You probably thought the media coverage of the Bronco's
magical season included everyone but the Gatorade
salesman. Little to nothing was said, however, about one
of the most improbable figures in the Fiesta Bowl
When he started working with the Broncos in 1998, Vincent
Kituku didn't know a quarterback sack from a grocery bag.
"I'd probably watched less than one game on TV," he said.
"I'd never been to a game. I'd never touched a football."
That was in 1998, the year then-BSU Coach Dirk Koetter was
impressed enough with a letter Kituku wrote him that he
asked him to speak to the team. The results impressed
Koetter enough that he flew Kituku to Arizona State to
speak to his players after Koetter became the coach there
Koetter's successor, Dan Hawkins, credited Kituku with
being "a key ingredient of our success." And in a letter
signed by himself and 13 of his assistants, Coach Chris
Petersen thanked Kituku for lessons that were "priceless
when it comes to building a championship team."
Not bad when you consider that Kituku still doesn't know a
double reverse from a Hail Mary.
How does he do it? The answer will surprise you.
Kituku grew up in Kenya. His transportation was a donkey;
he didn't get his first pair of shoes until he was 17. As
a scholarship student at the University of Wyoming, he
discovered that Americans were fascinated by his stories
of African life. Now, he uses them to make his living as a
The letter to Koetter that began his relationship with the
Broncos was about a water buffalo.
"The water buffalo was the most feared animal in our
village," he said. "When it came, we would get around it
and one person would throw a spear and take off. The water
buffalo would run toward that person. Then another person
would throw a spear from another place, and the water
buffalo would run in that direction.
"The lesson is teamwork. You treat a problem like a water
buffalo. You are not alone. Each spear, each person
Kituku's first chat with BSU players lasted about 15
minutes. The next year, he put together a two-hour
presentation. He helped develop what he called "simple
goals. Winning over the U of I, that's achievable. A
winning season. A championship. Now they've gone to
another whole level."
He's never been paid for his work with the team and is
quick to give credit for its success to everyone but
"It's the coaches' work, the players', (athletic director)
Gene Bleymaier's - it's the whole thing," he said.
"Without the skills and determination, a speech can do
But, as Petersen said in his letter to Kituku, it can help
players achieve a state of mind and mental edge that makes
Though not a coach, Kituku definitely has a playbook. He
asks players to hold a piece of black paper with a pinhole
in front of one eye and a book or newspaper at arm's
length. Those who can't read it without glasses find that
they can see it perfectly by focusing through the pinhole.
He tells a story about oxen in his native country, plowing
a crooked line except when heading home. The difference,
whether the goal is home or a Fiesta Bowl victory, is
focus. How many times did we hear players use that word
He laughs when he tells of being a new immigrant reluctant
to touch the AC button in his car because he thought it
meant "alternating current."
"When I pushed that button, life changed," he said. "I use
that story to show the players that the potential for good
things is right there waiting. The question is whether
they're going to use it."
Having just finished three years on the Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial beat, I especially appreciated what Kituku
calls "the Sacajawea factor."
"She wasn't part of the original plan, but she became so
significant to the success of Lewis and Clark. I ask the
players if they're going to give someone the opportunity
to become Sacajawea. When I think of that now, I think
about Vinny Perretta. He's not even a quarterback, but he
threw a touchdown pass we'll never forget."
It wasn't until last week that I learned Kituku had worked
with the highest-ranked BSU team ever, but it didn't
surprise me. I've known him for years and have never known
him to be anything but infectiously inspirational. He's
also a deeply spiritual man. His standard response when
greeted and asked how he's doing is a resounding, "I am
The same could be said of the 2006 Broncos.
To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Tim
firstname.lastname@example.org or 377-6409. Read his
past columns at