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April 9, 2024 38 mins
He grew up in New York and went to college at the University of Maryland. Billy Van Heusen was all east coast until he stepped off a plane in Denver in 1968 and saw the Front Range for the first time. His goal as an undrafted free agent became not just to make the Broncos roster, but to stay in Denver. He did both.  

In 2019, Billy was named to the Broncos All-Time Top 100 Team. He played 9 seasons in Denver and was a top 10 NFL punter in 5 of those years. He was quite athletic at other positions as well: he had 82 catches as a wide receiver, scored 11 touchdowns and averaged 20 ½ yards per catch. He also carried the ball on occasion. As a running back he had 13 carries for 171 yards and 1 touchdown (a 66-yard return on a fake punt).  

In the middle of his NFL career in 1972, like most players in that era, Billy started a second job when he got his Colorado real estate license. He dabbled in real estate for the next few years until he realized he was done with football in 1977. The wrap on his career was not by choice: after the 1976 season some controversy boiled up regarding how some players felt after they were told their head coach John Ralston was being retained. The player’s thoughts about Ralston made it to the media and Billy saw the writing on the wall when he was called out for it. Despite Ralston not being retained as head coach, Billy was cut on the last day of training camp in 1977.    

After his playing career was over, Billy stayed in Denver and real estate became his full-time job and he’s still going strong today with his Billy Van Heusen Team.
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Transcript

Episode Transcript

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(00:00):
I went in the next morning andbasically was told we're going to negotiate and
figure out a contract instead. Theowner, Leonard Toast, said that he
heard I was a radical. Couldn'tafford to have a radical person on a
young team, so I was deeplydisappointed, but realized at that point it's
over. Welcome to cut Traded,Fired Retired a weekly podcast featuring conversations with

(00:24):
professional athletes and coaches in a varietyof sports. I started this podcast for
many reasons, including being able topreserve people's stories, learn from their experiences,
and maybe find a strategy or motivationto apply to our own lives.
I'm your host, Susie Wargen.When the Broncos released their top one hundred
team in twenty nineteen, this episode'sguest made the list. Billy Van Heusen,

(00:47):
played over fifty years ago and hasnot been forgotten. How could he
be? Billy made the team asa college free agent, and while you'll
see the title of punter next tohis name for nine seasons, he was
also thrown into any games as awide receiver and running back. He was
an athlete, to say the least. Billy played at a time when players
had jobs in the offseason. Afew years into his time in Orange and

(01:10):
Blue, he got his real estatelicense. That was in nineteen seventy two.
When he was done with football innineteen seventy six, he stayed put
in the Mile High City and heis still helping people buy and sell homes
as well as hangout with his grandkids. You would never guess he's in his
late seventies. Ladies and Gentlemen.Billy ben Heusen Cut Traded Fired Retired podcast

(01:34):
with Susie Wargen. Billy van Heusen, how are you. I'm doing great,
Susie, how are you? I'mgood. I'm good. I see
you at so many events. It'svery fun to run into you at all
the alumni events. I feel likeyou go to a lot of them.
I try to make all that theyasked us, you know, they invite
us to the one I saw yetrecently it was very special, wasn't that

(01:56):
Neat was already a Vietnam Veterans ceremony, a recognition there we go, there's
the word yeah at Lutheran Hospital andthat was really cool and just it was
some of the guys we met thatwas really Neat very powerful. It's important.
My brother actually was in the armyat the time, and he flew
the Huey Cobra, the gunship inVietnam for a how so that brought back

(02:16):
a lot of memories, I bet. And then when he was going to
Vietnam he stopped here. We werein training camp and Lu Saban had a
dinner forum. Oh that's neat.When he came home, Lou had another
dinner form. Oh that's very cool. It was first class all the way.
Oh wow, all right, we'regoing to get to your playing days,
but we have to go way backin the time machine. Billy too,

(02:38):
when you grew up in New York. Yeah, I'm a Marinick,
New York, about twenty miles fromthe city. And that was the name
of your high school as well.It was high school. What did you
play growing up and in high school? Was it just football or you probably
did all sports pretty much everything?Yeah? I played football, basketball,
baseball, golf, land track.Oh wow, you really did everything?

