Kalispell Comes Full Circle with Denver Broncos

From Kalispell to Denver, paths cross for Brock Osweiler and Rick Dennison

By Dillon Tabish

It’s a small world.

I don’t write a column, but if I did, I’m sure I’d regularly fall back on the old “Six Degrees of Separation” gimmick. It’s fun to connect the dots. And after all, Montana is one big small town.

This week the Denver Broncos agreed to terms with Rick Dennison to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. One of Dennison’s primary duties will be working alongside Brock Osweiler, a Kalispell product and backup quarterback for the Broncos.

Funny thing, Dennison was born in Kalispell.

He would’ve likely grown up to be a star basketball and football player at Flathead High School, similar to Brock, except Rick was uprooted at an early age, seemingly putting Kalispell in the rearview mirror for good.

His father, George, grew up in Kila and graduated from Flathead in 1953, five years before Rick was born. George moved to Missoula to attend the University of Montana and brought his family with him.

(There’s a similar storyline for Jim McElwain, who was born in Kalispell and grew up in Missoula. McElwain most recently served as head football coach at Colorado State University and succeeded fast enough to vault himself into the head coaching spot at Florida.)

The Dennisons eventually journeyed from Missoula to Seattle and then Fort Collins, Colorado, where George began his career in the world of higher education as a history professor at Colorado State University. (This was way before McElwain’s time, obviously).

George’s boy, Rick, became a star athlete at Rocky Mountain High School and went on to play football at CSU, earning second team All-American as a senior tight end and wide receiver.

In 1982, the Denver Broncos signed Rick as a free agent out of college. As a linebacker, he played his entire eight-year professional career with the Broncos and then rejoined the franchise as an offensive assistant on the coaching staff in 1995. He spent the next 14 years in Denver coaching various positions and players, including an especially noteworthy name with Montana ties.

John Elway spent his younger years growing up in Missoula. You probably already know the rest of this storyline — Elway became one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time and is now general manager for the franchise he played his entire career for and won two Super Bowls with.

Elway is considered the main reason why Osweiler is in a Broncos jersey. Elway’s son played with Brock at Arizona State University, and Elway had his eye on the towering Kalispell QB while he was climbing the ranks under head coach Dennis Erickson (who played quarterback at Montana State University and later got his coaching start with the Bobcats).

Three years since drafting Brock with the 57th overall pick of the 2012 draft, Elways remains a strong supporter of the backup QB, recently expressing optimism that the future remains bright despite limited opportunities these past three seasons.

Anyhow, back to Rick Dennison.

In 2010, the same year his father was ending a 20-year tenure as president of the University of Montana, Rick took over as offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans. He spent the next four seasons alongside his former Denver teammate and coaching colleague, Gary Kubiak, the Texans’ head coach. The two men reconnected in Baltimore between 2013-2014 after Rick became the Ravens quarterback coach while Kubiak took over as offensive coordinator.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Elway hired Kubiak to be the Denver Broncos new head coach. One of Kubiak’s first moves was bringing in Dennison, who will replace Adam Gase as the offensive coordinator.

No doubt, one of Rick’s top tasks while Peyton Manning (potentially) captains the offense next season will be grooming one of the “top 50 rising stars in the NFL” and (potentially) the future QB in Denver — Brock Osweiler.

Kalispell comes full circle.

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