By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
His father was so happy he was beside himself.
His mother broke down in tears .
And Louis Vasquez embraced both emotions and more the day he was named All-Pro.
Most of all he was surprised, just like always. Just like back when he was playing at Corsicana High School and the first college took notice, and just like the day he was drafted by San Diego in the NFL, the man who has grown into one of the best offensive linemen in all of football was caught a little off guard.
It's easy to appreciate the irony of man who makes his living blocking everything in front of him, being a little blind-sided off the field.
“I was in the locker room when they came and told me I was All-Pro,'' said Vasquez, who plays guard for the Denver Broncos. “When they told me it kind of surprised me. I didn't expect it. It's such a great honor. It really humbled me.
“It's always been that way with me. I never even thought about playing college football until my last year in high school,'' Vasquez said. “And I never thought about playing in the NFL until my junior year when some NFL scouts started coming around and taking notice of me.''
It's impossible not to notice Vasquez who is not only big but incredibly athletic for his size. About the only thing larger than his 6-5, 335-pound frame is his humility. There's no chest thumping or grandstanding from Vasquez, who is known for his work ethic and modest personality, a man who has embraced his chance to make a name for himself on the football field and done it with class and distinction — and in his own way, a blue-collar, hard-working man who does things the right way.
When he was getting ready for the NFL draft, Vasquez wowed scouts at the NFL combine when he bench pressed 225 pounds 39 times, the most of any player at the combine. That's Vasquez, who has quietly and modestly turned himself into one of the best players in the game.
He shies away from the limelight and attention so many NFL players abuse, and everyone who knows him — from longtime friends in Corsicana to his NFL teammates — respects him.
Earlier this season when Vasquez was contacted for an interview with the Denver Post the reporter mentioned in the story how Vasquez wanted to get away from the media horde and do the interview in a room down the hall at the Broncos facility.
He didn't have a wild party to celebrate being All-Pro, and said the honor kind of flattened him and he celebrated with a couple of phone calls. One to his father and one to his mother, both back in Corsicana.
“My dad was so happy. He was giddy, which I found kind of comical,'' Vasquez said. “My mother had some tears. My parents were really proud.''
Vasquez is close to his parents and close to Corsicana, and comes home when he has a chance.
“I will forever remain a Texan,'' he said.
He has always been that quite guy who appreciates everything and has been humbled by his own success.
“He was a real good kid, good academically and a good football player,'' said Corsicana Athletic Director Billy Harlan, who oversees all extra curricular activities at the school. “He was a quiet kid, a real good kid.''
And on the field?
“He's a beast, a beast. He's as big as a door,'' said Harlan, who has a picture of Vasquez in his office. “But you see a lot of guys in college, 6-8, 330, big guys who never make it to the NFL. Once he figured out there was something out there for him he turned himself into a workhorse.
“He had other offers, but went to Texas Tech and I think playing in that high-powered offense with Mike Leech helped him become a great pass blocker. At Corsicana we ran all the time and he was a pounder, and if he had gone to a school where they ran the ball all the time it might have been different. But going to Tech taught him to pass-block and he worked hard and got better and better.''
For Vasquez, it was the awareness that in football there was a door of opportunity opening for him.
“He didn't run through that door. He smashed it,'' Harlan said. “He's become one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, an All-Pro lineman. He's the guy who blocks for Peyton Manning.''
He's been blocking for Manning all year and his protection of the NFL's best quarterback helped Denver put up some gaudy numbers this season — 606 points, 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns.
While all those fireworks were going on the Broncos offensive line gave up a NFL-low 18 sacks. Vasquez? He didn't allow any.
In his five seasons in the NFL, and he has started all 70 games, Vasquez has allowed just 11 sacks.
But a number that is even more startling is the one that defines Vasquez's discipline and relentless determination to succeed. The number is 2, as in the number of times he has been flagged for holding. And the first one, back in his rookie year against New England, was declined. He has only been penalized three times in five years for a false start.
The Broncos love Vasquez, and made no secret how badly they wanted him when Vasquez left the Chargers and became a free agent last year.
