Former Denver Broncos coach John Fox, whose father was a U.S. Navy SEAL, always lauded Ben Garland's vocational tenacity. Fox consistently said Garland's chances of contributing with the Broncos were never out of the question because he was "trained by the best in the world."
And Garland, a graduate of the Air Force Academy who currently serves in the Colorado Air National Guard, is now in his sixth year with some sort of association with the Broncos and staring squarely at his best chance for significant playing time. Garland came to the Broncos as a defensive tackle, spent 2014 on the team's roster, two years on the team's practice squad and was on reserve/military during his two years of active duty in the Air Force.
Now, with a little good fortune mixed with those years of next-level work ethic, Garland is in the mix as the Broncos search for three starters in the offensive line.
"I've gone through a lot of training camps, a lot practices and I think I'm more like a third-year guy," Garland said Wednesday at the Broncos' suburban Denver complex. "But at the same time I've done all the stuff and I've been working on it.”
Garland was moved into the offensive line by Fox's staff in 2013. And he's advanced enough to be one of the players the Broncos will consider for their left guard spot. Coach Gary Kubiak has said long-term he believes Garland, because of his intelligence and movement skills, could be a center as well.
But at the moment Garland, Shelley Smith and Michael Schofield, if Schofield does not win the right tackle job, are all players Kubiak has said are in the mix at left guard. The Broncos are looking for new starters at left guard, right tackle and center.
Last season, Garland was in uniform for eight games and played 47 offensive snaps, 36 of them against the Oakland Raiders in the regular-season finale. For his part, Garland still credits former Broncos assistant Alex Gibbs, who worked on Fox's staff in 2013, with his current opportunity.
That season Gibbs worked with the practice squad offensive linemen, including Garland, every day after practice.
"It was key having Alex Gibbs," Garland said. "I don't think I'd be where I am without his coaching and mentorship. I'd go into his office and just pick his brain. To be able to learn from the guy who essentially created the zone scheme, that's really helped my progress."
Garland said he's also stayed in contact with Will Montgomery. Montgomery, who spent the 2014 season with the Broncos and started eight games at center to close out the season worked in former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan's offense with the Washington Redskins.
Kubiak was Shanahan's offensive coordinator for 11 seasons with the Broncos and runs a similar offense.
"Every single day I'm going to work as hard as I can to get better, and hopefully I can make this team better because of it," Garland said. " ... I've talked to Will Montgomery ... he taught me a lot because he used to be in the zone scheme for a long time. To be able to pick his brain about what's helped him and different techniques and what to work on, that's really helped me."