- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Josh McKinley drives six hours each way to watch his beloved Broncos.

The blacktop may be a hockey rink, the snow drifts might look ready to swallow a semi and blowing snow might make it tough to see the next reflector post.

It doesn’t matter. He has tickets. He is getting to the game.

“It’s a long drive, and there’s a lot of planning and preparation that go into it,” said McKinley, a police officer at Sheridan College.

He is one of a legion of fans who hail from Wyoming, but call the Denver Broncos their home team. For these diehards, even home games are on the road.

Today, they’ll be glued to television sets when the Broncos face off against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Those who live in the Cowboy State don’t agree with their southern neighbors on much. But when it comes to supporting the Broncos, some Wyoming fans are just as loyal as their Colorado counterparts.

- The ride

LaVonne Jenkins has suffered her share of Super Bowl heartaches and heroics in “50-something years” of Broncos fandom.

Jenkins is a Colorado native who inherited her Broncos passion from her parents.

“We didn’t hunt and fish, we watched the Bronco games,” Jenkins laughed.

Now a nine-year Upton resident, Jenkins’ love affair with the Broncos rolls on.

She started toying with painting her blue 2001 PT Cruiser almost as soon as she bought it. Her ride now sports a white top and hood and an orange mane flowing from each front hubcap across the front and rear doors of the car.

Jenkins doesn’t regret her decision.

“I drive it proudly everywhere,” Jenkins said. “I get some unkind things once in a while from a Raider fan or two we happen to pass by, but mostly everyone loves it and thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world.”

It would have fit in well during her recent Denver trip. Jenkins said she was just one in a sea of orange-bedecked fans milling on the streets. Downtown, sprawling orange banners hung from buildings, and blue and orange lights blinked in skyscraper windows.

“That’s all anyone here is talking about,” Jenkins said. “It just brings back all those memories.”

One of her fondest memories was meeting pro bowl safety Billy Thompson, a staple of the famous Orange Crush defense. She was in the crowd when he helped the Broncos topple the hated Oakland Raiders in the 1977 AFC championship game. Jenkins met Thompson shortly after the Super Bowl loss. She spent an hour reminiscing with him about the season. She remembers trying to stave off the biting February chill, hoping to make the moment last.

“It was pretty special,” Jenkins said.

- The snap

The company of other nutty sports fans, and the roar of the home crowd hooked Casperite Susan Frank on Broncomania.

She was raised in Wyoming as part of a football family - her grandpa is in the Nebraska Cornhuskers hall of fame - but she never really understood the attraction until she attended her first live NFL game.

“It’s really different to be at the game,” Frank said. “It’s fine to be in the warmth and comfort of your own home, with all the conveniences, but it’s a blast to be at the game.”

She and her husband, Steve, have bought shares of their friend’s season tickets for six years now. They like joining fellow season ticket holders in the northern end of the stadium for the pre-game theatrics. She knows them all by the jerseys they wear. The Franks wear no. 96 - Wyoming alumnus Mitch Unrein’s number.

“We’ve all had the same seats forever,” Frank said. “You know the faces. It’s part of the fun.”

Frank took Steve to his first game, too. They’ve been avid - her doctor may even say rabid - fans ever since.

Frank hurt her ankle Jan. 1. Hoping it was a sprain, she spent the next week trying to shrug it off. When she finally went to the doctor, she found out it was broken.

She needed surgery but also had two tickets to the divisional playoff game against the San Diego Chargers that Sunday.

It was a no-brainer, of course.

“I mean, I had tickets, right?” Frank scoffed. “I wasn’t going to miss the game.”

She scheduled the surgery for Monday and jetted to Denver with her husband.

Her doctor told wheelchair-bound Frank to stay home from the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots the following week. It was a nice thought.

The handicapped sticker meant she snagged a great parking spot.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com

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