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Denver Broncos surprise Ben Garland after wildfire claims home

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Several of Ben Garland's Denver Broncos teammates gathered around him after practice Tuesday and gave him two silver sabers to replace those he received upon graduating from the Air Force Academy, along with a Falcons football helmet.

The originals were lost in the wildfire that destroyed his grandparents' home in Colorado Springs this summer.

He was presented with the shiny swords by William "T" Thompson of the Association of Graduates at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Then, linebacker Joe Mays gave him a new college helmet, white with a blue lightning bolt.

"Thank you guys, it means the world to me and my family," Garland said. "That's one of the biggest things my grandma and my grandpa were sad about losing."

Mays said the Broncos wanted to do something for Garland after what he had gone through.

"We're glad that we could do something to put a smile on his and his grandparents' faces," Mays said. "He's a great guy, an awesome guy, a great player."

Garland, a defensive tackle who is a strong candidate for the Broncos' practice squad but faces long odds of making the 53-man roster, said the gesture took him by surprise.

Academy graduates can purchase up to two of the $400 sabers, and Garland had given both to his grandparents, Hal and Sharen Garland, "because they're the ones that got me through the academy."

"It meant a lot when I gave them to them, and it hurt a lot when we lost them," Garland said.

Garland was released from his Air Force commitment earlier this year and joined the Colorado National Guard and the Broncos. He was keeping his belongings at his grandparents' house in the Mountain Shadows subdivision in Colorado Springs until he could find a place in Denver.

The home was one of hundreds destroyed in this summer's raging wildfire season.

"That night they had about 30 minutes to evacuate all their stuff, couldn't get much, " Garland said. "I mean they had a big house and lost everything."

Now they will have the sabers.

"You can only have two," Garland said. "A lot of guys keep one and then they give the other to someone else who got them through the Academy, someone who helped them, whether it was a mentor, a friend or a coach. To me, my grandparents, I couldn't do it without them."

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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