LONDON — As Denver Broncos players scan the crowds of fans flocking to historic Wembley Stadium on Sunday, player Corliss Waitman will be the one to spot the most recognizable faces.
“It’s going to be a little weird,” Waitman said. “Okay, very strange. Of all the things I thought could happen in football, I’m not sure I would have said I would be back in Europe with so many friends and family coming to see me play a game , which I didn’t know about until I was in high school. I couldn’t have foreseen that.”
Waitman, 27, was born in Belgium and lived in the Netherlands until he moved to Florida with his father to attend high school. He holds dual citizenship of the Netherlands and the United States.
“I had to ask them what passport they wanted when it came time to prepare for this trip,” he said.
The Broncos, who last played at Wembley in 2010, take on the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET, streaming exclusively on ESPN+. Waitman bought 18 tickets for friends and family, including his mother Aldolphine, who lives in Amsterdam and has never personally seen Waitman play in an NFL game.
For a player who has spent time with four teams — the Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots and now the Broncos — and has been waived on four in the past two years, it will all be a connection moment Sunday .
The Broncos called him off waivers in February, and he won a fight for the job when veteran Sam Martin suffered a preseason ankle injury and refused to take a pay cut. Since the Broncos only managed eight touchdowns all season, they kept Waitman busy. He is currently tied for the league lead in punts (39) and leads in punts knocked down inside the 20-yard line (18).
“Corliss is someone who’s really talented,” said George Paton, the Broncos general manager. “…He’s got the big leg, left, and we just thought he had it [a] unique combination of hangtime, directional, very good athlete, very good holder.”
Waitman’s father Jose played professional basketball in Europe for 15 seasons and was the MVP of the Dutch leagues in 1986-87. Waitman lived in the Netherlands with his mother until his father returned to the United States and settled in Pensacola, Florida.
Jose Waitman died of complications from a stroke in 2013 at the age of 49, and Waitman lived with his grandfather until he went to South Alabama University to play football.
“I didn’t really do much with football when I was in Europe,” said Waitman, laughing. “I was always just about football and basketball and some kind of athletics at least where I was. So apparently everyone knew the Falcons back then.
“I was nervous about moving, you didn’t know what high school would be like in the US, it was really just like what I’d seen in the movies, like the ‘Breakfast Club’ or something, exactly what you saw got the movies So when you’re a teenager, you don’t know, was it like thugs and the jocks fighting all the time, like in the movies?”
It also didn’t take long for Waitman to discover the sport’s pecking order. Football was king. Arriving as a sophomore, Waitman initially took on some kickoff duties for the Milton High School football team before being named an all-state punter in his senior year.
“Football is simply the No. 1 sport in Europe, nobody I knew really played anything else,” said Waitman. “Then I move to Florida, soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was in high school, it was a lot more casual and I wasn’t used to it … It just looked more serious to me, but I played basketball, soccer and something.” Athletics, so I didn’t really go into it until my senior year when they needed a kicker.”
That led him to South Alabama, where his father had played basketball. Peer into the quirky odyssey of a punter or kicker trying to earn a spot in the NFL, which often means several years of a series of workouts, and Waitman said, “I’ve been pretty much on my own since college placed.”
His 10-point extravaganza in the Broncos’ Week 3 win over the San Francisco 49ers included six landings inside the 49ers’ 20-yard line and four inside the San Francisco 13-yard line when he went to the AFC Special Team- Player of the week was named. His fiery trainer, Dwayne Stukes, has said he needs to stop Waitman from being too aggressive at times.
“Sometimes he gets greedy, and maybe I’ll try to push him a little bit by saying we definitely need that ball inside the 10-yard line,” Stukes said.
When the NFL released the 2022 season schedule in May, Waitman ran his finger over the Broncos’ calendar and saw “London” and “Wembley Stadium” next to October 30.
“It kind of hit me then, just looking at the schedule, if somehow, somehow, I could make it on the team, I could play in front of my family and a lot of my friends,” Waitman said. “And here it is.”
https://www.espn.com/blog/denver-broncos/post/_/id/41255/london-game-is-special-homecoming-for-broncos-punter-corliss-waitman London NFL game is special homecoming for Broncos’ Corliss Waitman – Denver Broncos Blog