt Tredway coach the eighth-graders before assisting head coach Mark Drake with the high school team and taking the reins himself in 2004. "I was truly blessed those years," he says. "For six years we had great athletes and kids every year."
While Finch confesses his pro career "was fleeting at best," he's happy to put it behind him, enjoying everything else Steamboat has to offer, which he says includes "falling off my bike and skis and anything else I can fall off of."
While he's currently pursuing other business opportunities back home in the Yampa Valley, you'll likely also find him with fly rod in hand trolling his beloved Yampa River, where he's more concerned with a different kid of tackle
Sip a Budweiser while watching your favorite ballgame in Steamboat and you can thank former Denver Bronco Larry Kaminski. Awarded the Anheuser Busch franchise for northwest Colorado, Kaminski, 70, moved to Craig with his family in 1974 after wearing number 59 as center for the Denver Broncos from 1966 to 1973. A former stand-out at Purdue, he moved B&K Distributing to Steamboat in 1977.
"It was central to the territory and provided a better education and social atmosphere for the boys," he says.
With his sons, Kevin, Dana and Chris, once playing for the Sailors, Kaminski became active in the local community, being named Steamboat Man of the Year and Winter Carnival King in 1977, sharing the throne with Hazie Werner. He also helped coach and served as a part-time teacher for the school's Junior Achievement program.
While he now lives in Port Gamble, Wash., where he runs his fishing charter business Captain Larry's Adventures, B&K is managed by his son, Chris. And while they might miss him around the office, Peyton Manning and the Broncos miss him even more; he honed his skills blocking for former Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little. "I blocked for him for seven years," Kaminski says. "But he didn't need a whole lot of room."
An All-American defensive lineman at the University of Nebraska, B&K Distributing co-founder (the "B") Walter Barnes was drafted in the second round by the Washington Redskins in 1966, playing for legendary coach Vince Lombardi and alongside such stalwarts as Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas. He later played for the Denver Broncos, where he met future business partner Larry Kaminski, predicating his move to Routt County in 1974. "Right now it kind of all fades together," he says. "But we had a great time."
Although the sport has changed since then, Barnes' love of Steamboat hasn't; he has continued to live here all along even after selling his share of B&K in 1993. "All you have to do is look out the window," he says. "It's a great place in the summer and winter."
Looking back at his playing career, the view is no less stellar. He was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1988, with scouts during his playing years heralding him as "one of the finest football players in the country."
Leading all linemen with 55 tackles, he was nicknamed "Crazy Horse" for his go-for-broke style and led the Big Red to the Cotton Bowl in 1965. He brought that same tenacity to the Broncos, where, wearing orange and blue, he left opposing ball carriers black and blue.
Fifty years later, a successful football and business career behind him, the lifelong skier is still happy to call Steamboat home, even if he doesn't hit the slopes or opposing quarterbacks like he once did.
Now that his son, Jackson, 19, and daughter, Dani, 21, have graduated from Steamboat High School leaving their own trail of athletic accomplishments behind them, father Peter, a local contractor, has a little more time on his hands. It's time he can use — when not climbing mountains in Peru with Jackson like he was this summer — to reflect on his own career on the gridiron.
Perry, 58, grew up in Littleton, where he, too, starred on his high school hockey and football teams. He went on to play defensive back for the University of Colorado, making All-Big Eight defensive end in 1982 and competing in the Senior Bowl and Hula Bowl.
From there, it was on to the pros, where he signed as a free agent for the Kansas City Chiefs and was later awarded on waivers to the Cleveland Browns. After a brief stint there, he was selected by the Houston Gamblers in the sixth round of the USFL expansion draft in 1983, before finishing his career playing for the Denver Gold.
"I bounced around the pros for a while, but it was nothing special," says Perry, who moved his building business to Steamboat in 2000, both for the skiing and chance to raise his kids — who are now attending his alma mater University of Colorado — in a small town community. When not building houses, he put his athletic career to use helping coach the local football and hockey teams while Jackson was playing.
Fresh back in August from trekking Peru's famed Cordillera Huayhuash route in the Andes with Jackson and Dani, he's happy to be home and ready for the upcoming ski season, where you'll likely find him defending his favorite line.
Ryan Wood, who maintains a home in Steamboat after founding Sweetwood Cattle Co. here in 2008, has successfully moved from the gridiron to the grill. Raised in Loveland with a national championship at Ohio's Youngstown State under his belt, Wood made All Pac 10 at Arizona State, where he roomed with former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer.
In 1996, he was drafted in the seventh round as a fullback by the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys before moving on to co-found apparel giant Under Armour.
All that is behind him now as he switches gears from football to artisan beef. And whenever he can make it up from the Front Range to the Yampa Valley, he continues to enjoy everything Steamboat has to offer. "Steamboat is a great place for us to unwind and enjoy the mountains," he says. "I’ve been coming to Steamboat for 40 years with my family and hope to continue that tradition in the future with our kids.”
Behind the scenes: Rod Hanna:
As well as serving as the former public relations director for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., local photographer Rod Hanna — who's lived in Steamboat since 1975 and is well used to shooting orange sunsets against blue skies — used to photograph the orange and blue of the Denver Broncos as the team's official photographer.
"Shortly after moving here the Broncos asked if I could do their game-day photography," says Hanna. "So I'd leave on a Saturday to travel with the team for an away game or drive down on Sunday morning for a home game. I was their staff photographer for most of the 1980s.
While he says he expected the players to be large and physical, he was most impressed with how fast and explosive they were. He adds that while he only got hit on the sidelines once or twice, he was ready to bail out at a moments notice. "When you're looking through a long lens at the quarterback and he throws the ball your direction, you know it's time to get out of the way because there's going to be large person attached to it very quickly," he says.
Speaking of quarterbacks, one of his best memories is about how low key John Elway was. "He didn't act like a super star," he says. "There was no grand entrance on to the team plane or anything. He always sat in the last seat on the right with his lineman buddy, Keith Studdard."
Behind the scenes: Verne Lundquist
You'll have to excuse longtime local Verne Lundquist if he's a hair busy right now; it's college football season, and he's in full swing calling plays for the SEC games on CBS.
Lundquist began his career as the radio voice for the Dallas Cowboys before working for ABC Sports and CBS. Inducted into the National Sportscasters Association's hall of fame in 2007, he's called everything from Jack Nicholas sinking a must-make shot to the Super Bowl, and even the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan dispute during the 1994 Olympics, the highest-rated Olympic broadcast of all time.
While the award-winning sportscaster might have cameo in Happy Gilmore, he's never happier than when he's at home in Steamboat, where he's lived with his wife, Nancy, since 1984.
"I learned to ski here in 1971 and fell in love with the place," he says. "Then I played in a golf tournament here in 1975, which was my first experience here in summer. I vowed then to move to Steamboat if I could ever afford it."
After marrying Nancy in 1982, they made the move from Dallas, where he was calling NFL games with Terry Bradshaw. "So, we're almost locals," he says.
They're locals who give back to the community the love every chance they get — enough to win town's Philanthropist of the Year award in 2012 for their support of Strings in the Mountain, Routt County United Way, the Boys & Girls Club and more.
"I was first attracted by the area's beauty, but then I fell in love with the people here," he says. "I love that we're a vibrant ranching community that's also home to a world class ski resort and countless Olympians, who are our real celebrities."
At 75 he's showing Olympian-resilience himself on the mic. Listen for such tell-tale phrases as “How, do you DO!” or “Oh My Goodness!” on big hit plays this season, and for him to return to his beloved Yampa Valley once the year's final touchdown is scored.
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