PUEBLO — The NFL’s conference championships are this weekend, and in Broncos Country, chances are you’re rooting for the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills, but you may want to reconsider that.
Why should you root for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom Brady’s Buccaneers? That’s a good question, and the answer lies within the CSU Pueblo football program. Chiefs defensive lineman Mike Pennel and Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen are playing in the AFC and NFC championship games.
“I sent them texts just congratulating them and said ‘keep it going, put your head down and go to work and enjoy these moments,'” CSU Pueblo Head Football Coach John Wristen, said. “They both responded and said coach we’re having a lot of fun.”
Pennel, who entered the league in 2014, is playing in his second consecutive AFC championship game, and already earned a Super Bowl ring when the Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV last February. He spent his senior season at CSUP in 2013 after stints a Scottsdale Community College and Arizona State.
“I remember the first time I saw him. I said that’s the biggest dude I’ve ever seen,” Wristen said of Pennel who’s listed at 6’4, 332 lbs. “I looked out my window and I see him do a backflip right after that…You just saw a pro right there because of his size and athletic ability.”
In the NFC, Jensen is in his seventh season in the league and is playing in his first conference championship game, but he can lean on at least one teammate, Tom Brady, who knows a thing or two about winning.
“It’s funny,” Wristen said. “We’ve seen more Ryan Jensen than we have in his previous seven years because he’s snapping to the G.O.A.T, so I call him Ryan Jensen the GOAT snapper and it’s really fun.”
Coupling his athleticism and tenacity on the field, Wristen saw the Colorado native had potential early on.
“I remember him taking our all-league defensive end on his first real snap of playing tackle and ran him all the way to the track,” Wristen said. “I looked at my line coach and said we got something special and sure enough look where he is.”
So even in Broncos County, where everyone hates the Chiefs and essentially no one likes Tom Brady, it’s safe to say Coach Wristen is rooting for Kansas City and Tampa Bay to head to Super Bowl LV.
“You’re dang right,” he said. “I want the red, white, and blue of CSU Pueblo represented on Super Bowl Sunday.”