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Where are they now: Karl Mecklenburg
By James Weiner
MondayNightFootball.com

No one believed Karl Mecklenburg would turn out to be an All-Pro linebacker in the NFL while he was growing up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. But that's exactly what happened.

Karl Mecklenburg
Karl Mecklenburg made 79.5 sacks during his 12-year Denver career.

After spending two years at tiny Augustana College in Sioux City, S.D., Mecklenburg transferred to Big Ten school Minnesota for a chance at the big time.

Mecklenburg caught the eye of Denver Broncos scouts his senior year in a game against Northwestern. While going through film of Wildcat Chris Hinton, the scouts saw Mecklenburg get two sacks off the All-American tackle. The Broncos wound up taking Hinton in the first round with the fourth overall pick. In the 12th and final round, with the 310th overall selection, the Broncos took Mecklenburg.

Hinton did not play a game for the Broncos and was traded to the Baltimore Colts as part of the package for the rights to John Elway. Mecklenburg played with the Broncos for twelve seasons, was a six-time Pro Bowler, recorded 100 or more tackles in five consecutive seasons, and finished with 79.5 sacks, second in team history. He also played in three Super Bowls.

Today, Mecklenburg lives in Littleton, Colo., with his wife and three children.

MondayNightFootball.com: What are you doing now?

Karl Mecklenburg: I coach football at Kent Denver High School here in Denver. I enjoy that. I have a number of different promotional things I am doing here in town. I also do a lot of motivational speaking for businesses.

MondayNightFootball.com: You retired in 1994 and were not able to win a Super Bowl. Were you envious watching the Broncos win it all in 1997 and 1998?

Mecklenburg: No, I really wasn't. I felt like I had a part of that. We had some good teams, but just personnel-wise, they were better than we were. They deserved to win. They had a dozen guys who could start on any team. We had maybe six guys who could start on any team. That makes a difference when you get in that type of game. The type of teams we had, everyone who was a Pro Bowl-caliber player had to play his very best for us to win. And that doesn't happen every single game.

MondayNightFootball.com: What was the single fondest memory of your NFL career?

Mecklenburg: Probably winning the 1986 AFC Championship Game the first time out in Cleveland. It was us against the world. They didn't even let us sleep that night. We were in a downtown hotel that was kind of a tower with an alley around it. They drove around our hotel, honking their horns and barking all night. It was unbelievable. We would get off the bus and head into the locker room and just get pelted with dog bones. It was an experience like none I've ever had before. And to go in there, in that hostile of an environment, and win, was just an unbelievable feeling.

MondayNightFootball.com: How thankful are you that your entire 12-year career was with one team?

Mecklenburg: Players don't realize, but when they do finally have to retire, their only resume is the goodwill they have developed in the community where they've played. Having been fortunate enough to be here in Denver - where there's the best fans in the world anyway - and be here for my whole career and have the chance to develop that sort of goodwill is just an awesome situation. And it allows me to do what I'm doing now - with the motivational speaking and the promotional work. It was a great deal for me.

MondayNightFootball.com: What was it like to go from 12th-round pick to starting middle linebacker?

Mecklenburg: I felt like I was going to make it right from the start. Actually, I got an apartment before John Elway did. I was overconfident and foolish. I never lacked for confidence in my own ability. It was just a matter of getting the opportunity. And that was one of the great things about playing for Dan Reeves. If you could play, no matter whether you were a free agent or a late-round draft pick, he was going to give you that opportunity. And some situations aren't like that. You come in and if you're not one of the high draft picks, you just don't have a chance to make it.

MondayNightFootball.com: Did you have any interaction with the kids at Columbine High School?

Mecklenburg: I live a mile away from the high school. I spoke with a lot of those kids, and I got to know them fairly well. That was a horrible situation. But it's amazing, the resiliency of those kids. They're tougher than any NFL guys I know. It's an amazing thing watching them recover and get on with their lives.

MondayNightFootball.com: What do you remember about our classic game, Oct. 17, 1994: Kansas City 31, Denver 28?

Mecklenburg: I remember hitting Marcus Allen and making him fumble and us going ahead and thinking that we had won the game. Then we gave the ball back to Joe [Montana] with a minute-something left, and he did what Joe does best. He moved them right down the field. It was a game of emotions, back-and-forth, back-and-forth.

 
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