DENVER — Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry saw no reason for patience. After a rowdy ovation from the children in the crowd, Cushenberry revealed his purpose for speaking at Wyatt Academy on Friday afternoon.
"I wanted to do something special, and that is give away some bikes," said Cushenberry to applause.
Partnering with UnitedHealthcare, Cushenberry presented the graduating 29 fifth graders with new bikes and helmets. He escorted the children to a classroom, where they picked out their new rides and gear before trying them out on the playground.
"I am glad that we could put smiles on kids' faces," Cushenberry said. "It gives me chills. I have a lot of nieces and nephews, and spending time with them is a great feeling. Spending time with these kids in Denver, I know a lot of kids are in need, and they look up to athletes. It's a big deal to get out in the community and help and do things I have wanted to do for a while."
King Ali, one of the graduating fifth-graders, couldn't stop smiling as he looked over his red and black bike. He and his family are Broncos fans. He loved getting Cushenberry's autograph as part of the big day.
"I didn't know what was going to happen. I was told that we were getting something to help us get to our friends' houses," Ali said. "My mom is having a baby boy, so I am going to run around and get her food and help my sister get to school. I was so excited to meet Lloyd. He signed two footballs and my sister's shirt. It was fun."
The latter is not an adjective used to describe the Broncos' offseason. Under new coach Sean Payton, the Broncos have operated in the shadows, rolling up their sleeves and remaining allergic to hype.
Cushenberry is one of the few players to speak to the media since Payton took over, and it was the result of his special community event.
"We are definitely grinding. We are not really not talking much about what we are doing. We have to keep working. There's no point in talking, it's about what we do in the fall on Sundays, Mondays and sometimes Thursdays," Cushenberry said. "We're hungry. The organization hasn't been in a good spot the last few years. Every year we feel like we are there, and now it's time to put it together."
Payton has made an impression on Cushenberry. He has long admired him from afar. He was raised in Louisiana before attending and winning a national title with LSU. As such, football and the Saints were a big deal.
"I have been seeing Sean Payton almost my whole life. I grew up watching the Saints. He and Drew Brees took over at a time when Louisiana was in a time of need (after Hurricane Katrina)," Cushenberry said. "They brought hope to not only New Orleans, but the whole state. I knew he was a winner. He's showing us that. He has a standard and what he expects from us."
With Payton putting his fingerprints all over the roster, Denver should be tougher and more physical. Payton wants to run the ball, which led the Broncos to sign right tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Ben Powers.
What are they like?
"They grind everyday in the weight room. It's fun working with those guys," said the 25-year-old Cushenberry, who enters the offseason as the favorite to start for a fourth consecutive season. "I think they are going to bring something special to the group."