(02:58):
Yeah, yeah, I played allthe sports in football. Did you because
you were the punter for the Broncosfor nine years, Is that what you
did in high school or did youplay all positions because you also played all
positions in the NFL as well.Yeah. No, punting was always a
side light. Okay. So inhigh school I was a running back,
middle linebacker, and a punter.And when I went to Maryland, I
was started out as a running back, then moved to quarterback, then moved

(03:23):
to receiver, backed up at freesafety, and punted. You were literally
a utility player pretty much football.How did you decide on Maryland? Did
you have other places that you wantedto go? I did. I Well,
this sounds bad, but I couldhave pretty much gone anywhere. That
doesn't sound bad. That's okay.It was narrowed down to Syracuse and Maryland
because they were within driving distance ofmy hometown in New York, so my

(03:46):
mom could come watch the games.Oh that's great. Did you go visit
anywhere? Though? By having thatkind of a choice, did you get
some visits? I mean it's sodifferent now. What was it like back
in the early sixties when you weregoing to college. I did. I
had some visiness down to Miami,Met Miami, then Syracuse. I was
going to go to Notre Dame tovisit Parsigium, but he came to Ma

(04:06):
Marinet and met me there. Wehad a lot of options. That's fun.
So you go to Maryland. What'syour experience like? There three coaches
in four years. Oh so,a lot of turmoil, a lot of
turnover. But fortunately for me junioryear, Lusaban had decided after winning the
A you know, the AFL,before the merger, his wife was pushing

(04:30):
him to get back into college andlessen the pressure, so he came to
Maryland for one year. My junioryear. He had me moved from a
quarterback position to wide receiver. Didyou like that? Yeah? Yeah,
I just like playing got hit alot less. That's true. Yeah,
we didn't have a bullseye in yourback, that's very true. Yeah.
And we had a quarterback, AlanPistrana, who came out here actually for

(04:51):
a year with the Broncos. Heand I teamed up. We had a
pretty good, great junior year.Lou opened it up for us and then
what happened you year? We hada coach named Bob Ward who was an
All American guard at Maryland back waybefore me. But he was he was
one hundred and eighty five pound guard, didn't know much about offense, he

(05:12):
really didn't and we actually didn't wina game my senior year. We were
oh and nine, I think oroh and eighty. That was oh my
goodness. It was a long,long season. So when you have a
season like that and you're still verytalented, did you think that you would
get drafted? I was actually toldthat I would be drafted, as are
many guys. Well yeah, andbut very high they I've got a couple

(05:34):
of letters from the Cowboys couple thatI saved that indicated that I would be
getting drafted in really high number,but not knowing much about the game.
In December, I had a cartilageremoved on my right knee that I had
torn, and apparently that caused alot of question marks. A lot of

(05:55):
people all of a sudden were wonderinghow I was coming back, you know,
did I come How was I runningda da da da da? Was
I getting swelling? All the questionsyou didn't want to have. So that
was probably my biggest mistake, washaving that surgery in December. Then you
couldn't go to any of the springactivities, right, well we didn't.
There weren't any back then. No, you had to do it all yourself.

(06:17):
I guess there wasn't like the SeniorBowl and the I was. I
think there was one one All Stargame. I don't remember, but it
didn't matter. We were rowing nine. I wasn't going anywhere right, so
I just figured it was it wascatching. It was causing swelling in my
knee, so I thought, thiswill be better to get it done right
now. Gives me the full three, four or five months to rehabilitate before

(06:40):
going to any kind of testing,thinking, you know, we got a
chance. And I was down inFlorida visiting my grandfather when the draft went
on, and it kept on goingon and going on, and nothing happened.
Ohe never rang. Five minutes afterthe coach Saban called up and said,
hey, we want you to cometo Denver, and that did it.

(07:00):
We had a great relationship when hewas at Maryland. I love chatting
about stories that about networking and it'sall about who you know. Obviously it's
about talent, and they know youhave talent, but if you are somebody's
quote unquote guy that can really takeyou a lot of places. Did any
other teams besides the Broncos call you, Oh yeah, the Eagles, the
Cowboys, forty nine Ers, theywere all kind enough to call. But

(07:25):
I knew coach Saban and had playedfrom that junior year in college. I
felt he would give you my bestchance. And Samratigliano, who everybody knows,
yeah, on to be Cleveland's coach. He was a coach of a
high school team in upstate New York. When Lou came to Maryland, he
brought Sam with him. He actuallybrought the whole coaching staff from Maryland out

(07:45):
here for his first year with theBronx. He really, Oh wow,
I didn't know that. And headded a couple guys, Stan Jones and
some of the other people. Soit was kind of old home week to
come out and Chip Myrtle was here. Chip had played with me at Maryland.
He was a year ahead of meand Tom Chaikowski. He was an
offensive tackle that Lou brought out.So yeah, it definitely was like coming
home. It was here I feltmore comfortable. Sure, I absolutely trusted

