Football: Rangeview grad Tidwell, Grandview grad Yarbrough sign free agent deals with Broncos

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AURORA | Two former Aurora prep football stars have the chance they’ve always wanted with the Denver Broncos.

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2016 National Football League Draft on Sunday afternoon, names of undrafted college free agents signing with NFL teams began to flood social media.

Two familiar names to Aurora prep football fans stood out immediately, Rangeview grad John Tidwell (Sioux Falls) and Grandview grad Eddie Yarbrough (Wyoming), who were among a slew of players signed to by the Broncos. Both were part of nine local prospects who got a chance to work out for the Broncos on April 12 at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse at UCHealth Training Center.

Three weeks later, though they didn’t hear their names called during the seven rounds of the NFL Draft in Chicago, the duo get an opportunity with the Broncos and become the latest former Aurora prep stars to get a shot with the local team, following Smoky Hill’s Chase Vaughn, who appeared in training camp with the team prior to last season.

According to the team, the good news for Tidwell and Yarbrough is that a college free agent has made Denver’s roster out of training camp in 11 of the past 12 seasons and 18 in all have made the team since 2004.

Former Rangeview football coach Dave Gonzales, who had Tidwell on his team, got a call from Tidwell’s parents in Texas with the exciting news.

“He’s all fired up,” Gonzales said of Tidwell, a defensive back and return man. “Since he was at Rangeview, he’s definitely gotten bigger, faster, stronger and only improved. And with the way those guys are now really focusing on character, you couldn’t ask for a better kid.”

Denver Broncos free agent signee John Tidwell (26) leads the Rangeview football team onto the field at Jefferson County Stadium before a Class 5A second round state playoff game in 2010. (File photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
Denver Broncos free agent signee John Tidwell (26) leads the Rangeview football team onto the field at Jefferson County Stadium before a Class 5A second round state playoff game in 2010. (File photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Gonzales said that Tidwell was the Raiders’ Most Valuable Player during the 2010 season, in which they made the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs for the only time since 1988.

Catching passes from currently University of Colorado player Jaleel Awini — who won Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year honors that season — Tidwell had 151 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a second round win over Arvada West, but he got hurt late in the first half of the quarterfinals and Rangeview suffered a 35-12 loss to a Grandview team that had Yarbrough block a punt and recover it for a touchdown in the game. 

According to the Sioux Falls website, Tidwell served as a team captain two straight years. In 2015, the 6-foot, 191-pounder had 35 tackles, three interceptions, three pass breakups, six passes defended and a blocked kick.

Yarbrough had an outstanding career at the University of Wyoming, where he redshirted in 2011 before playing four seasons with the Cowboys. The 6-foot-3, 251-pounder was a First Team All-Mountain West Conference selection as a sophomore and junior and piled up 62 tackles (10.5 tackles for loss), seven sacks and a blocked kick as a senior.

Yarbrough — a potential linebacker or defensive lineman — tweeted a message to his supporters: “To my beautiful home state of Colorado, I am so excited to announce that I have signed with the Denver Broncos, the home town kid is staying in Denver. ‪#‎GoBroncos‬ ‪#‎Blessed‬ ‪#‎WatchMeWork‬

Eddie Yarbrough has steam come off his head as he stands on the sideline during Grandview High School's 14-7 Class 5A state football playoff win over Columbine on Nov. 12, 2010. Yarbrough went on to an excellent career at the University of Wyoming and has signed a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos. (File photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
Eddie Yarbrough has steam come off his head as he stands on the sideline during Grandview High School’s 14-7 Class 5A state football playoff win over Columbine on Nov. 12, 2010. Yarbrough went on to an excellent career at the University of Wyoming and has signed a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos. (File photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Playing for coach John Schultz at Grandview, Yarbrough was the heart and soul of Grandview’s fearsome defense and helped the Wolves continue their climb into one of the state’s elite programs. While at Grandview, he also helped launch a Unified basketball team that has become one of the school’s most proud programs.

Note: In 2014, Fresno State’s Isaiah Burse (a wide receiver) and running back Juwan Thompson of Duke made the active roster for the Broncos as undrafted free agents…Tidwell is the second player Gonzales coached at Rangeview to sign a contract with an NFL team, as former lineman Maurice Lucas got into camp with the Atlanta Falcons. While at Montbello, Gonzales coached Chris Sanders, a wide receiver who went to Ohio State and played for the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, and Ray Jackson, who spent time with the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. Coincidentally, Jackson is Yarbrough’s uncle.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel