A Colorado Springs man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after Homeland Security Investigations agents found 700,000 child pornography images including pictures depicting sadomasochistic sex abuse of pre-teen children.
Denver U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello also sentenced 64-year-old Michael Lyle Blair on Thursday to serve seven years of supervised release following prison. Arguello ordered him to pay $21,000 in restitution to seven child victims.
Blair pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography.
“Blair stole more than innocence with the 700,000 images he obtained. For years he left a trail of silent victims,” U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said. “With this sentence, those victims are finally heard. And Blair will pay every day for the next ten years in federal prison.”
Prior to Blair’s arrest in March of 2017, HSI agents had been investigating Blair, his wife, Sona Blair, and other co-conspirators in a human trafficking network. They were bringing Asian females to the U.S. and forcing them into lives of prostitution. Sona Blair charged Asian women $200 for transportation from Denver International Airport and then drove them to Asian massage parlors for prostitution, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
During a Dec. 12, 2013 search of Blair’s home they discovered a computer and external hard drives containing hundreds of thousands of child pornography in folders called “hardcore childporn” and “kinderporn.”
Blair and Sona Blair, 58, were originally charged with multiple counts of trafficking adults in the sex trade in June of 2013. In a plea deal with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office, each of them pleaded guilty to one count of pimping. Blair and his wife were sentenced to four years probation.
Many of the pornography pictures were produced in foreign countries. Investigators also found hundreds of pages of text stories describing abductions and rape of children, court records say. In one series of photographs a pre-pubescent girl is tied up.
Wind-shield smashing, roof denting golf-ball-sized hail is possible late Friday afternoon in the Denver metro area along with severe thunderstorms, isolated tornadoes and damaging winds, according to weather forecasters.
“Some of the storms are expected to become severe with golf ball size hail and damaging winds. An isolated tornado can’t be ruled out as well. The best chance for severe storms will be over the plains east of Denver,” according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.
Heavy snow is possible in the mountains, the NWS says.
Showers and thunderstorms are likely, mainly after 4 p.m. Friday in Denver. Winds could gust up to 23 mph. The high temperature Friday will be near 68 degrees. On Friday night there is an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms.
Thunderstorms likely today. Some severe with golf ball size hail & damaging winds. An isolated tornado is also possible. Heavy rain/mountain snow and flooding possible tonight & Saturday. #cowxpic.twitter.com/ZVEYvAcIab
It will be much cooler on Saturday. The high temperature will only be around 52 degrees, the NWS says. Rain showers with thunderstorms also possible after 9 a.m. It will be breezy with wind gusts out of the north up to 25 mph.
The chance for precipitation is 80 percent.
The chance for rain diminishes on Sunday. There’s a slight chance for afternoon rain and thunderstorms. The high temperature will climb to about 61 degrees.
Between Monday and Thursday there will be a chance every day of afternoon rain and thunderstorms.
Sanctuary, by definition means a place of refuge or safety, a nature reserve, which is what Hyland Hills Water World has created as the park has evolved over nearly 40 years.
Water World opened in 1979 with just a handful of rides, working around the already established trees and native areas. As the park grew, we added to the landscape always keeping our patrons in mind — no matter how many legs they have — providing shade, shelter and beauty.
Here are a couple of things that we do for our non-human visitors:
A stop during the monarch migration
The 70-acre water park at the edge of Camenish Park in Federal Heights is a Monarch Watch-registered Waystation. This designation, through the Kansas Biological Survey, acknowledges work to create a sanctuary for monarch butterflies migrating from Canada to Mexico to perpetuate their species.The monarch butterfly is considered an indicator species for the conservation and protection of pollinator habitats.
We provide everything the monarch needs — plants like butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), which is most common in our native areas. These plants are for the monarch to lay eggs on and the larva to eat, then pupate in their chrysalis stage. The adults get all the nectar plants they need to feed on from spring through fall.
Here is a short list of plants you can put in your landscape to help and attract monarchs:
Great early bloomers are Woods’ rose (Rosa woodsii) and nodding onion (Allium cernuum). Then we have purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis), blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), dotted blazing star (Liatris punctata), Rocky Mountain beeplant (Cleome serrulata) and Jerusalum artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) for mid-season flowers. And goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), sulphur flower (Eriogonum umbellatum) and rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) for flowers into fall.
I also have found the beautiful black, orange and white insects really like the broad, umbel flowers of moonshine yarrow (Achillea moonshine), mainly because it’s easy for them to rest on while feeding.