(08:09):
coach Saban. He never ever everlied to us. He was just straightforward.
If it was bad, it wasbad, it was good, it
was good. He didn't play anygames, man, he was great.
That's awesome. So that was nineteensixty eight when you come out here.
What were the Broncos like back then? Kind of give a description of where
you guys practiced, how things went, and what it was like making the

(08:33):
team even as a college free agent. Where we practiced was at fifty eighth
and I twenty five, right nearthe mark. You know, we were
still the AFL of Silly American FootballLeague. It was a relatively young team,
new team as far as the league. Yeah, and quarterback wise,
we had Steve Tenzi. He hadbeen drafted the year before. Lou Saban
gave up two first rounders for him. Steve truly had one of the best

(08:58):
arms that I've ever been a receiverfor just a gun. But he wasn't
very agile and we didn't have thebest offensive line, so he's getting hammered
a lot. We're playing our preseasongames at du and that field there was
as hard as a rock. Itwas like playing on concrete. Intends.
He separated his shoulder in the preseason. In all due respect, he wasn't

(09:20):
the toughest guy anyway, so hetried to come back, and they had
a guy Jim Leclair. We hada bunch of quarterbacks came through at the
time, but we all knew itwas a building program and we felt that
if we all hung together, we'dget it done. It would take some
time, but we felt like,you know, we had the nucleus to
make it happen, coming in asa free agent and not really knowing everybody

(09:45):
and having to run the forty threetimes because when I ran into at four
four five, it was like,something's wrong with the watch. So let
me run that again, Billy.So we did that, and then they
had a punter, Bobby Scarpetto's namewas, and so everybody expected he was
going to be the punter. Andthen during practices when they had the special

(10:07):
teams practice, I would just gopunt as well. And it turned out
they let Scarpetal go. Of course, that was the last day of training
camp before they were either going toI was going to make it or not.
So I had a couple guys thatwere with me that got let go.

(10:28):
And that phone would ring, youknow, right before the breakfast.
So I said, I'm taking aphone off the hook for the last night,
and I'm thinking I'm going to makehim come to the knock on the
door if they're getting rid of me. No, phone call. I went
to the receiver meeting expecting if they'regoing to cut me, they'd tell me.
And Scar Pettal was a receiver aswell. There was no Scar Petal

(10:48):
and then the word got out thathe was going to go to Patriots.
Okay, and so they were pickingthem up. Did they keep you as
a punter or was a wide receiveror both both? Okay? Yeah,
I practiced, you know, inall the practices, every part of the
practices. I was a receiver andthen on special teams I was a punter.
So I got to do two things. So and you were a directional

(11:11):
punter. Tried to be. Yeah, talk about that a little bit,
because that's different, and a lotof guys aren't that these days. Well,
and I think a lot of theproblem that is the emphasis is put
on average yards per punt, andthey do now and they have for a
while subtracted the net yardage if youkick it into the end zone. But

(11:33):
when we played it, it wasmore important to kick it out of bounds
and prevent a return and let myguys know in the huddle which way we
were going. Of course, ifyou're backed up in your end zone or
you know, back deep in yourown side of the field. Then you
just got to vombit. But whenyou do directional and you still when you
punt directionally, you're kicking it reallyhard because if you don't get it where

(11:54):
you're trying, you want to besure that guy's not returning exactly. So
but what I would tell the guysin the huddle, we'd go spread punt
cover two. I'm kicking left orkicking right, and it really whichever hashmark
we were on would usually be theside we kicked to. And so we
worked on it. We set uptraffic cones at the twenty fifteen, ten
and five and try to kick itbetween the last two and had a lot

(12:16):
of success with it. Was itwas fun. You were very successful.
In nineteen seventy you were the puntyards leader in the NFL. The Broncos
named you to the top one hundredteam and they put out that top one
hundred players in twenty nineteen and fiveof your nine seasons you were a top
ten punter in the NFL. Soyou had a lot of success. But

(12:37):
it wasn't also just at punting,because you played other positions too and score
touchdowns as a wide receiver and arunning back. And that's all true,
and it was all fun, andI'm flattered to know that I was in
that fire those top five, youknow. But my biggest claim to fame,
I think is average for catch yardagebecause it's all over twenty yards.