John Elway, Denver's executive vice president of football operations who makes all the major decisions on personnel for the Broncos, called Vasquez “a priority,” and the Broncos proved it when they gave Vasquez a four-year deal worth $23.5 million with a $13 million guarantee. It was the longest contract and the most lucrative contract given to any free agent last year.
On the day Vasquez signed, Elway told the Denver Post that, “As you can tell, he has great size and he is very athletic. He's going to be a great addition for us in the offensive line. Louis was a priority for us.''
Vasquez said it was a no-brainer to come to Denver. He was a huge success in San Diego, where he was the only rookie to start when he arrived, and started every game for four years for the Chargers, who drafted him in the third round.
“When San Diego drafted me I got caught off guard,'' Vasquez said. “I had no idea they were interested in me. I knew Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were looking at me and I was pretty sure I would go to one of those teams.''
One of the best qualities about Vasquez has been his ability to adjust, and he learned Denver's system quickly, thanks in part to center Manny Ramirez, who was his friend and teammate at Texas Tech.
“The main difference was learning the different terminology, getting familiar with everything they do here,'' Vasquez said. “I had to put some work into it, and Manny was a big help.''
Ramirez, who plays side-by-side with Vasquez, appreciates his friend and teammate as much as anyone.
“If he gets his hands on you, basically you're done,'' Ramirez told ESPN.com. “His extension is amazing. His balance is good. He's a complete offensive lineman.''
Vasquez told the Denver Post how much it means to him to block for Manning.
"Peyton just makes you want to elevate your game," Vasquez said. "Again, it's humbling, can't thank my teammates enough … I kind of knew what I was getting into right from the get-go, as soon as I got here it was like a whole different world. Just how Peyton works.''
Coming to a new team and being named All-Pro for the first time in the same season is almost unheard of, but Vasquez said he didn't change anything dramatically this season.
“I really haven't done too much differently than I always do,'' Vasquez said. “I couldn't tell you one thing that changed for me. I guess I was more focused if anything. Every year you grow mentally. You have to keep learning. The last three years I had good years, but I kept getting better at the little things I needed to work on, working on my weaknesses.''
Vasquez became the first Bronco guard to be named All-Pro since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, and only one other Denver player was named All-Pro — Manning. But when the announcement came that Vasquez was an All-Pro, he said it came at a time when he was concentrating on something else.
“It's such a honor, and it really humbles me, but I have my mind on bigger things right now. The playoffs,'' Vasquez said. “I'm focused on the game in front of me.''
And for an added twist, Denver plays Vasquez's old team, the Chargers, on Sunday.
“When I got here everyone (Denver fans) here was already talking Super Bowl,'' Vasquez said.
“That's been the talk of the town, but you can't get caught up in that. You have to focus on the game that is right in front of you.''
Spoken like a true offensive lineman, a man who never gets blind-sided — well, almost never.
Louis Vasquez Timeline
• Thursday, Aug. 26, 2004 — Graced the cover of the Daily Sun’s Golden Circle Football 2004 Preview Guide as he entered his senior season. By that time, he had already committed to Texas Tech;
• Friday, Nov. 26, 2004 — Played his final game at CHS, a 28-21 loss to Dallas Lincoln in the regional semifinals at Texas Stadium;
• Feb. 2, 2005 — Signed with Texas Tech. Also had offers from LSU, Texas, Texas A&M and Nebraska, among others;
• Dec. 2, 2008 — Named second-team All-Big 12 after his senior season;
• Dec. 17, 2008 — Named Associated Press third-team All-American;
• April 25, 2009 — Drafted in the third round, 78th overall, by the San Diego Chargers, and became the only rookie starter that fall;
• Jan. 14, 2010 — Named to the Sporting News’ NFL All-Rookie team;
• March 12, 2013 — Signed four-year, $23 million deal with the Denver Broncos;
• Dec. 28, 2013 — Named to Pro Bowl;
• Jan. 3, 2014 — Given the highest honor for an active NFL player, being named first-team All-Pro, joining teammate Peyton Manning, the only unanimous pick.
Louis Vasquez Bio
• Height: 6-5, Weight: 335
• Born, April 11, 1987,