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Mike Boryla, speaking to my Journalist 3130 class at Metropolitan

State University of Denver in December 2018

 

 

 

August 26, 2019

From one former Stanford

quarterback to another:

Mike Boryla's advice to Andrew Luck 

 

In the wake of Andrew Luck's surprise retirement, Mike Boryla congratulated him for getting out of the NFL.

 

It didn't surprise me.

 

They have a lot in common.

 

Like Luck, Boryla was a star at Stanford and was a Pro Bowl quarterback. 

 

Boryla is a Regis High grad, now a resident of Castle Rock and the playwright of his own one-man stage play, "The Disappearing Quarterback."

 

It ran for 40 performances in Philadelphia and also was staged here in the Denver area, and he now says he has added seven songs and two dance scenes and renamed it "The Disappearing Quarterback Dog Days Are Over," with a scheduled November opening. He says his principal dancer is Justin Boulet, the lead male dancer on Taylor Swift's world tour.  

 

Boryla retired from the NFL at age 28. By then, he was banged up and disdainful of virtually everything connected to the NFL except the camaraderie. 

 

I've written many pieces about Boryla over the years. He twice has spoken to my Journalism 3130 classes at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Two of my On the Colorado Scene commentaries, stemming from those appearances, and links to previous newspaper pieces about Boryla are below.

 

Before we get to that, though, here's Boryla's Monday letter about Luck, distributed to his friends and a few members of the media by email:

 

My suggestions to Andrew Luck from a fellow Stanford quarterback who abruptly quit NFL football at 28...

     OK, Andrew. Before your wife has your baby, here's your travel itinerary. Most of these places I visited after I quit the psychopathic blood sport.

     Running of the Bulls at Pamplona, Spain. No, Andrew, don't run. You have been run over by enough 350 pound Samoan nose guards.

     Oktoberfest, Heidelberg, Germany, Don't  Drive!!! Make sure you take Uber back to the hotel.

     "Riverdance" - The Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, Ireland. No step dancing. (Bad for the knees.) Just watch.

     "The Phantom of the Opera" in London. Sit in the upper left balcony (best seat in the house).

     "The Disappearing Quarterback" / Dog Days Are Over. Lone Tree Arts Center Main Stage, Lone Tree, Colorado. (Will give you ideas for your one man play.)

     When you come back, take acting lessons. I have taken over a hundred hours of acting lessons.

     When your wife delivers your baby, then you start law school. Where? Well either Stanford or Yale or Harvard. Any of these three are fine. Then when you finish law school, you can start writing your one man play called "Dog Days Are Over." Sure, I will be happy to review your drafts.

(Signed),
Your Fellow Stanford quarterback who still has a brain in his head,

Mike Boryla

The Disappearing Quarterback 

 

 

December 6, 2018

Mike Boryla makes his annual

appearance at MSU Denver class...

and he's still swinging at windmills 

 

While making his now-annual appearance at my Journalism 3130 class at MSU Denver Thursday, Mike Boryla flashed back to his appearance a year ago and told my students a story -- a story I hadn't known about.

 

A year ago -- at the sppearance chronicled below, Mike and I walked part of the way across campus together after class, going our separate ways at the parking garage. Mike went into the garage and I continued on to the Tivoli Center.

   

Mike said he decided to walk up the flight of stairs to his car. Bad decision. He said a couple of students noticed he was struggling and helped him the rest of the way.


He said he related this story to his wife, Annie, when he arrived at home in Castle Rock, and then made the doctor appointment to start the process that would lead to him getting knee replacements. 

 

And he said he felt great now.

 

In the past year, Mike has written a screenplay fior a proposed fllm about Jim Plunkett, whom he backed up at Stanford before taking over as the starter for two years. And he has continued his crusade against the NFL. He wants the league shut down and put out of business.     


I've pasted my On the Colorado Scene column about Mike's appearance in 2017 below, and it all still applies.

    

 
 

December 7, 2017

Mike Boryla: Ex-Eagles

quarterback-turned-playwright,

turned-anti-football/NFL crusader 

 

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Mike Boryla (Photo by Taylor Oxenfeld)

 

Former Regis High, Stanford and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla is on a crusade. To kill football.


Boryla, who lives in Castle Rock, visited my Journalism 3130 class Thursday at Metropolitan State University of Denver to tell my students about that ... and a lot more.


Those of us in Boryla's e-mail chain receive frequent fiery missives about the NFL, citing the scourge of CTE and the league's maneuvering to downplay its impact -- yes, despite the $1 billion settlement designed to make money available to affected former players. Boryla even has argued that the NFL could be declared a terrorist organization, shutting it down and subjecting its revenues to confiscation. He told my class he knew that wasn't going to happen, but he takes that stance to make a point. 

 

Boryla talked about the toll he has seen brain injuries take on former teammates, including with the Eagles and also All-Star Games, as was the case with Mike Webster, the former Steelers center who died at age 50 after many years of  physical and psychological problems. And he also addressed what he believes is the continued underplaying of studies demonstrating the seriousness of the problem, and the denial of current players who often seem to believe it can't or won't happen to them. 