(13:00):
Yeah, it is huge, twentyand a half yards of catch. You
had eighty two career catches, eleventouchdown passes, and then as a running
back thirteen carries one hundred and seventyone yards. Your one touchdown came on
a sixty six yard fake punt returnagainst the Oilers. That was against Houston.
That's exactly right. There's a storybehind that too, and that was

(13:20):
when John Rawlson was a coach.We had been watching the films of Houston
and their one side always collapse.They would just turn around and start trying
to set up a wall. Whenwe saw that in the films during the
week, we kind of thought ifwe needed it, that would be we'd
want to go that way, whichwas our left. We got down toward

(13:41):
the end of the game, andfrom my perspective, for no reason,
because we're leading the game, coachRawson calls time out. I think there
was less than two minutes left inthe game, and he goes over to
talk to the coach and he said, what about a fake I said,
fine with me, coach, dowhatever you want. We haven't practiced a
fake pun here in about three weeks. And he goes, yeah, but

(14:03):
remember I said, yeah, Iknow. Let me go find out which
side's collapsing. So Mike Simoni wasa linebacker, but he was a special
teams guy. He was a leftend and fran Lynch was the upback.
And so I said to fran hey, if we fake this, you got
your guy hooked on either side.So yeah, I got him either way.
Okay, so I have Simony leftside. What kind of a charge

(14:26):
is your guy going inside or outside? He goes, oh, he's going
inside. He's not even thinking aboutoutside. So I went back and said,
let's run to the left. Sowe fake a pun and went sixty
six yards. Wow. It wascrazy. That is crazy well, and
it's just so interesting to think abouthow different it was then. I mean,
there are no guys that do multiplepositions now, like at that extent

(14:48):
where you've got somebody that's on specialteams and also playing skilled positions on offense
as well, was anybody else doingthat at the time or pretty much just
you can't remember his And there wasanother punter I think he was on Cincinnati
that was listed as a receiver,but he never played. He just but
I think he was a backup receiver. You're just a special kind of athlete,

(15:11):
Billy. Did you know very lucky, very lucky? I don't know.
I don't think it's just luck.I mean there was hard work in
there too, But did you thinkabout it at the time or it was
just kind of what you did andyou just went out and played when you
could play, you just went outand played. I think Chicago had a
I think Bobby Joe Green I thinkwas his name, and he was also
a receiver punter, but when weplayed Chicago, he never he never ran

(15:35):
a pattern that I ever saw,and then look into game films, we
never saw him running at all.So there were I think it was Green
and that guy from Cincinnati I can'tremember. People would lose their minds today
if there were players playing that name. Well, I think I think part
of the getting away from letting someonebe a player as opposed to just a

(15:56):
punter or making them just a punteras they were injuries. Oh absolutely,
because if our backup punters, NorrisWeiss I think was one, he was
the emergency punter, but in caseyou got hurt. Yeah, it's always
funny to find out who the emergencypunter is. You're like, really,
yeah, gosh, don't let anything. Well. I think they put Norris

(16:18):
there because he could throw and thedefense would be worried about him faking it
right, so he'd have more timeto punt there because he'd walked about six
yards before he kicked the ball.It was hilarious as that ball is going
to go right down your throat partnera short but he never never punted.
So in the big deal, thegame has changed from when you played to
now. The technology has changed somuch. Do you look at today's game

(16:41):
and think, man, that wouldhave been really nice or I'm kind of
glad that we did it the waywe did it. I think in many
ways, I'm really happy the waywe did it. I wish we threw
the ball as much then as theydo now, Yeah, because I would
have had a lot more chances asa receiver because they're you know some games
you've if you had two catches,it was a big game, three catches

(17:03):
because you run the ball thirty fiveforty times. You know, you had
Floyd Little as a running back.He was an amazing running back. Last
year we had Otis Armstrong. ButI mean we had some really good running
backs, and that's what you focusedon. You know, there weren't many
teams, the Jets, when JoeNamath came in, Daryl Lamonica with the
Raiders, Greasy in Miami. Thoseguys had the guns, you know,

(17:26):
Bradshaw, So those teams kind ofcentered the offense around passing, whereas the
other guys it was three yards cloudof dust. That was football. And
it's funny to hear you say someof the names that you're saying because now
we've seen some of their kids,you know, being the game. You
mentioned fran Lynch, who I wentto college with. His son, Kevin
Lynch, you played at CSU,and then there's his son played you know.

(17:48):
I mean, it's just Scott playedtoo, exactly what his brother Scott
did safety. Yeah. Yeah,So it's just funny to think about the
lineage that goes through professional football orfootball just in general. And you know,
you mentioned Lusaban and just all thedifferent pieces of coaches and players in
there, and absolutely that's fun whereyou are now that you can kind of

(18:08):
look back and say, you know, you set this foundation a long time
ago. Yeah, And in thebeginning when I got here in sixty eight,
dem was starting to at least compete, it sounded like. And then
when they drafted Floyd they got himthe year before I came. That kind
of validated the team, I think, and it made it believable that they

(18:30):
might be able to do something.And the fans were great. I was
just going to ask you how thefans were. Were they unbelievable? They
were so positive and so encouraging.Wherever you go, they knew you.
And again there were probably a millionpeople here instead of three and a half
or four. Right. It wasdefinitely a community team. So you play
until nineteen seventy six, you getyour real estate license in nineteen seventy two.

