A Colorado original

He is such a familiar presence on the Denver media landscape that it’s easy to forget just how unusual and varied Dave Logan’s list of career accomplishments is. But the Denver Athletic Club’s announcement this week that it will honor him with its Career Achievement Award next month was a timely reminder.

I first met Logan in the summer of 1984, just after the Broncos acquired him from the Cleveland Browns for a fourth-round draft choice. Although we were born the same year, he was an old NFL receiver and I was a young sportswriter.

Entering his ninth season as an NFL possession receiver, Logan had a reputation for great hands and the courage to catch balls over the middle and take the vicious hits that came with them. Because of his height and athletic ability, the Browns occasionally used him as a safety in Hail Mary situations, which accounts for the lone interception on his resume, off Atlanta’s Steve Bartkowski.

He was coming home to a place where he had starred at Wheat Ridge High School, winning the Denver Post‘s Gold Helmet Award as the state’s top senior football player, scholar and citizen, and at the University of Colorado, where he lettered in both football and basketball. He was drafted by baseball’s Cincinnati Reds as a high school senior, and by the Browns and basketball’s Kansas City Kings as a college senior. Dave Winfield is the only other athlete to be drafted in all three sports.

The prospect of coming home was so attractive to him that he lobbied the Browns to make the deal, but his return did not work out as he had hoped. Why Broncos coach Dan Reeves traded for him was never really clear. He stuck him behind Steve Watson, the Broncos’ top receiver, where he seldom got a chance to play. In four games, Logan caught one pass for three yards after catching 37 for 627 the season before.

Strangely, Reeves then moved him to H-back, the Broncos’ second tight end, a position Logan had never played. In his first game there, against his former team, Logan was asked to block Pro Bowl linebacker Chip Banks, then blamed for not doing it successfully.

No wide receiver would ever have been given such an assignment. Logan, it seemed, was being set up. Four weeks into the season, Reeves cut him.

Logan had every right to be bitter. He had been the Browns’ leading receiver in 1983. He had come home for this?

The yellowed clipping from the Rocky Mountain News is dated Sept. 27, 1984. Here’s a passage from the perplexed piece I wrote at the time:

Logan, who never uttered a discouraging word despite finding himself a fourth (or fifth) receiver after seven years of starting in Cleveland, would not knock the Broncos even after he was waived Wednesday.

“The only thing I can understand from the whole situation is for a guy that’s played eight years, if they weren’t going to give me any playing time, it would be better for the team to bring in a young receiver they could develop,” he said. “If I were on their side, I would feel the same way.”

I tried to get him to rip Reeves, believe me. He wouldn’t do it. This was my first experience watching Logan take the high road. It would not be my last.

We pay a lot of attention these days, as we should, to the difficulties former players have when their careers are over. So many of them struggle to find an identity beyond what they used to be. Everybody’s All-American, the Frank Deford novel later made into a movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange, captures the sadness of a life lived in the rearview mirror.

Logan never looked back. Rather than chase a fading playing career in the usual way, trying to make another team in training camp the following summer, Logan settled down in his hometown and started looking around for a new career. The things he has accomplished since would each be a highly satisfying life for many of us. That they are combined on one resume is extraordinary.

He began his media career as a radio talk show host, a role he continues today, more than 20 years later, as host of the Dave Logan Show on 850 KOA. He parlayed his background as a former player to become a color analyst on Nuggets and Broncos broadcasts and telecasts.

In 1996 he broke out of the stereotype by moving from the analyst’s chair to the play-by-play chair on Broncos broadcasts. This fall will mark his 17th as the voice of the Broncos. Catch a Broncos highlight on national TV, whether it’s John Elway from the championship years or Tim Tebow from last season, and it’s Logan’s trademark call you’ll hear on the voiceover.

For lots of folks in my trade, the media business, this would be a hugely successful career all by itself, without the talk show or the history as a player. There are only 32 local NFL play-by-play voices, and many fewer than that who last long enough to become institutions in the role.

But long ago, Logan also began indulging his passion for the game and for young people in another way. He kicked off his high school coaching career at Arvada West in 1993, moved to Chatfield in 2000 and Mullen in 2003. This fall, he begins a new chapter in his coaching career at Cherry Creek.

In 19 seasons, he has taken his teams to the playoffs 17 times and won six championships in the state’s highest classification. It’s well known that he donates his coaching salary to his assistants.

Each of these careers — as a player, a coach and a media personality — has been remarkably successful in its own right. That they have all been accomplished by the same person would be hard to imagine if Logan didn’t make it look so easy. As we know from watching the best athletes perform, that’s the mark of the great ones.

“Dave is arguably the most versatile and accomplished sportsman produced in Colorado,” Broncos vice president and unofficial Colorado sports historian Jim Saccomano posted on Twitter when he heard about the DAC’s decision to bestow its Career Achievement Award.

“Logan is the only prep coach in history to win six state titles in the highest classification of play with three separate schools in one state,” Saccomano wrote. “That stat is for all 50 states. Next highest is a coach with three titles. Logan has six. That’s an astonishing statistic.”

Saccomano did not make this up. A couple of years ago, he had Broncos media relations folks call the high school athletic associations of all 50 states to see if anybody else had won titles at the highest classification with three different schools. They found one who had done it. He had a total of three titles.

Here’s another piece of research courtesy of the veteran Broncos publicist: Only three former NFL players have made the transition from color analyst to play-by-play man — Pat Summerall, the late Tom Brookshier and Dave Logan. That makes Logan the only former player doing play-by-play today.

As his current partner on the talk show, I have a front row seat to his influence in Colorado. Not a week goes by when at least one fan doesn’t call to thank him for the thrills his Broncos calls have provided. When Mullen unaccountably let him go earlier this year, he was flooded with missives from former players and parents of would-be future players. The impact he had on these people, and the emotions they expressed about it, were sometimes overwhelming.

As he did when the Broncos cut him nearly 28 years ago, Logan took the high road. He offered not a word of criticism of his former employer. He urged angry Mullen students and parents to calm down. It’s the way he was raised and the way he’s wired: In everything you do, show class.

He is a fiercely loyal son and father. He could have been on at least two NFL coaching staffs if he had different priorities. As someone fortunate enough to call him a friend, his unbending sense of right and wrong is the most impressive thing about him, even more than any of the career accomplishments for which he’ll be honored.

Living in a world with more than its share of glad-handers and self-promoters — and if you’re wondering whether I’m talking about athletes, coaches, school administrators or media types, the answer is yes — Logan’s idea of the right way to live is deeply old-school. Bring up his achievements and he will swiftly change the subject. Ask for a memory and he will almost certainly give you a funny, self-deprecating one.

I didn’t tell him I was going to write this because if I had, he would have asked me not to. But just think about the exclusive clubs of which he’s a member: One of only two men in the nation to have been drafted in three sports; one of only three former NFL players to become NFL play-by-play voices; the only high school coach to have amassed six championships in his state’s highest classification at three different schools.

Saccomano and the DAC are right. His achievements put Logan in a class by himself. But it’s the values he’s maintained along the way that make him a Colorado original.

About Dave Krieger

Dave Krieger is a recidivist newspaperman. View all posts by Dave Krieger

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