Water World also is registered and certified as a Habitat Hero Garden through Audubon of the Rockies.
The Habitat Hero designation has a broader scope, encouraging gardening that provides habitat for all types of wildlife, whether they have scales, feathers or fur. It uses the term “wildscaping” to describe landscaping with native and regionally adapted plants which use less water and supply year-round food, cover and shelter. We also control invasive plant species that harm the native landscape, mainly by pulling and biological control.
It all sounds pretty simple, and it really can be. You don’t need to change your entire yard, but you could cave out a corner of your yard, commit the “hell strip” along the street, or just add a few new plants to your existing beds or gardens.
Plants like Crandall’s clove currant (Ribes odoratum), Gwen’s buffalo currant (Ribes aureum), Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) and New Mexico privet (Forestiera neomexicana) supply flowers for pollinators and fruit for birds and some small mammals.
One-seed juniper (Juniperus monosperma), pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) and Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) produce seeds or nuts for food and great cover with a more secure nesting site for quite a few bird species
You can attract butterflies and other pollinators and hummingbirds with perennials such as orange carpet hummingbird trumpet (Zauschneria garrettii), sunset hyssop (Agastache rupestris), Colorado four-o’-clock (Mirabilis multiflora) and Gloria Jean yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
Once you have put a design together and installed your landscape, you will be amazed by how many new and different creatures stop by or make a summer home in your yard and garden.
We are lucky to have a pair of great horned owls, as well as mourning doves, broad-tailed hummingbirds, sparrows and red-tailed hawks that nest at Water World and the native areas surrounding the park. They live along side red foxes and ground squirrels. We also see honey, mason and bumblebees, and the gardens are visited by mourning cloak, Western tiger swallowtail and painted lady butterflies. Our adjacent ponds are healthy habitats for small-mouth bass, perch, crayfish and, occasionally, turtles.
We continue to consider our place in the big ecological picture, and so can you.
We have lost so much of our natural habitat by means of development. If each of us can plant a small garden, redo a section of our yard or plant just one container garden, we could supply tiny sanctuaries for birds, pollinators and other creatures — a checker board to hop, skip and jump to, whether they are year-round residents or just migrating through.
How to enroll in a habitat program
Monarch Watch and Habitat Heroes have informative websites with all of the information you need to start your own backyard sanctuary. So please invest in either, they are well worth your time and effort. Find Monarch Watch at monarchwatch.org and Habitat Heroes at rockies.audubon.org (click on programs.)
John Navant is a horticulturalist at Hyland Hills Water World in Federal Heights
It seems like the final spring frost may be behind us (fingers crossed). That means it is OK to plant hardened-off warm-season ornamental annuals and tomatoes outside when nights are consistently above 50 degrees.
In the landscape
• Spring planting conditions are ideal with cooler temperatures. However, use care and avoid planting in wet soil. Digging in soggy soil impairs soil structure making it more difficult to plant when it finally dries out. Keep your new plants and vegetables in a part sun, sheltered location and water them often until the landscape soil dries out. Check out my Denver Post video: Flopping plants.
• Spring moisture brings mushroom growth in lawns and mulch. Remove and dispose of these little fungi forms to prevent kids and dogs from coming in contact. Never consume them.
• Dead patches in lawns could be mite damage from the dry winter (especially on south and west facing lawns). If areas are not greening up, rake out the dead grass, loosen up the soil, mix in some compost, then spread new grass seed and keep it moist. Re-sodding large areas is also an option.
• The most common pest insect in Colorado gardens have arrived – aphids. These small, pear-shaped pests range in many colors from green to red. Their specialty is sucking plant juices on the new or existing growth of trees, shrubs and ornamental plants. Ants like to be near aphids to use their sweet honeydew “poo.” Large numbers and long feeding by aphids may cause loss of plant vigor, wilting, leaf curl and tip dieback. There are many “good guy” beneficial insects that eat aphids like candy including lady beetles (commonly called ladybugs) and their larvae, parasitic wasps, green lace wing and flower fly larvae. Try to minimize chemical spraying, which gives the beneficial insects time to show up to start aphid dining. You can also simply use a strong spray of water to dislodge aphids, repeat often.
• Gardening upward started as a trend and is now mainstream. It may be the best option if you’re gardening in small areas or want to add interest or maximize an otherwise boring wall or space.
