JERSEY CITY The moment was nearly perfect.
Blue-and-orange confetti swirled inside Sports Authority Field in Denver, so thick it was almost hard to see. Eric Studesville was standing at the 50-yard line, covered in it. The only thing missing was his parents.
Al and Jan Studesville would have been there. They should have been there. They loved football as much as Eric, their only child. They attended dozens of games in Denver since Studesville joined the Broncos' staff in 2010, spending many Sundays before that watching their son coach for the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants and Chicago Bears. They watched him coach four games as the Broncos' interim head coach in 2010 and were in the seats for many playoff games.
They didn't live to see him reach his first Super Bowl.
The Studesvilles, longtime residents of Madison, Wis., were killed June 4 while on a road trip to visit the Grand Canyon. A truck veered into their lane on a Texas highway and collided with their motorcycle. In that moment, Studesville lost both his parents.
The Broncos wouldn't let Studesville grieve alone. His fellow coaches showed up at his home near Denver, and a large group of Broncos personnel coaches and players alike flew to Wisconsin for the funeral service.
"It really tore us up as a coaching staff," tight ends coach Clancy Barone told USA TODAY Sports. "We were all just very, very hurt by it, and for him and (his wife) Staci and their kids."
Coaching helped Studesville cope.
"You have a huge family that you're very close with, that love you, support you and are there for you, and they don't even know they're doing it," Studesville said. "That's the beautiful part of being on a team and in that inner circle. When you're going through things, you do have people around you that you can go to if you need to, and sometimes they come to you when you don't even think you need it."
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His running backs felt a duty to support their coach, even rookies Montee Ball and C.J. Anderson, who had been Broncos for a month when the accident occurred. Ball, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, was in Madison for the funeral, as was veteran Knowshon Moreno.
"We didn't understand how it felt, because it didn't happen to us, but we understood he was in pain," Ball told USA TODAY Sports.
Denver's tailbacks are frequent visitors to the Studesville home, even joining the family for Thanksgiving. Studesville wants his players to know his children, 9-year-old Sydni and infant Eric Jr., so they better understand him as a man and as a coach.
"I have a responsibility to these two little faces running around. I want them to see that (my children) are important to me, that my wife is important to me. That's why I do this," Studesville said. "That's why I push them, and I try to push myself the same way."
In early December, the Broncos named Moreno and Studesville winners of the annual Ed Block Courage Award. Moreno was announced first, as the award typically goes to a player.
Studesville watched head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos give the prestigious award to Moreno, and Studesville beamed like a proud father. Studesville was still reflecting about Moreno's journey from first-round pick to scout team running back and rise to stardom when Antonopulos surprised him by announcing the team wanted to honor him as well.
"He's a strong man," Moreno said. "He has great people around him, especially in this locker room and we were always with him no matter what."
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)