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Bubba Sparxxx

Bubba Sparxxx

Denver Broncos players have traded their mouthpieces for microphones over the course of the team history. Leading up to the 1977 National Football League playoffs, fullback Jon Keyworth cut a record called “Make Those Miracles Happen”—appropriately enough for the upstart Broncos, who marched to Super Bowl XII. In 1989, Broncos running back Melvin Bratton, who was raised in the same Miami neighborhood as 2 Live Crew leader Luther Campbell and sang on the group’s early releases, had a personal interest when the raunchy rap group appeared in court to fight obscenity charges. In 1998, defensive lineman Trevor Pryce launched Outlook Music Company, an indie label that boasted several bands and issued his own instrumental project, and defensive back Ray Crockett rapped the lyrics on a song titled “Salute to This” on a 1999 CD that celebrated the defending NFL champions’ season.

Offensive guard Steve Herndon became something of a rap star after signing with the Broncos in 2000. Herndon grew up with Georgia rapper Bubba Sparxxx, maintaining a close association with him.

“Steve’s my best friend—we’ve known each other since we were 11 years old,” Sparxxx said. “We were inseparable, from middle school on up. We played football in high school, and Steve left to go to the University of Georgia with a full football scholarship. About a year later, I ended up moving on up there and did some time in community college. I stayed about seven years, working with rappers in Atlanta and Athens. Then we shot my first video, ‘Ugly,’ in Athens.”

Herndon was front and center in the raucous music video for Sparxxx’s hick-hop anthem, which received heavy rotation on MTV in 2001. “Ugly” was unabashed in its stereotypical Southern imagery—Sparxxx and Herndon were seen covered in pig slop on the farm, while pickup trucks rolled by like Escalades in the ‘hood. Herndon was a recurring video character—in July 2003, before Broncos training camp, the two pals did a video shoot for “Deliverance,” the title track to Sparxxx’s follow-up CD.

“If I wasn’t playing football, I’d have probably been the road manager,” Herndon said. “I’d run the show and then be on the stage doing my little dance. We both had an opportunity to fulfill our dreams at the same time. We were two white kids who grew up in a small town in Georgia saying, ‘I want to play in the NFL,’ and ‘I want to be a rap star.’ Just to be able to stay in touch and talk about everything he’s experiencing and I’m experiencing is terrific.”

Herndon played six seasons for the Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons.