ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - For Owen Daniels, this is heaven.
His quarterback is Peyton Manning.
His coach is Gary Kubiak.
And he’s living in Colorado.
Daniels smiled at the mention of each of these benefits as the Broncos began their final week of offseason workouts Monday.
The big tight end from the University of Wisconsin reunited with Kubiak, who’s been at his side for his entire NFL career, and he brings pedigree to a position where Manning lost Pro Bowler Julius Thomas in free agency.
In what he calls “a big bonus,” Daniels gets to watch the ferocious spring storms roll over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains and swirl across the sky before re-gathering in a fury over the Great Plains.
Perfect for a weather geek like him.
Daniels majored in meteorology in Madison and has made occasional appearances on TV talking about forecasts and football, like the time he worked alongside Al Roker two years ago.
Daniels’ interest in the climate dates to his childhood in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago. Like many kids, he was scared of storms, terrified of thunder, phobias he tackled before ever picking up a football.
“I remember seeing funnel clouds by my house growing up,” Daniels said. “If there was some strong winds blowing through, I kind of freaked out.”
So, he set out to learn all he could about watches and warnings, troughs and twisters. A hobby took shape as his curiosity conquered his anxiety.
“The fear turned into an excitement and an adrenaline rush,” said Daniels. “As I got older, I became less of a wimp about it. I started to think it was really, really cool.”
When friends dropped by his house they were just as likely to see Daniels absorbed in The Weather Channel as MTV or ESPN.
When he went to Wisconsin, he dived into atmospheric and oceanic studies.
“That was kind of a rude awakening because the classwork and the workload are just ridiculous,” Daniels said. “I remember I had three semesters of calculus, three semesters of calculus-based physics, aerodynamics, differential equations, all stuff that really weeds people out. Your casual weather geek might not want to stick around and do all that work.”
“I still love it. Right now I’m paying attention to this tropical storm that’s going to run through Houston,” where Daniels maintains his offseason home.
When he’s not catching passes from Manning or blocking for him, Daniels is often sky-gazing.
“It’s amazing. I have never had this kind of perspective on the weather,” Daniels said. “You have peaks and valleys in the Denver area, so it seems like you can see forever.”
One day last week, Daniels was so enthralled by “this ridiculous thunderstorm complex” that he pulled over to snap photos from his car on his way home from minicamp.
“It’s crazy. Every picture was different,” Daniels said. “Being in Houston, you don’t get that perspective. It’s so flat down there you can’t see too far. It’s obstructed views. Here, it’s unbelievable to see that type of stuff.”
After watching spring snowstorms in April and May, Daniels is eager to see what the summer, fall and winter brings.
“For a weather person, it’s exciting because you get to see everything. From day to day can be totally different. From morning to night,” Daniels said. “It’s just more volatile because you get the hot air and then if you get a tropical flow from the south, you get those air masses combining with each other.
“It’s a recipe for some awesome stuff happening,” he said, smiling at the thought.
Then, looking around, he leaned in closer, whispering, “If you’re into that weather stuff.”
He doesn’t broadcast his weatherman ambitions, but some of his teammates know this and they’ll ask him what kind of cloud that is or will it rain this afternoon?
Daniels figures he’ll be putting his meteorology degree to work one of these days, saying, “You can’t play football forever and I’m going to want to do something when I’m done.”
First, he wants to experience a rain of confetti that’s eluded him.
“I’m just trying to win a championship - or help a team win a championship,” Daniels said. “So, to me this is the best place to be doing this. You know how much Peyton wants to win. You know how much Kubiak wants to win. And Colorado’s beautiful.”
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