• Choose your system. There are two main types: a trellis that plants can adhere and grow upward, or a shelf structure that holds containers, trays or boxes for the plants to grow. Both types can be purchased in garden centers or online. They can also be built at home with repurposed wood, containers and all your other creative ideas.
• First, trellises. The choices of decorative trellises, obelisks, tepees and arches are many and available in metal, wood or composite materials. If you’re showing off the structure, make it taller or wider than the eventual height of the plant.
• Match the trellis or climbing structure with how the plant climbs — tendrils, twiners or cane growers.
• Stem or leaf tendrils, like Boston ivy, sweet pea and morning glory, will grow and reach around until a support is found. Spacing should be 4 inches or less for tendrils to grab so use chicken wire, netting, hardware cloth or chain-link fencing attached to a wood or composite trellis or attached directly to a fence.
• Twiners, like clematis, morning glory and mandevilla, prefer vertical structures to wrap around. Fan-shaped or straight-up trellises can be wider spaced.
• Cane growers, like roses and blackberries, have flexible canes that will fall over if not supported. Use solid structures or thick wires for the stems to lean on and use twine, garden ties, plastic fasteners or old nylons to tie and train.
• The second vertical system is shelf structures. Try growing plants in a freestanding vertical system that supports boxes placed on a fixed or adjustable shelf structure. Consider using containers with enclosed water reservoirs to avoid dripping and over watering.
• Succulents, indoor plants, ornamental blooming annuals and vegetables are popular to grow this way. Pair your growing system with your sun exposure and space requirements.
• Garden centers and online retailers offer vertical garden kits in many styles. Also, look for saddle-bag grommeted type of containers to attach to walls or hang over deck rails, gates or fences. Try hanging planters from the above ceiling or roof.
• A quick online search of vertical gardening shows many creative and inexpensive ideas using wooden shelves, pallets to metal buckets or cleaned out empty cans. Try decorative painted gutters cut to your desired length and attach to walls, fences or suspend from above.
SAN FRANCISCO — The seagulls were flocking in Hitchcockian fashion, most of the crowd at AT&T Park had long since gone home and the Rockies’ offense was scuffling, once again.
Until the 12th inning when Carlos Gonzalez came through with a game-winning, bases-loaded, two-out single for a nail-biting 5-3 win over the Giants.
The Rockies loaded the bases on a walks by pinch hitter Chris Iannetta, Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. CarGo’s special delivery was a soft liner to right field off Cory Gearrin.
Colorado improved to 17-9 on the road, thanks, in large part, to a bullpen that shutout the Giants for six innings. Adam Ottavino pitched two innings, allowed one hit and struck out three. Lefty Jake McGee pitched two shutout frames and Wade Davis who picked up his 16th save in 18 chances.
Overshadowed, but not forgotten in the late-night victory, was a milestone start by Rockies veteran right-hander Chad Bettis.
One year and a day after being declared free of cancer, Bettis continued his encore performance. He was hitting all of the right notes until the sixth inning, when he walked Buster Posey and Brandon Belt hit a two-run homer that just cleared the right-field wall. Belt’s blast tied the game 3-3 and he became the first Giant to homer in four consecutive home games since Randy Winn did it from Sept. 16-30, 2005.
Bettis finished his six-inning stint having yielded five runs with five strikeouts and two walks. He got a no-decision, and after nine starts, he’s 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA.
On March 10 of last year, in the middle of spring training, during a regularly scheduled cancer screening, abnormalities showed up. A subsequent biopsy showed that Bettis’ testicular cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. Instead of continuing his baseball career full go, Bettis began chemotherapy March 20. He had 21 infusions spread over nine weeks.
Remarkably, he came back to make nine starts late last season, finishing 2-4 with a 5.05 ERA.
The Rockies’ amazing disappearing offense pulled off the trick again, getting blanked for the nine consectuve innings until Gonzalez delivered. Colorado had a chance in the 10th after back-to-back singles by Gerardo Parra and Nolan Arenado, who beat out an infield hit. But Gonzalez — 0-for-4 with a walk at that point — grounded out to fizzle the rally.
Trevor Story led off the 11th with a single, but Ian Desmond, mired in a slump that’s getting deeper by the day, failed to get a bunt down and then grounded into a double play. Desmond is batting .167.
The bottom half of the Rockies’ lineup, an albatross much of the season, delivered big time in a three-run second inning against San Francisco left-hander Jeff Samardzija. Story, the five-hole hitter, started off the surge with a one-out bloop single to right, followed by a Desmond walk. After Tony Wolters fouled out, second baseman Daniel Castro — a .148 hitter entering the game — skidded a two-out, two-run double down the right-field line. Bettis helped his own cause by driving in Castro with a sharp single to right-center.
Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (3-4, 3.42 ERA) at Giants LHP Derek Holland (2-4, 4.79), 8:15 p.m., Friday; ATTRM, 850 AM
Freeland is in a very good place. He’s 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA over this last four starts, pitching into the seventh inning each time and limiting opponents to a .175 average during that span. He is coming off an excellent start vs. the Brewers, marred only by four walks allowed over 6 ⅓ scoreless innings in Colorado’s 4-0 win. Freeland gave up four hits and struck out six. In his lone start at AT&T Park, on June 28 last season, Freeland took the loss, giving up four runs on seven hits over six innings. The Giants hit two homers off him. Holland is coming off a solid start on Sunday vs. the Pirates when he overcame a season-high five walks to pitch 6 ⅓ scoreless innings. He was charged with four hits while striking out seven. The Rockies have limited experience vs. Holland, except for catcher Chris Iannetta, who is batting .357 (10-for-28) with two doubles, one homer and six RBIs against the lefty.
Saturday: Rockies RHP Jon Gray (4-5, 4.85) at Giants RHP Chris Stratton (3-3, 4.60), 2:05 p.m. ATTRM
Sunday: Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (3-1, 4.30) at Giants LHP Ty Blach (3-4, 4.20), 2:05 p.m. ATTRM
Monday: Rockies RHP German Marquez (2-5, 5.15) at Dodgers RHP Walker Buehler (2-1, 2.67), 8:10 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Alex Killorn scored the tiebreaker with about 8 minutes left, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves, and the Tampa Bay Lightning weathered the equivalent of more than a period without a shot on goal to edge the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Thursday night, evening the Eastern Conference final at two games apiece.
Killorn was left pretty much alone during a defensive breakdown by Washington and scored 6 seconds after a Tampa Bay power play expired, putting in a pass from Ondrej Palat.
Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point scored Tampa Bay’s first two goals, and Anthony Cirelli added an empty-netter with a second left.
Washington’s goals came from Evgeny Kuznetsov — off an assist by Alex Ovechkin — and defenseman Dmitry Orlov.
The Lightning host Game 5 on Saturday night, with Game 6 back in Washington on Monday.
The road team has won every game in the series so far.
The Capitals, who eliminated the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, fell to 3-5 overall at home during these playoffs — and even got booed late in the first period, which ended with the Lightning ahead 2-1.
The Lightning won Game 4 despite going nearly 21 full minutes of game time — the last 10:41 of the first period, followed by the initial 10:11 of the second — without putting a single official shot on net. And they won even though the Capitals finally got back center Nicklas Backstrom, who was third on the team in points this season behind Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Backstrom had missed four games in a row with an injured right hand.
One key: Vasilevskiy played just like the Vezina Trophy finalist he is. He was spectacular at times, including stops against Chandler Stephenson on a breakaway and Backstrom from the doorstep in the second period. Early in the third, Vasilevskiy used his left glove to swat away a try from Brett Connolly.
After one flubbed chance, Ovechkin threw his head back and looked up, the very picture of disappointment.
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby didn’t need to make nearly as many saves, given the shot discrepancy: Washington ended up with 38 to Tampa Bay’s 20.
Orlov put the hosts ahead about 4 1/2 minutes after the opening faceoff with a shot from the left circle, but the Lightning needed all of 70 seconds to draw even.
Washington defenseman Michal Kempny’s backhand clear attempt went awry, sliding right onto the tape of Tyler Johnson’s stick. From there, it was as easy as 1-2-3 for Tampa Bay: Johnson passed to rookie Yanni Gourde, who moved it to Point, whose immediate shot from close range gave Holtby no chance.
The Lightning went up 2-1 lead less than 3 minutes later, with Stamkos putting the team’s lone shot of a power play in off the left post. That capped a slick sequence of passes, from Nikita Kucherov to J.T. Miller, back to Kucherov, back to Miller, to Point, who found Stamkos.
The Lightning have produced 11 power-play goals over their last nine games, with at least one in each. And it’s been Stamkos leading the way: He has scored on a power play in each game of this series.
The game was barely 8 1/2 minutes old, and the Lightning had only accumulated five shots. But Tampa Bay already had scored twice and silenced a boisterous, red-clad crowd that went from supportive chants of “Let’s go, Caps!” before the game even began to a nervous hush to — somewhat unbelievably, given that Washington began the day two wins from playing for the Stanley Cup — a smattering of groans and jeers in the closing seconds of the opening period.
