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Tyrone Braxton is a legend in Denver for his work on the football field. He was an All-Pro safety and a key member of the Broncos late-’90s championship teams. But what people may not know is that Braxton overcame extraordinary odds to achieve success on the gridiron. His mother was a single parent, raising five children on her own. His older brothers ran into legal trouble by the time he entered high school and the only positive male role model in young Braxton’s life was his football coach.
“I wasn’t a terribly great student when I began college at North Dakota State University and a lot of people told me that I couldn’t even play college football,” he reminisced. “I had no dreams of making it in the NFL, but I just wanted to be a coach like my high school football coach and help kids who were like me.”
But he noted that when you set your goals high, things turn out even better than what you imagine. He learned how to study, raised his GPA and was drafted by the Broncos in his senior year. He was considered undersized for the NFL and was said to lack elite speed, but he never let other people’s expectations define his game. What he may have lacked in physical prowess, he more than made up for with hard work and heart. And it was those gifts he wanted to share with others when he retired from football.
“I won two Super Bowl rings and was an All-Pro safety. But I wanted to do more with my life,” he said.
“I had to reflect and look into myself to figure out who I was. What kind of legacy would I leave? I realized that I wanted to be in a helping profession. And that’s when I started researching what I could do, and I talked to some MSU Denver professors, finally deciding to go back to school to get an advanced degree.”
But it was genuinely intimidating for Braxton, even more so than the 300-pound players he faced regularly with the Denver Broncos. “I had been out of school for so long. Going into a classroom where I didn’t know anyone and knowing that I was 40 years old – it was actually scarier than playing the Super Bowl,” he confessed. “But you know what? I did really well. The program helped me gain confidence in myself, knowing that I could do whatever I set my mind to accomplish. And I saw my fellow students gain the same kind of confidence. I learned to trust myself.”
Braxton graduated from the Master of Social Work Program in 2014 and has gone on to serve as a clinical case manager at Mental Health Center Denver, where he works with parolees as they reintegrate into society. He helps them with logistics like housing, transportation, work, and ultimately, “to help them think about their future and succeed at what they do within the confines of the law.” Thanks to his work, Braxton is becoming something of a legend off the football field, too.
Photo: Denver Broncos Team Photography