EVERETT — Don't be fooled by her cheery voice or the fact that she teaches preschool. Tonya Olds is a subversive, a fifth columnist, a Broncos fan in Seahawks country.
With the two teams set to meet next Sunday in the Super Bowl, Olds and a handful of Denver fans in Snohomish County find themselves behind enemy lines.
Olds actually lived most of her life in Washington and is the odd woman out in a family of Seahawks fans. She only lived in Colorado for a few years when she was a young girl, but Broncos football was as big as ever at the time.
"It was John Elway and the Three Amigos and the Karl Mecklenburg days of Broncos football," the Snohomish resident said. "Football was everything in Colorado."
For Olds, football was family time.
"You'd go to church and then watch football," she said. "Football means family and the Broncos."
Her family moved back to the Seattle area when she was 8, but she could never let go of her Orange Crush, a nickname for the team that originated in the late 1970s from its bruising defense and orange jerseys.
The 34-year-old has put up with years of trash-talk from friends and family ever since.
But she doesn't care.
"Every time I sit down and watch a Broncos game, I'm transported back to that time when I was a little girl watching the games with my family, wearing my John Elway jersey with number 7 painted on my face," Olds said.
Now she lives in a divided house. Her husband, Marc, and their youngest son, Tyson, are Seahawks fans, while she and their oldest, Shane, are all Denver.
Some Broncos fans revel in being a stranger in a strange land. Sheila Proctor-Long certainly does.
Genna Martin / The Herald
Sheila Proctor-Long and son Brady, 6, of Snohomish will be cheering for the Broncos at their Super Bowl party on Feb. 2. Sheila is originally from Denver and was on the waiting list for Broncos season tickets for 14 years.
In fact, the day they got married in 2012, the pair hopped on a plane to Denver to catch a Broncos-Seahawks preseason game.
Proctor-Long learned football from her mother, who at 78 is still a diehard fan, as is her older sister.
"Sunday at our house was Orange Sunday. She knew all the plays, all the players, and she could rattle off stats," Proctor-Long said. "If you dared walk in front of the television, you had to be prepared to have something thrown at you."
Her father, though, couldn't have cared less about football, she said. "He never even watched it with us. It was just us girls."
Now, when she isn't traveling to Denver for a game, she watches her Broncos with husband and son Brady, and, until she left for college in Arizona, daughter Sydney.
"It's about getting together every week and being passionate about something," Proctor-Long said. "We totally get into it, painting our faces even though we're not going anywhere. We're sitting in our living room; nobody's going to see us."
The couple has a big shop building with a screen and projector that can stream the game, so they've invited the entire Everett Fire Department over for the Super Bowl. But there won't be a spot of Seahawks green around. It will be all Broncos orange and blue.
Even the cupcakes she's making will have orange flags in them.
Genna Martin / The Herald
Tim Harrington of Everett wears his Broncos jersey, old-school sweat pants and a pair of Crocs every game day. Born in Denver, Harrington is a lifelong Broncos fan.
"It worked to beat the Patriots, so I'll wear it again next Sunday," Harrington said.
Seahawks fans in Colorado
Amber Sweet bleeds blue and green.
Courtesy of Amber Sweet
Amber Sweet (right) poses before a preseason Broncos-Seahawks game in Denver, where the Lynnwood native now lives.
Like other transplanted Northwesterners living in Colorado, rooting for the Seahawks each week during football season keeps them connected with their hometowns.
"The Seahawks are something I took with me; other things stayed behind," Sweet said. The team "represents my heritage and the cool things that make up where I'm from."
With Seattle and Denver taking each other on next Sunday in the Super Bowl in New Jersey, Sweet and other Seahawks fans are flying the team colors in Broncos country.
The 12th Man is behind enemy lines.
When Sweet first moved to the Denver area, she didn't know anyone. She'd go to sports bars to watch Seahawks games.
"I'd sit in the corner, watching whichever TV they'd put on for me," the 30-year-old said.
Then, one day, she ran into a handful of other transplanted Hawks fans.
Since then, the group, the Rocky Mountain Sea Hawkers, has grown to more than 100 members. They get together each week at Lucky Strike bowling alley in Denver to watch Seattle play. As many as 200 people turned out for last week's NFC championship game.
Since joining the group, Sweet has been dubbed "SweetHawk," a moniker she's had put on a customized jersey and even sneakers.
"We're dedicated fans. We're definitely fanatics," she said.
That could be a problem for her boyfriend, Gary Fowler, a Denver native and lifelong Broncos fan. His family has had season tickets since the 1960s.
Emotions run so high on both sides that they aren't watching the Super Bowl together.
"I told him two things are going to happen. Either you're never going to hear the end of it, or I'm never going to another Broncos game," she said.
But both have promised to go to the victory parade for whichever team wins.
Lynsey Nelson knows who that will be — the Seahawks.
Courtesy of Lynsey Nelson
Lynsey Nelson, his wife, Renee, and their 4-month-old son Wyatt live in Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver.
He and his wife moved to Denver from Everett in 2012 for work. Along with their household goods, books and other belongings, they brought their Seahawks pride with them.
Since the Hawks beat the San Francisco 49ers to go to the Super Bowl, they've been wearing blue and green to work, and Seahawks gear every other minute of the day.
Denver fans give him a hard time, but so far it's been good-natured, he said.
Like Sweet, Nelson is a member of the Rocky Mountain Sea Hawkers.
Out in Estes Park, Colo., Joel Harrison is on his own.
The former Everett resident moved to the area for work last year, but he said he'll be flying the colors come Super Bowl Sunday.
He is a "12th Man in a sea of Broncos orange. My name is Joel Harrison, and I'll be in Broncos Country on D-Day as I join the rest of the 12 around the country and world in support of the greatest team in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks."
Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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