Those boos arrived after the Capitals failed to score on any of a succession of three man-advantage opportunities.
The Capitals were much better at the outset of the second, recording the period’s initial eight shots and making it 2-all when Kuznetsov took a flipped backhand pass from Ovechkin and put the puck between Vasilevskiy’s pads. That gave Kuznetsov 21 points — 10 goals, 11 assists — and tied him with Ovechkin (who did it in 2009) for the most by a Capitals player in a single postseason.
Nit Vasilevskiy wouldn’t let another puck go in.
NOTES: In the Western Conference final, the Vegas Golden Knights hold a 2-1 series lead over the Winnipeg Jets. Game 4 is in Las Vegas on Friday night. … Stamkos showed zero effects from being hit in the face by a puck during the morning skate Thursday; he briefly left the practice ice before returning. … Washington is 7-1 in away games. … Lars Eller was whistled for both of Washington’s penalties. He has been sent to the box five times in the past two games.
Greeley Independence Stampede Inc. has for years violated state liquor laws, according to authorities, potentially putting at risk the organization’s ability to serve alcohol at this year’s event.
The nonprofit organization puts on a more than week-long rodeo and entertainment event by the same name that has been running for nearly 100 years. Since at least 2006, the Stampede has apparently violated six state laws, regulations or municipal codes, according to the January 2018 summary a Greeley Police Department investigation that began in late 2017.
Greeley Stampede General Manager Justin Watada said the problems have been corrected and he does not think the organization will lose its ability to serve alcohol.
The Stampede applied for a special events permit Wednesday, and because of the violations, will face a more formal hearing process in mid-June with the city’s Liquor Licensing Authority.
The investigation began with a late-November tip from two nonprofits that had worked with the Stampede — The Greeley Stampede Riders and The Wranglers Inc. — alleging the Stampede bought alcohol at wholesale cost and sold the alcohol at an inflated price to nonprofit organizations that agreed to work concession booths featuring alcohol, according to the summary.
A lack of snow in the central mountains has allowed the Colorado Department of Transportation to go easy on Independence Pass avalanche mitigation work, officials said.
CDOT crews routinely deploy charges to blast away excessive snow as an avalanche preventative, but on Thursday on Colorado 82 over Independence Pass (altitude 12,095 feet), workers doing the annual mitigation duty needed only 20 charges compared with the 40 they used last year.
In past years, as many as 50 charges have been used to detonate excess powder before the precarious road between Leadville and Aspen could open for the season, said CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson.
“The mountainsides along the Continental Divide just don’t have that much snow,” Wilson said. “It was a lot better this year in the sense that it was easier to mitigate any issues we might have opening the pass.”
CDOT uses the charges to bring down any heavy, loose snow above the highway that could pose a danger to motorists and cyclists on the road, Wilson said.
“If we can get rid of that, that reduces the danger that could be posed by potential avalanches,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the pass could get some snow this weekend but didn’t expect enough to complicate the situation. The National Weather Service predicts a 60 percent chance of of precipitation in Aspen on Saturday with little or no snow accumulation expected.
Sunday is expected to see a slight chance of rain and snow showers.
The Independence Pass reopens on Thursday, May 24, Wilson said.
The new Denver police chief will earn $214,286 annually, and plans are underway for choosing the right person for one of the most high-profile jobs in the city.
The chief is one of the highest-paid mayoral appointees, earning more than Mayor Michael Hancock, who will make $171,197 this year.
A job description has been posted on the city’s website, a search committee has been formed and a series of community meetings have been set. Hancock has said the next chief will be selected from the current ranks of officers and retirees who have held the rank of lieutenant or higher for at least five years.
As part of the application process, applicants must write a three-page essay explaining their strategies to build upon Chief Robert White’s work while incorporating their own ideas and philosophies, according to the job posting. Applications are due May 27.
The community meetings
Tuesday, May 22, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Regis Groff Campus, 18250 E. 51st Ave.
Tuesday, May 29, 6 to 7:30 p.m., PPA Event Center, 2105 Decatur St.
Tuesday, June 5, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Westwood Community Center (SWIC), 1000 S. Lowell Blvd.
Saturday, June 9, 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., Windsor Gardens (Center Point), 597 S. Clinton St.