(18:53):
And I always find it fascinating totalk to you guys from your era
where there were part time jobs inthe summer, there were other things you
were doing because you didn't make themillions and millions of dollars to sustain and
it was really almost a half notI mean maybe a three quarters of the
year job you had time off,whereas now it's a year round job basically.

(19:14):
So you get your real estate licensein seventy two, and do you
just start practicing then in the offseason. In the off season. Absolutely.
My brother when he got back fromVietnam, he came out here.
We got into real estate together.The first couple of years took some adjustment,
took learning, had contacts. Haveone guy that was doing development down
in Nevada and they were selling ithere in Colorado for people to go down

(19:38):
and have a vacation home. That'sa nice desert land for you. Yeah,
by late meat, I think though, so you you could go water
scan. But that kind of gotme started. But in reality, I
mean my rookie year, I madetwelve thousand bucks with the Broncos, the
league minimum, and so even thoughthings are dramatically different there, money wise,

(20:00):
still doesn't compare to where they arenow. I think the minimum in
the league is like four hundred thousands, right, And you're also not getting
paid during those months when you're notplaying, So there's that you get a
check after every game every Monday,when you go to the meetings. It's
hard to stretch that twelve thousand overthose few months when you're not playing.
Yeah, I think, I wishI remember. I think it was around

(20:22):
six hundred and seventy net a weeksomething like that, after holding out for
taxes and stuff. It's dramatically different. It was totally different than where it
is today. What's cool is nowhere we are fifty two years later and
you're still in real estate. Yeah, oh yeah, you got a whole
team, and you know, youcame in today and you were picking up

(20:44):
signs and you're still doing everything andI love it full speed. Yeah,
it's fun. I just love beingaround people, talking to people, helping
them when they you know, inreal estate you're helping people. You are
if you're good at what you do. You help people usually moving because of
a job, sometimes they're downsizing orwhatever. But if you can be helpful

(21:06):
and not be a stranger but bea friend, it works every time it
does. It's been fun. I'vehad a great time with There are a
lot of people that get in thebusiness to be able to take a vacation
and that's okay, and they doone deal a year or whatever, and
that pays for a vacation. Butfor those that are invested. You and
I are two. I feel likethat where we're helping people with the biggest

(21:26):
investment they'll ever make in their lifeand their life changing steps. For people,
you get into new communities, youhave new friends, me can change
an entire trajectory for a family ora person or a first time home buyer.
And I think that's really cool.And you've done it for You've seen
a lot of ups and downs.My mom got into nineteen seventy six so
shortly after you, so we livedups and downs growing up all the time.

(21:51):
And for you to still be doingit for this long and be so
successful is very impressive. It's beenfun. It's allowed me other time,
free time. I coached all myson's sports everything, whatever they played.
He played baseball, didn't play football, he played soccer. He didn't play
football until he got to Cherry CreekHigh School as a freshman, and then

(22:11):
he was a really good hockey player. So he got done after one practice
and he goes, Dad, youmind if I just play hockey. I
said, not at all. It'sgonna take a lot of pressure off for
you and me. Absolutely. Yeah. So he played up in Canada and
the juniors. Oh wow, heplayed up in Saskatchewan, but I coached
all his teams. It gave mea chance to do some radio stuff.

(22:33):
I didn't know that you worked atk Big. You mentioned that as we
sat down. Yep. And thenI also did the Wyoming football games for
a couple of years with Larry berLefi. I did the collar up there
and Dave Montgomery and then Jeane Bensonhad the CSU game. So I did
CSU for a year and that wasfun. That was pore fun. But
once Billy Junior got big enough andI had to stay home and coach,

(22:55):
there was no more broadcast radio.Radio was all done. Yeah, came
in second. You could come backto it. Though. You're good,
you're a natural. I'd be happyto do it. Yeah. No one's
called to say, hey, let'stry this all right. Well, I'm
going to keep it right here inmy head so that you let me know,
because it is fun. I gotto tell you it was every day.
It was a different day. Youknow, when you're doing that radio
show and you get these callers,and then you get to know a few

(23:19):
of them because you know they callconstantly. Remember Guy Pete Fathalioso's name has
had a pizza place and he wouldcall a quarter to nine, and I
go on the air at nine.He'd be on hold and he'd be the
first call every time, Billy,you know, one of those deals,
we'd have lunch at his place.I'd tell everybody that was listening, Hey,
we're going to go over to pizzaand have some pizza today. If

