AVALANCHE

The top 20 Colorado sports stories of 2020: Nos. 11-15

Jan 11, 2021, 6:00 AM
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It was a year that most people were happy to put in the rearview mirror, as 2020 was one piece of bad news after another. It was time to gladly turn the page when “Auld Lang Syne” was played. It was a year to forget.

That said, there were a lot of moments that will be remembered for years to come. Some of them were even positive ones.

On the Colorado sports scene, it was another crazy year. Here’s a look back on the 20 biggest stories from the craziest year in recent history:

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15. Broncos load up on wide receivers in the draft

Heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, most people thought the Broncos would take an offensive tackle. The consensus was that Garett Bolles was a bust, so Denver needed to find his replacement. That’s what made their pick at No. 15 so surprising.

Jerry Jeudy had been hailed as the best wide receiver in the best wide receiver class of all-time. That’s high praise, but something almost every draftnik said about the Alabama star. So when he fell to the Broncos, the team jumped on the chance to bolster their passing game.

In round two, it was even more surprising when John Elway doubled down and took another wideout. This time, he grabbed Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler. With all of the needs the Broncos had going into the draft, it was shocking that they ignored them all in the first two rounds, instead loading up on new targets for quarterback Drew Lock.

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14. CU starts the season 4-0, earns bowl bid

Heading into the 2020 season, very little was expected of the Buffaloes. In their first year under head coach Karl Dorrell, most thought CU would finish near the bottom of the Pac-12 South. Given a crazy COVID-altered offseason, it seemed unrealistic that there’d be many wins in Boulder.

When the season finally got started November, Colorado was one of the biggest surprises in college football. Wins over UCLA, Stanford, Arizona and San Diego State had them at 4-0, earning the Buffs a spot in the top-25 poll.

In their season finale, with a potential trip to the Pac-12 title game on the line, the clock struck midnight. CU lost to Utah, ending their undefeated season. But Dorrell’s team did earn a trip to the Alamo Bowl, where they fell to Texas.

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13. Jerami Grant signs with the Pistons

Last season, Jerami Grant became an integral part of the Nuggets. By the time the playoffs started in the bubble, he was arguably Denver’s third-best player. In the postseason, he played more than 34 minutes per game, averaging 11.6 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Heading into the offseason, re-signing Grant was the team’s No. 1 priority. No matter what else happened, keeping the forward on the roster was vital. He’d be taking over as a starter, filling the void left if the team didn’t keep Paul Millsap.

That’s why it came as such a shock when Grant signed a three-year, $60-million deal with the Pistons. Supposedly, the Nuggets had offered him the same money. But he chose instead to leave a starting role with a championship contender to play in Detroit.

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12. Chris Harris Jr. and Derek Wolfe leave via free agency

Super Bowl 50 seems like a long, long time ago. Five straight years of missing the playoffs, including four-consecutive sub-.500 campaigns, will have that effect. That championship feels like ancient history.

In part, this is because there aren’t a lot of people still around from that team. Gary Kubiak is gone. So is Wade Phillips. Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were traded. Heck, even John Elway will be gone soon.

In March, the exodus continued, as two key members of the Broncos defense, the group that carried them to a title, departed via free agency. When Chris Harris Jr. signed with the Chargers and Derek Wolfe inked a deal with the Ravens, it left just Von Miller and Brandon McManus as holdovers from the championship team.

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11. Mel Tucker departs

During his first season as the head coach at the University of Colorado, Mel Tucker had a decent season. It wasn’t spectacular, but there were some encouraging signs en route to a 5-7 finish. Yes, that was the same as his predecessor had posted in his final season, but there was excitement in Boulder.

That all came crashing down in early February when Tucker bolted for Michigan State. After just one season, his run with the Buffaloes was done, as he took the money and ran. That was shocking. It made people feel scorned, deserted and despondent.

The way Tucker did it made things even worse. Repeatedly, he denied that he was interested in the Michigan State job. He went so far as to say he had removed his name from consideration. All the while, even in the midst of mingling with CU boosters, he was negotiating his multi-million contract.

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Last week, we looked at Nos. 16-20

Next week, we take a look back at Nos. 6-10

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The top 20 Colorado sports stories of 2020: Nos. 11-15