I first watched Brock Osweiler play basketball 12 years ago, when he was a junior at Flathead High School. Up to that point, he had been more of a legend on the hard court than the gridiron, committing to Gonzaga University at 14 years old. That winter evening in Kalispell, I saw what Gonzaga saw: a man-child, an athletic yet cerebral 6-foot-7-inch teenager with a feathery touch on his jump shot and precocious passing skills, demoralizing the wide-eyed adolescent boys who scurried around his waist.
My first season as a Brock basketball fan was his last as a player. He withdrew his commitment to Gonzaga that spring, announced he was focusing exclusively on football and verbally committed to Arizona State University. He never played another game of basketball.
Now it appears he will never play another game of football either. Brock told a reporter last week that he’s retiring after seven seasons in the NFL, beginning when the Denver Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft following a record-breaking junior season at ASU. Brock is only 28 years old, however, so I’m not ruling out the possibility that if an NFL executive calls, he’ll pick up the phone.
I’ve often wondered what would have happened if Brock stuck with basketball. Admittedly, his professional prospects likely weren’t as high. For as polished of a hoops player as he was, there was more raw potential in his cannon of an arm and ability to quickly diagram a football field. But who knows? Numerous recruiting lists, including ESPN, named him as one of the top power forward prospects in the country.
In any case, Brock did just fine for himself. Tabbed as an athletic prodigy growing up, he never let the accolades and attention breed complacency. For a Beacon profile I wrote about him in 2008, his father, John, told me that Brock attached a list of goals to his bedroom wall as a third-grader and looked at them every day.
“Pretty much everything on that list, he’s attained,” John said at the time.
I’m sure playing professional sports was on that list. Maybe he’s checked everything off.
When the Broncos drafted Brock one month after signing a contract with free agent Peyton Manning, the timing suggested that General Manager John Elway had selected Brock to be the heir to Manning’s throne, after a few years of apprenticeship.
But other than a magical run in his fourth season when he replaced an injured and aging Manning, that storybook narrative never played out. That year, 2015, Brock led the Broncos to a 5-2 record in seven starts, including a performance that earned him NFL Offensive Player of the Week and a riveting 30-24 overtime victory over the undefeated New England Patriots.
Brock was replaced by Manning in the season finale. Manning went on to lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory before retiring. A teammate on that Super Bowl team recently reminisced: “There is no way we get to that Super Bowl without Brock.’’
Brock accepted a $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed to play for the Houston Texans. He spent only one year with the Texans, who traded him to the Cleveland Browns, who released him. He returned to the Broncos for a season in 2017 and then signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.
Brock sounded at peace announcing his retirement to reporter Mike Klis.
“Being a kid from Kalispell, Montana, playing for the Denver Broncos, winning a Super Bowl, having the opportunity to sign a second contract — when you look back on it, I couldn’t be more appreciative. It was great.”
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