This past Sunday, Denver Broncos defensive linebacker Paris Lenon, Richmond College ’00, represented University of Richmond in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Lenon, 36, was a redshirt freshman in 1997 when he was selected for the First Team All-Conference for the Atlantic 10. He was named to the Second Team All-Conference and was an All-American candidate his senior year, when he was also team captain.
Lenon was a three-year starter and four-year letterman at Richmond. He appeared in 45 games, making 24 starts in his career.
“Spider pride means overcoming adversity to achieve greatness,” Lenon said in a video posted on Richmond’s Instagram Jan. 31.
Lenon is the sixth Spider to play in a Super Bowl.
“Paris was one of my favorite guys to have gone through here in my time,” Ken Hart, football equipment manager, wrote in an email. Hart also said Lenon had been extremely hard working during his time at Richmond.
In a 1999 Collegian article about him, Lenon said he had not wanted to be seen as only a football player during his time at Richmond. “I want people to know me and see me as a person and a student, not necessarily as just Paris the football player,” he said.
Lenon graduated from Richmond undrafted, but signed with the Carolina Panthers as a rookie free agent.
In the 14 years between that time and the beginning of Lenon’s career in Denver, he played for nine different National Football League teams, entertained for a year in the XFL, a product of World Wide Wrestling Entertainment, and worked as a substitute teacher and in a post office.
“I kind of exist in the moment, not in the past or the future,” Lenon said in a statement to Fox Sports last week. “I know it kind of annoys my wife because she likes to plan ahead, but I just don’t function that way.”
Before joining the Broncos, Lenon was a member of the 2008 Detroit Lions team, which ended the season with a 0-16 record, and the 2009 St. Louis Rams, which ended the following season with a 1-15 record.
“I don’t think about my career in a negative way,” Lenon told Fox Sports. “Every year was just a step. As a player you gain more experience and knowledge every year, so I never thought about how bad I had it. I always thought I was fortunate to be playing.”
Jeff Pultz, Lenon’s defensive coordinator while playing at Heritage High School in Lynchburg, Va., said Lenon had always had a good work ethic and attitude. Lenon earned two varsity letters in both football and basketball and one in baseball while at Heritage.
“Sometimes athletes are high-maintenance people who want attention, but not Paris,” Pultz said to Fox Sports. “He preferred to be in the shadows and just go about his business.
“He carries those values with him today. He even calls his dad after every game just to let him know he’s OK.”
Lenon’s coach while at Richmond, Jim Reid, also saw Lenon’s character as one of his strong points. “Paris Lenon is a man among men,” Reid told The Collegian in 1999. “He’s tough and he’s hard, but he’s sensitive and caring to everyone around him.”
Immediately following the Broncos’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Lenon had X-rays taken on a rib injury sustained during the game.
“Quite a number of us were not sure that he had a chance to play in the [NFL],” Hart said, “but he proved himself and then the rest of us wrong.”
Contact reporter Danielle Schweizer at firstname.lastname@example.org