(23:41):
you'd like to join us, we'regoing to be over there, and you'd
have the place filled up and oh, that's cool. People standing out in
the parking lot. It was hilarious. How fun has it been for you,
Billy, to have been around Imean, to play nine seasons in
the NFL is something in and ofitself, just because careers you tripled the
average career basically. And then tostay around here, people know you.
You go to a lot of thealumni events, and people still know who

(24:03):
you are. It's very flattering.I grew up twenty miles from New York
City. I didn't necessarily want togo back there because in the summer of
my sophomore junior year Maryland, Iworked for Union car by downtown for a
summer job and rode the train inand out, did the commute thing,
and boy, at the end ofthe summer, I said, I don't
want to do this for the restof my life because all my buddies,

(24:26):
their dads seemed to get shorter asthey got older. Oh yeah, they
got to beat down. And Isaid, no. You know, when
I got out here and made theteam, I had to go back to
graduate. It was nine credits shortat Maryland. So I went back and
graduated and then came back. Andso this place is awesome. I'm never
leaving. These people are great,and it's just as you know, it's
a wonderful, wonderful can it's awesome. Had you been out west this far

(24:49):
before you came out to the Broncoswe played Oklahoma. Let's see, that
was my junior year. No,that was my senior year. We played
Oklahoma. That was as far asI had been out Okay, you're getting
off the plane looking at those mountainscoming here for training camp, right,
that was pretty impressive. I betit was. Wow. I still had
some We were out there in June, the end of June July and there's

(25:10):
snow on the mountains and going,wow, this is unbelievable. All my
calls home, I think I'm doingokay. I think I'm okay. I
hope I get to stay, youknow, one of these things because you
never know. You don't know,No, we're going to call you and
say bring your playbook. And soI was very lucky. How did things
end for you then in nineteen seventysix, did you make the own decision
or did somebody make it for you? The Broncos made it for me.
Okay. That was a result ofthe John Ralston situation. When the team

(25:37):
got together in a nutshell, misterPhipps, the owner, announced that he
was giving Rawson a new contract andwe're in San Diego. I think we're
favored, probably by ten or more. And got hammered because when he made
that announcement in the locker room,it went kind of quiet. You know,
Guys didn't jump up and give around of applause. Were there bad
vibes with coach Ralston? Yeah?And it wasn't just for me. There

(26:00):
were a number of guys. I'mnot going to name them because I have
not named him since this all wentdown. That basically turn coded said one
thing and did another. The teamtold mister Phipps. We told mister Phipps
that we didn't think coach Rawson couldtake us any further, that he had
basically gotten us as far as wecould go. And he told us that

(26:22):
coach Rawson was coaching the Senior Bowlgame, said don't say anything until he's
back. I want to talk tohim, and of course one of the
local reporters put it into the paper. Mister Phipps called and said, you
guys turned out here. So Isaid, well, I will check and
ask because we gave it to guysand asked him not to release it,

(26:42):
you know, just hold off untilwe get an announcement. And then Rawson
was coaching that Senior Bowl game.Mister Phipps said, you guys need to
go meet him at the office whenhe gets back and apologize for the statement,
and I'll talk to him about It'sfine with me. So of course

(27:02):
I called everybody that was at themeeting, showed up at six o'clock at
the offices and no one else camein, just you, yeah, and
so oh yeah. So I gotto talk to mister Ralston one on one
for about thirty seconds to a minutewhen he said, I need you to
pull that statement back. You guysneed to pull that statement back. And

(27:25):
I said, Coach, I can'tdo that on behalf of anybody or myself.
It's what we believe. We thinkyou've taken us as far as you
can take us. We need toget a change. He basically didn't didn't
say it very much, you know, And then I said I think we're
done and got up to leave.Well, coincidentally, koa couple of the
TV people were out front. Theyhad been told I guess that there was

(27:49):
going to be this get together withthe players and coach Ralston. Player yeah.
Really. SO started walking out andRawson Bill Bill, he says to
me, and I turn around.He comes up and gives me a big
hug in front of the TV cameras, and I know that was for effect,
and I pushed him back and said, I'll see you later, coach.

(28:11):
Next morning, I was going upto uh Greeley meet some people and
then we're going to go goo something. And I heard on the radio.
I went to the Broncos facilities toapologize to John Ralston for releasing the statement
early. I didn't say any otherplayers because just Billy, So I called
them called the KAA radio and saidlisten. I think it was Larry Zimmer

(28:34):
I called. I can't remember,but I said, listen, you got
to stop this. Because I didn'tgo to talk to Rawson and ask him
to stay. I went to tellhim that we released the statement early.
Shouldn't have done that, but westill believe the statement and that that was
it. So if you keep broadcastingthat, Larry, I'm gonna I'm gonna

(28:56):
have to come after you. I'mgoing to sue you because this isn't you
know. Yeah, that's not whathappened. So that stopped. I didn't
hear it after that, But thenI felt I could still play, but
they would not release me. Theywouldn't let me go until training camp open.
Then they made me a free agent. Oh yeah, And then I
went back. I was up inthe hills and it had to be end

(29:18):
of September early October. We werelistening to the Sportsman's Channel, the Hunting
Channel goes up with some friends ElKhunt. We heard this broadcast that the
Philadelphia Eagles were interested in locating apunter because they had had a problem with
their punter. And then when Igot home, there was a voicemail to

(29:38):
our message to please call. Andso I went back to Philadelphia and tried
out. Ken Aman played with thePackers, was now the special teams coach
for Philadelphia. He tied me intoforty still ran four or five and then
he's watching these punts and their hangtimeis around five seconds, some a little

(29:59):
longer, and he just shook andsaid, wow, he goes, we
just don't have that right now,and they had just had lost the game
with a block punt. So theysaid come in in the morning to talk
to coach for Meal on take forMeal was the head coach. Then yeah,
wow, yep, Dick Corey wasa receiver coach here for a while
he was there. So I wentin the next morning and basically was told
we're going to negotiate and figure outa contract instead. The owner, Leonard

(30:23):
Toast, said that he heard Iwas a radical. Couldn't afford to have
a radical person on a young team. When I walked into the locker room
for the tryout. Do you rememberBill Bergie, little linebacker, I don't.
He was a great player, hewas an all Pro. He picked
me up at the door and carriedme around the locker room and introduced me
to everybody. It was really itwas pretty cool. So I was deeply

(30:45):
disappointed, but realized at that pointit's over. The old boys kind of
ruined your name for you, didn'tthey It caught up? Yeah, yeah,
so wow. You know, Igot to say, truthfully, John
Rawlson had taken us as far ashe could take us. That's how you
felt. Yeah, absolutely, itwas proven. The next year, Red

(31:06):
Miller comes in to go to SuperBowl and I told coach Miller when he
came in, I said, you'regetting on a train that's loaded and heading
straight for the playoffs. We knewit as team, you know, as
players, we knew we had agreat defense, right, talk about the
guys that we had. Oh mygosh when the crush, Yeah, yep,
you had really a solid defense.And you win with defense in the

(31:30):
NFL. If you got a defense, you're going to win. It happened
many many times, and defense winschampionships. And so they were on the
way, no doubt. And thenthey brought Craig Morton in That was also
a huge help. Did Ralston coachthen that year that you got let go?
No? They oh no, hewas done. My understanding and I
mean, I don't know what tobelieve for sure, but mister Phipps said

(31:52):
that they were going to offer himthe opportunity to be a general manager because
and we all acknowledged he was agreat recruiter as far as understanding talent.
But of course the scouts help youwith that. You know, you draft
Gratis Shore, you draft the playersyou did for your defense, and what
a good job they were doing.He was good at that, but drafting

(32:14):
good players is different than being theCEO of a team and being a head
coach, right, and being ina meeting where you're at an offensive game
plan, and he kind of lookedbewildered. Well, Max Coley's going over
what the game plan is for Sunday, and he would ask some questions that

(32:34):
weren't relative. It was like whoawhere did that come from? Yeah,
that kind of thing. And onthat fake pun against Houston, he goes,
why don't we fake this? Andthen we don't have a chance of
a block punt or they could kicka field goal and make a fair catch
and kick a field goal. Whydon't we fake it? We're on the
thirty four yard line. It's apretty long field goal. To start with.
That's forty four yards plus the pun, the distance on the pun,

(32:58):
but he was alorridy about it gettingblocked. Guess again, I think he
was a great evaluator of talent,but I think running a game plan and
creating a game plan, I don'tknow that he really had He got his
hands around, and I don't knowif he really got around it. And
obviously that's when it changed when Redcame in and they went to the super
Bowl and had all those great years. Yeah, and I mean Rawson,

(33:19):
I think he got us the firstwinning season. He did some stuff,
but he let us. He wassmart to let his coach as coach.
The one thing that always puzzled us, I think us most of the guys.
We're at a mile high and wego to training camp in Pomona,
California. Oh you did back yes? One year? Oh okay, Rawson's
first year, he says, well, we're going to go to Pomona.