The search committee
Troy Riggs, Search Committee chair and executive director of Public Safety Councilwoman Kendra Black, Denver City Council, District 4 Councilman Christopher Herndon, Denver City Council, District 8 Ryan Brackley, assistant district attorney, Denver District Attorney’s Office Tech. Tyrone Campbell, Denver Police Department Linda Childears, President and CEO, Daniels Fund Stephanie Donner, general counsel, Galvanize Inc. Detective Rachel Eid, Denver Police Department Charlie Garcia, executive council member, Colorado Bar Association Criminal Law Section Rev. Terrence Hughes, president, Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance L. Roger Hutson, president and CEO, HRM Resources III, LLC Gerardo Lopez, executive director, Homies Unidos John McMillian, founder, Be Better Than Average Nicole Melaku, executive director, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Qusair Mohamedbhai, partner, Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC Daniel Ramos, executive director, One Colorado
Staff writer Jon Murray contributed to this report.
It’s in there. Somewhere. Alongside the other junk tossed in the glove box of his car, there’s one cherished treasure from Colton Jackson’s childhood.
He wrote the letter way back in eighth grade. It was done at homework, not prophesy. The middle-school assignment was this: Write a note to your future self, seal it and open upon leaving high school.
Nearly a decade ago, Jackson had a vision so strong he committed it to paper. He decided it would be cool to wear the crimson and gold of the DU Pioneers as a star lacrosse player.
Well, well, well. Look at him now. Jackson is a 21-year-old midfielder for the University of Denver’s powerhouse team, which must win Saturday against Albany to punch a ticket to the semifinals of the national championship tournament.
Sitting in the stands of Peter Barton Stadium, as his teammates stretched on the field before practice, Jackson made a little confession. As a middle-school student, he cheated on his original sports dream while penning that love letter to lacrosse.
“Growing up, football was my first passion. For sure,” Jackson said. “As a little kid, I didn’t play lacrosse. I played football.”
Football is king in Colorado. And he ruled. In the beginning, lacrosse was something Jackson did as a side gig. As a running back at Rock Canyon High School in Highlands Ranch, he was named most valuable player of the freshman team.
But, as a sophomore in high school, Jackson quit the game America loves best to specialize in lacrosse. It wasn’t easy.
“I would say football games are better than lacrosse games. There’s just something about being under the lights on a Friday night in high school,” said Jackson, re-living the pain of dumping his first love at age 15. “You really don’t have to think too much in football; it’s more a meathead mentality. But lacrosse practice is by far better than football practice. So being a lacrosse player is a lot better life, day-in and day-out.”
Football in America has been under siege, attacked by concerned doctors and loving parents and frightened former players, all wondering if our country’s favorite sport is worth the brain damage.
“With all the concussions, I would say lacrosse is probably a safer option than football. But that’s just my opinion,” Jackson said.
Health concerns didn’t chase him from football. It was the chance to excel at lacrosse. “I wasn’t going to be a running back for Alabama,” Jackson said. With the Pioneers, his 18 goals in 16 games rank third on a team perennially ranked among the top 10 of nation’s elite lacrosse programs.
Participation in 11-man football at the prep level is down 4.6 percent since 2010, according to a survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations. During the same time frame, the number of teenage males playing lacrosse at school has increased by 23.4 percent.
But don’t get it twisted. Lacrosse isn’t at war with football. Those Friday night lights still shine brightly across the country, as there are nearly 10 prep athletes wearing football helmets for every one carrying a lacrosse stick.
Hey, the Pioneers know where they fit in this NFL town. Yes, Denver lacrosse, which won a national championship in 2015, is much closer to getting back to the top than the Broncos, who have slipped badly since winning Super Bowl 50. Nevertheless, we would rather debate whether Case Keenum is a legitimate NFL starting quarterback than celebrate DU senior Trevor Baptiste as the greatest face-off man in the history of NCAA lacrosse.
As DU coach Bill Tierney, a living legend in his sport, is fond of saying: “Lacrosse, as collegiate sports go, is a pimple on the butt of an elephant. But it’s our sport. And it’s huge to us.”
Football is the elephant. Football is cool. Football is America.
“I think winning a national championship in lacrosse would be just as cool as winning a national championship in football,” Jackson said.
There’s life after football and more than one way to become a champion, though.
Here’s my theory: The real reward is chasing the dream, rather than the size of the trophy.
See the reformed meathead wearing No. 10 for the Denver Pioneers lacrosse team? His name is Colton Jackson. And there’s proof of how big things can come from small dreams, locked away in the glove box of his car.