Ramirez has fended off doubters, d-linemen alike
Manny Ramirez has arguably the toughest job in pro football. As
Peyton Manning’s center, he literally works under the most
demanding quarterback in the NFL.
Not only that, but before this season, the seventh-year
journeyman from Texas Tech hadn’t played a full year at center
since his junior year at Willowridge High School in Houston – way
back in 2000.
With Ramirez as its anchor, the Broncos’ offensive line has
allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (17), giving Manning time to
throw his record 51 TD passes and plowing the way for Knowshon
Moreno to top 1,000 yards rushing for the first time.
The Broncos (12-3) are 28 points shy of becoming the first
600-point team in history and a win at Oakland (4-11) on Sunday
will secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
”Manny’s been awesome,” Manning said after a Christmas
afternoon practice in pads. ”That is no easy task to go from guard
to center, especially in a sophisticated, fast-moving,
always-changing offense. I think it would be one thing if you knew
what play was going to be called and you had 40 seconds to process
it. But we call one play and change it to the next with five
seconds on the play clock and when we change a play, Manny has to
make his own calls and he has just gotten better each week.”
He’s got the brawn and backbone to match the brains, too,
”I know he has played through a lot of injuries. It speaks to
his toughness,” Manning said. ”He is one of the strongest guys on
our team, so it’s very impressive. I’m not sure people (appreciate
it). I think people in this building understand with the
sophistication of our offense just how difficult his job is and
he’s just been outstanding.”
Ramirez is an unlikely fulcrum for this historic offense,
spending all season casting aside doubters and defensive linemen
”This summer, I’m hearing all kind of grief about Manny can’t
do this, Manny can’t do that,” offensive line coach Dave Magazu
said. ”Well, I think Manny’s proven all those people wrong.”
Coach John Fox laughs now that nobody seemed to believe him when
he kept saying in the offseason that Ramirez was his starting
center and that he wasn’t just keeping the position warm for J.D.
Walton or Dan Koppen or Ryan Lilja or Steve Vallos or even Chris
Ramirez, whose claim to fame before this season was
bench-pressing a school-record 550 pounds in college, didn’t listen
to the skeptics but he couldn’t help but hear them, either.
”Truthfully, and unfortunately, that’s been my entire life,”
Ramirez said. ”You know, even when I was playing in middle school
and high school, I’ve always had doubters, and that’s fine. That’s
always been motivation for me.”
He’s been proving people wrong since he first starting playing
”Growing up, where I’m from, people aren’t shy to tell you to
your face, `You’re not going to make it. You’re a Mexican, for one
thing. There’s not many Mexicans that play in the league anyways.
You’re not smart enough. If you go to college, you’re going to have
to go to a juco first and then go to college if you get an
opportunity,”’ Ramirez said. ”I don’t know, it’s just some dumb
stuff people were always saying, trying to put me down for whatever
reason it might be. But you’ve just got to put all that to the
Ramirez started 11 games at right guard for Denver last year,
but free agency was barely 20 minutes old when he got a call from
his old college teammate, Louis Vasquez, informing him he’d just
signed a four-year, $23.5 million deal with the Broncos to play
”I was shocked, but at the same time I was excited because
Louie and I got a bond that’s like brothers, so I was happy for
him,” Ramirez said. ”And then my mindset was I’ve just got to
fight for a job.”
The Broncos had a plan in mind for Ramirez.
When Manning began the second chapter of his career in Denver
following the series of neck surgeries that affected his famed
right arm, he rebuilt his throwing motion from the ground up.
No longer does he rely as much on his arm strength so much as he
does on proper mechanics, using more of his hips and torso to
direct his passes and generate speed. So, it’s imperative that he
has room to step into his throws.
That means, the Broncos needed more height and beef in the
middle of their line, and they got it with Vasquez (6-foot-5, 335
pounds) and Zane Beadles (6-4, 305) at guard and Ramirez (6-3, 320)
”That’s helped us become a little more powerful on the run and
a little stouter on the pass,” Fox said. ”So, those are areas you
try to get better at physically. And then mentally is the thing
that Manny’s done a great job with.
”He’s got a quarterback behind him that’s a pretty demanding
guy and changes and does things on the fly, so you’ve got to be a
sharp guy and you’ve got to earn his trust and he has and done an
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