The anthem of what’s perhaps the most intense group of Denver Broncos fans and almost certainly the most positive begins to play outside Sports Authority Field. It’s a warm fall day in 2014.
An athletic-looking, dreadlocked man wearing a black T-shirt and orange wristwatch asks the group gathered around him, “Bronco Gang, where’s your flag?” Andrew Young raps the line into his microphone over and over.
Around him, a group of Broncos fans sway and bop to their heads to beat. Most wave their orange flag, which resembles a “Game of Thrones” house crest, only if it were reimagined for Broncos fans, in the air.
This is Bronco Gang, which Young — also known as The Mad Fanatic — founded in 2013. In three short years, Young’s vision has grown to include 3,000 members who live in all 50 states and 30 countries worldwide. It’s a diverse group of people; in the “Where’s Ya Flag?” music video alone, you can see men, women, children, black, hispanic and white, waving their towels and rocking out.
Applying to become a Bronco Gang member is an easy process. All you have to do is log onto BroncoGang.com, fill out an application, pay $20 and agree to follow three rules: 1) No bandwagons; 2) No fair weathers; 3) No violence.
These are the ground rules Young set when he hatched the idea for his “gang of positivity.” A love for the Denver Broncos and optimism were the foundation — and the things that rescued its founder from a dark place six and a half years ago.
Inspiration ran short for Young in the winter of 2011. At the time, he was spending most of his time on the couch of his West Haven, Connecticut, home. His R&B singing and songwriting career was stuck in neutral, and Young wasn’t doing much to get it back on track. At the time, he was taking an antipsychotic medication called Haloperidol.
“Hell to all,” Young said. “That’s what I called it. It made me gain weight. It was such a high dosage, I was in a state of blahhhhh.”
Doctors prescribed it to Young after two stints in a psychiatric hospital. Young ended up there after suffering extreme paranoia.
“I’m talking about the devil trying to kill me,” Young said.
Young was consuming so much marijuana in early 2010 that it caused mental breakdowns. At the height of his marijuana consumption, Young smoked six or seven joints a day and gobbled up a couple weed cookies. It acted like a stimulant, Young said, and kept him up at night, which only made the paranoia worse.
Young quit weed in February 2010. But the Haloperidol he was taking to help only seemed to rob him of motivation. Young was depressed. He tried all the things he used to enjoy — making music, pickup basketball, going on walks, visiting museums, dining out — and felt nothing.
“Not even sex at the time,” Young said. “And I’m married. So that wasn’t good.”
The only thing that did give him joy was football. Young spent hours on the couch watching it, reading about it, chatting online with others about the game. He loved the Broncos. They’d been his favorite team since he was 12. Sometimes, he found himself staying up until 4 a.m. arguing on online forums about whom Denver should draft.
When Super Bowl XLV rolled around between the Packers and Steelers that 2010-11 season, Young stumbled upon a song called “Green and Yellow.” It was a Packers anthem Lil Wayne remixed of the Wiz Khalifa hit “Black and Yellow.” A light bulb went off in his head.
He drove over to his cousin’s house and recorded a “Black and Yellow” remix of his own called “Blue and Orange.” He spliced together low-quality highlights and images with Windows Movie Maker, laid the audio on top and threw the video up on YouTube. Young didn’t expect much to happen. But the first day, the video racked up 30,000 hits.
The feedback felt enormous. Fans, even Broncos players hit him up on social media to tell him they liked the song.
“And that’s how I started making music about the Broncos,” Young said. “It didn’t make me say, ‘All right, this is what I’m going to do with my life now.’ It made me say, ‘Wow, that was cool. But it made me realize I didn’t need weed to make music.’ ”
Since then, Young has churned out six different albums about the Broncos. The idea to form Bronco Gang came from a song appropriately titled “Bronco Gang.” Young put out the video in 2012. In the music video, Broncos fans kidnap Raiders fans and torture them by watching John Elway highlights.
“A little bit after that, I thought, ‘What if I made a real Bronco Gang?’ ” Young said. ” ‘What if I made a gang for Broncos fans that promoted non-violence with fans but was cool? What if I created a gang about nothing but positivity?’ ”
One-hundred and seventy-eight members signed up the first year. There were 1,000 members by year two. Now that number is up to 3,000. There are people from a variety of backgrounds, regions and ages.
Its ranks include doctors, police officers, painters and more. There are 30 members who live in Germany and are making the trip to Denver this weekend to watch the Broncos face the Texans on Monday Night Football.
“With me, I’m in New York and I’m a Broncos fan,” said Leaf Steuernagel, 45, who owns a landscaping company. “I’ve been a Broncos fan for 27 years because I was in the Army in Fort Carson.”
Steuernagel joined Bronco Gang shortly after Denver lost to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl two and a half years ago. His wife and two sons also are part of it. Most weekends, they get together with a small group of fellow Bronco Gang members on Long Island to watch the game.
When Bronco Gang members who live in different states or overseas converge in Denver for games, other members in the area usually provide lodging. Hugo Santillan, 42, is hosting two people from Germany, two more from Utah and three from Texas this weekend.
“Every single game (people stay over),” Santillan said. “It’s madness during the season.”
Although he lives in Connecticut, Young tries to make every Broncos game. He’s a season ticket holder. He hasn’t traveled as much this year because he’s got a newborn daughter. As Bronco Gang has taken off, so has his music career. He has a deal with CBS to put out snippets of music every week on Thursday Night Football.
Young is happy and healthy now. After getting high every day for eight years, he can count on one hand the number of times he’s smoked since quitting. He said smoked a little in Colorado after it got legalized, but that was it.
He’s busy these days with his family, his music and running Bronco Gang. Right now, he’s working on app that will help Bronco Gang members find each other through geolocation.
And, yes, Young still follows the team obsessively.
“He’s a huge Broncos fan,” Steuernagel said. “But he’s made it into something more. It’s like family. And it fills the void for a lot of people.”