JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- There are moments, some big, some small, when the son thinks of his father, thinks of his mother. Perhaps it's a ring of the phone, a knock at the door, just the day-to-day things that play out in a life that nudge a memory to the front.
And when Eric Studesville stepped down from the bus that carried the Denver Broncos from the airport to the hotel that would be their home for most of Super Bowl week, he had one of those moments. As the front doors to a well-appointed lobby slid open and he walked inside, he thought, just for a tick of the clock, that they would be there.
"My dad would have wanted to be here so bad -- I know he's watching, both of them are watching -- but he wanted so badly for me to experience this, that's what he wanted. My mom did too. They talked about it quite a bit," Studesville said. "To be here without them is hard. But they would have been here the beginning of the week; there's no way they would have waited until Thursday when the families were supposed to come in. They would have been at our hotel when we landed on Sunday, sitting in the lobby waiting for us. He would have been sitting there in his Broncos hat. They would have been in all of their gear. They would have been here waiting on us. I looked when we walked in and it really did take me a second to sort of know they weren't there."
Studesville is the only child of Al and Jan Studesville. The Broncos' running backs coach considers himself a product of their guidance and love, which is the very foundation of why he is so close to achieving his profession's ultimate goal.
Studesville's parents were killed in June 2013 when, police said, an 18-wheeler crossed the center line on a highway in the Texas Panhandle and struck the couple's motorcycle head-on. The two were pronounced dead at the scene. Al was 67, Jan 68.
Eric Studesville was suddenly in an emotional place he didn't expect to be, dealing with the aftermath of sorting through his parents' lives and affairs.
"Right then, you're just trying to help," Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball said. "That's what we tried to do -- at least I hope we helped him in some way. I hope that he knows that we love him, because we do love him. I think for us, other than just saying words, just being around him helped him, because you can't say you know how he feels because you probably don't. So, just support him, just be there."
A team, at least on the inside, is often an open book of life. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey has often compared it to a small town, where everybody you pass on the street each day knows of your victories, your trials, your stumbles, your happiness and sadness.
Some days were harder than others, some days were excruciating, and some days simply reminded Studesville of the common experiences people have when loved ones die. The running backs are frequent visitors to Studesville's home, including this past Thanksgiving.
"Work kind of became that place where I focused in on a task in front of me," Studesville said. "You had all of these things to deal with all around, family and other things, just to take care of. But the people around me, my wife, my kids, friends, people I know from Madison [Wis.], just so many people ... everybody collectively is just trying to fill in that hole in my heart, my life, and they are doing a great job. I feel so blessed."
Studesville is a take-care-of-it kind of guy. In 2010, when the Broncos' season dissolved into what would be a 4-12 finish, after Josh McDaniels had been fired in the wake of the losing and a Spygate scandal, the Broncos looked to Studesville.
Though he was in just his first season as the Broncos' running backs coach, the Broncos asked Studesville to be the team's interim head coach. They asked Studesville to be out front as the team began its dig out from what current football boss John Elway has called "rock bottom."
When John Fox was hired as coach, he retained Studesville, and in the seasons that have followed running back Knowshon Moreno recovered from major knee surgery and from a tenuous roster spot to be a key piece in a record-setting offense. The Broncos signed QB Peyton Manning and put together back-to-back 13-3 seasons on the way to this Super Bowl trip.
"I'm pushing myself right now, and I can hear his voice at times, just telling me to finish what we started," Studesville said. "So you keep focusing on the task and remember to enjoy everything about it."
When the Broncos defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game to earn a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII, Studesville felt the confetti fall, exchanged hugs, and watched the Lamar Hunt trophy passed from person to person.
"Moments like that you think of where you've been, what you've done, the people who believed in your, your family and how important they are to you," Studesville said. "And then, by the time the game ended to the time I got to my locker, I had 111 text messages. I can't bring my parents back, but I can live the way I think is right, the way they think is right -- but just the support I've received from every part of my life is humbling. It's truly humbling."