Posted Wed Nov 17th by Jon Heath
Last Sunday, the Broncos’ rookie Quarterback Tim Tebow threw his first NFL pass, a touchdown pass to Fullback Spencer Larsen. Before that play, some Bronco fans didn’t even know who Larsen was, and many still don’t know much about him or what he is capable of. Hopefully, this article will change that.
Twenty-six years ago in Mesa Arizona, Spencer Larsen was born. Growing up, Larsen was a very talented Linebacker who won All-Region co-Defensive Most Valuable Player of the year award his Senior season while playing for Highland High School. He went on to play college football at Arizona, where he continued to win awards for his play at linebacker. After recording 131 tackles (87 solo) in 12 games (12 starts), 4 sacks, an interception, 5 deflected passes, and 3 forced fumbles his Senior collegiate year, Larsen was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
At the time, Larsen was a bit of a long shot to make the roster. He did however make the 53-man roster, as the 3rd string Middle Linebacker behind former Broncos Nate Webster and Niko Koutouvides. All through Training Camp his rookie season Larsen practiced as a linebacker. Then former Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan made a surprising move — moving Larsen to fullback. Having seen Larsen lay some big hits on Special Teams in the Pre-Season, Shanahan wanted to see how Larsen would fair as a lead blocker. Having previously waived veteran fullback Cecil Sapp, Shanahan promoted another rookie, Peyton Hillis to starter, making Larsen the #2 fullback. Though he hadn’t yet seen the field on offense or defense through the first 10 games of the season, Larsen was earning his keep on Special Teams. In 2008, he tied for third on the Broncos with nine special-teams tackles, one of which is seen after the jump:
As he continued to excel in doing whatever the team asked of him, his role continued to expand. By week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons, Larsen was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries — on offense and defense.
Having practiced both linebacker and fullback all year, Larsen was ready to make team history. In the Denver Broncos 51-year history, only Spencer Larsen has started a game on both offense and defense. He also started on special teams. By this time in the season, the Broncos had moved fullback Peyton Hillis to Tailback because he was one of the only healthy runners left, making Larsen the fullback by default. Against the Falcons with Larsen lead blocking, Hillis rushed 10 times for 44 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, Larsen was third on the team with seven tackles on the day. The outstanding performance earned Larsen Rookie Of The Week Honors.
The next season, Larsen, who was ready to play a full season as the starting fullback, slipped in the locker room before a Week 1 match against the Cincinnati Bengals. Trying to break the fall, Larsen landing on his shoulder and would miss the first half of the season. When he returned, the Broncos running game drastically improved. Statistically, the Broncos, and more specifically Knowshon Moreno, rushed the best in 2009 when Spencer Larsen was the lead-blocking fullback. The Broncos however, had gotten used to a fullback-free offense while Larsen was sidelined, and he ended up officially starting only three games at fullback last season. That didn’t get him down however (and it seems nothing does), as he was still productive, registering 10 special teams tackles in just nine games.
In Training Camp this past August, a few fans and I got to chat with Larsen for a few minutes after a practice session. He said he loves to play both linebacker and fullback and doesn’t really prefer either one, but that he’d been permanently moved to fullback, and I thought to myself, ‘He’s definitely earned it.’
This season, the Broncos rushing attack has struggled, but as of late is continuing to improve. The drastic improvement in Denver’s rushing attack can be contributed to three things, (1) Knowshon Moreno is finally healthy again, (2) the offensive line is healthy again, and (3), Spencer Larsen’s lead blocking has been absolutely stellar!
If not for the blocking of Larsen, Tim Tebow may not have scored on this play in London, Knowshon Moreno would not of rushed for 106 yards against the Chiefs, and Tebow would not have got in on his 1-yard touchdown run against the Chiefs. Having finally gotten the chance to be a full-time fullback, Larsen is not disappointing the Broncos.
“He does all the things that you don’t notice,” said Head Coach Josh McDaniels on Monday, “and that is kind of the life of a fullback. He is an unselfish player that we are very fortunate to have on our team.”
This season, Larsen has rushed 3 times for 18 yards (picking up two key third downs in the process), caught four passes that have gone for 40 yards and a score, and played on special teams. A team-first player, Larsen’s versatility is something McDaniels and the Broncos have come to love.
“He also made a tackle on the kickoff team. He does all those things. He plays in the kicking game, plays fullback on offense and if we told him he was playing defense this week he wouldn’t even flinch because that is the kind of person he is. He is an unselfish player that we are very fortunate to have on our team.”
From being drafted late, to successfully making a position switch, to finally becoming a starter soley on the heels of his hard work and dedication, Larsen deserves to be commended and I have the highest respect for him.