(33:42):
Well, it turned out that hisdad was in a nursing home, so
he wanted to be close to that. Well, and I'm all for that.
I get that, But when youhave the opportunity to train at a
mile high, be in better conditionsevery time every time. Yeah, got
it. Great athletes come here totrain to go compete at sea level.
Oh yeah, that's why the Olympictraining centers in the Springs exactly. Yeah,
makes a huge, huge difference.Yeah, so that was that was

(34:06):
a bit of a surprise. Yeah, interesting story. I've never heard that
one before, Billy. Yeah,well it's been out there. Yeah,
Oh, I'm sure. Yeah,And I think I think the guys that
were involved in the people that wereinside and part of it, they know
what's going on absolutely exactly. Yeah. So who do you stay in touch
with the most now of guys thateither you played with or maybe even that

(34:28):
came after you. I know,there's a there's a lot of different decades
and eras in the alumni group.It's just the guys that are local.
I see them, you know,at the different alumni meetings and different events.
I try to again, stay involvedwith all of the events, only
wait and give back. When youthink about it, how lucky we were
to be here and playing and bepart of the whole community. It's priceless.

(34:51):
Absolutely, it's absolutely a thrill.And every time you go to any
type of charity event, I know, We did a reading thing for the
kids a couple of weeks ago tothe school. They got another one coming
up, getting books and so on. That just connects you more with the
community absolutely, and the new ownershipgroup seems very committed to getting alumni back
involved again. We had some kindof iffy years in there in between mister

(35:14):
Bolan and now, but I reallyfeel like, especially Carry Penner, has
been very absolutely, very focused oncommunity involvement and the alumni well they are
you know, that is of utmostimportance for the whole community, especially as
it grows. You got the oldschool people here who are die hard Bronco
fans, and I think a lotof new ones aren't quite sure yet,
you know. Oh yeah, what'sall this enthusiasm. Yeah, that's all

(35:37):
the enthusiasm about. They're getting hammered, But there is there's a nucleus here
of fans. It's just incredible.And they've always been that way. They
have been diehard Bronco fans. Theairport would be full of people when we'd
fly back after games. Many timesthey'd have people there wishing us good luck
on the way out. Oh yeah, this is a great football town,

(35:58):
all right, Billy as we wrapup to as you look back on your
time, you know what happened,what went down with coach Ralston and kind
of that, I feel like youalmost got black balled a little bit from
being able to play again. I'llsay that you don't have to, but
you go through those ups and downs, and you know it's happened in real
estate. You've been through ups anddowns for fifty two years with market trends.

(36:20):
What do you do to always kindof keep going and keep moving forward?
And you stay You are young,You're in your seventies, and you
are do not look like you're inyour seventies at all. I don't feel
like it. Even after ten kneesurgeries and in the replacement, I still
don't work out pretty much every day, I can tell I try to stay
in front of it. I justtrying to keep going. I'm very lucky

(36:45):
in so many ways. It's hardto tell you. The man upstairs has
blessed me. I'll tell you rightnow. I'm just totally blessed, very
lucky to be around this long.Hopefully it goes for a while. I
want to watch my grandkids grow up. I want to stay involved. Do
you have any grandkids. Now Ihave three. My oldest is she's fifteen
and just turned fifteen. She hasDown syndrome, so she's my buddy buddy.

(37:05):
Yeah. Her sister Tess will befourteen, because they recommended when Mila
was born, if you're going tohave another kid, have a child soon
after so they can communicate and interestingtogether. Okay, And then I have
a four year old granddaughter. Oh. I suggested the name of Whoops.
They didn't seem to think that wasa very good idea. So because then

(37:27):
she'd know, yeah, Harlow,her name is Harlow. So those are
my three grandmothers. Oh my gosh. We have a blast, I bet
you doo. Yeah, we doa lot of good stuff. Mila wants
to get back doing some golfing thisspring, so we'll get her out to
the range and get her on thegolf course. I feel like you just
get up every day, Billy,with a gusto, and you've done that
for a very long time, andthat's what's kept you going pretty much.

(37:51):
I'm very very lucky. That's awesome. Hey, thanks for the time today.
This has been so much fun.I appreciate it me. I appreciate
it too. Thanks you. Let'sdo it again. Yeah, thank you,
Billy Van. New episodes of Cut, Traded, Fired, Retired are
released weekly on nearly every podcast platform. Get social with the podcast on Twitter
and Instagram at CTFR podcast, andcheck out the website ctfurpodcast dot com.

(38:15):
I'm your host, Susie Wargen.To find out more about me, visit
Susiewarton dot com. Thanks so muchfor listening, and until next time,
please be careful, be safe,and be kind. Take care
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