Boryla recently underwent a first wave of neurological testing as part of the lawsuit, and his discussions with the medical professionals involved set off bells of recognition. When he was an accomplished tax attorney for nearly 20 years and was entering his potentially prime years in the climb-the-ladder profession, he began having cognitive problems and not feeling comfortable with the fine-print legalistic rhetoric so ingrained in the legal field. He moved into mortgage banking from 2004-11, but even then, he began feeling more creative and soon he dove enthusiastically into writing.   


He believes the creative right side of his brain was taking over. The affected analytic side of his brain was giving up control.

 

Boryla suffered three significant concussions as a player, one at Regis and two with the Eagles.

 

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Now, at 66, Boryla considers himself a full-time playwright and screenwriter, best known for his one-man play, "The Disappearing Quarterback," peformed 30 times in two separate runs at Plays and Players Theatre in Philadelphia and seven times in Denver at the Bug Theatre and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Loft Theatre.  

 

After a performance during the play's second run in Philadelphia, Boryla got word backstage that a man in the audience was asking if he could meet with the play's star. Boryla agreed, and soon he was having a heart-to-heart with the audience member. 


The man explained his name was Bill Musgrave, he had been raised in Grand Junction, and like Boryla, he also had won the Gold Helmet that goes to Colorado high school football's top player-scholar. 


Musgrave revealed he was the Eagles' quarterback coach.   


He also said he had enjoyed the play, and the two men talked about -- among other things -- the Biblical references and the quarterback craft.

 

The two men haven't yet had a reunion since Musgrave joined the Broncos' staff, but it could happen at some point. 


The play Musgrave and many others have seen and enjoyed opens with Boryla alone on the dark stage. After 35 seconds of organ music, the audience hears him calling a play in the Eagles' huddle in 1975. "All right, men," he says, breathing hard, "third-and-7, we need this! Black right zip ...

run pass 37...655 choice. 'Khunya,' watch for the red dog."


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Forty-two years ago, that was Boryla's way of asking the Eagles' all-pro tackle, Jerry Sisemore, to be vigilant on the play-action pass. In the theater, the spotlight then shines on the face of Boryla. And the plays -- both the football play portrayed and the stage play itself -- take off.


Boryla suffers a concussion on "Black right zip ... "


Then Boryla's script flashes back to earlier stages of his life, and of his football career.  The work is in the tradition of Hal Holbrook playing Mark Twain or Julie Harris playing Emily Dickinson -- one-character, one-actor plays. Except Mike Boryla plays Mike Boryla.


When Mike was born, his father, Vince, was playing for the New York Knicks. Vince later spent time as GM of the Knicks, Utah Stars and the Denver Nuggets, and the family moved to Denver and made it the Boryla base when Mike was in the third grade. At Regis High, then still in North Denver along with what then was known as Regis College, he took Latin for four years and loved his coaches, Dick Giarrratano in football and Guy Gibbs in football. Though he won the Gold Helmet in 1968, four years after Bobby Anderson, two years after Freddie Steinmark, and gthree years before Dave Logan, he was a more accomplished basketball player and went to Stanford on a basketball scholarship. 


"I talked them into letting me try out for football," he once told me. "Once I had my second spring practice in football, the coaches came up to me and said, 'You're not playing basketball any more. You're a football player."


For two years, he backed up Jim Plunkett, who became and has remained a close friend, marveling at Plunkett's touching shyness despite his prominence as a Heisman Trophy winner. Then he started as a junior and senior and was drafted in the fourth round by the Bengals in 1974 before his rights were traded to the Eagles.


He started three games as a rookie, mostly backing up Roman Gabriel, and still planning on a short career before going to law school. That offseason, before he and his wife, Annie, were married, he lived in his van in the Bay area.


After the second of his three seasons with the Eagles, as an injury replacement following the dropping out of Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach, Boryla came on late in the Pro Bowl to replace Jim Hart and threw two touchdown passes to lead the NFC to the win.


Boryla told my class that he hadn't even expected to play, but Eagles tight end Charle Young went to NFC coach Chuck Knox and insisted on it. Then, Boryla said, the two TD passes came on the special plays  each QB got to install in the NFC playbook -- the "Boryla Special" and the "Hart Special."


He was traded to Tampa Bay, sat out the entire 1977 season because of  injuries, then played in only one game in 1978 before quitting football for good. He left a lot of money on the table, walking away. He was banged up and he just wasn't interested.


For years, he scrupulously avoided any media exposure. He cited a passage in Genesis as an instruction to not look back. But as "The Disappearing Quarterback's" opening approached, he went along with the need for publicity and did an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick. I saw the story and soon reached out to him to do a newspaper story here, too. We've been friends since, meeting for coffee in shops that have become his preferred writing venues. He joked with my class that  home is too quiet and that he doesn't mind writing kids tripping over him and the voices rising as the caffeine takes effect.  

 

His projects are ambitious and varied, including "The Clone of Jesus of Nazareth," which combines material from three of his plays into a 40-page screenplay treatment; plus the plays "Long Ago and Far Away" and Ministers  of Satan."


On the side, he's taking on football.

 

Here's a YouTube interview with Mike. Among other things, he calls the NFL "psychotic."  

 

A couple of my previous Denver Post stories on Mike Boryla:  

 

December 8, 2013: The Disappearing Gold Helmet winner

 

July 19, 2015: The Play's the Thing