"I am truly humbled and excited about this opportunity," Lewis says. "I feel like this is a real blessing for me. This is something you dream about when you're a kid, and now here I am, about to start a dream job."
In some ways, KOA's choice of Lewis to provide color for Broncos match-ups is unexpected. After all, the station has tended toward using ex-jocks in this role, including McCaffrey, onetime quarterback Brian Griese (now an analyst for ESPN) and Scott Hastings, previously a Denver Nugget. But our coverage of Lewis over the past nine months or so shows that his progression toward the new challenge has been steady and logical.
In an October 2016 Q&A marking two years since longtime partner Michael Floorwax left the Fox for unspecified health reasons, Lewis talked about branching out into sports. As he told us at the time, "I have a Broncos pre-game show called The Truth; it's me and [former University of Colorado and Broncos player] Matt McChesney. I think my role as an alternative Broncos guy is going to expand here in the near future. I definitely see that happening."
He added: "Doing that show, which we've been doing for the past five years, showcased me in a different light and showed that I could do different things other than just a morning radio show. I think that's really opened some eyes here in the Denver sports media."
"The Broncos' flight leaves that morning," Lewis said at the time. "So Tim Hager, the market president for iHeart Media, asked me, 'What do you think about doing the Broncos game with Dave Logan on Sunday?' And my response was, 'Hell, yeah!'"
The reviews Lewis garnered for his performance in the Broncos' victory over the Jags were so positive that Hager pushed ahead with a larger move — teaming Lewis and Logan, along with Fox morning-show staple Kathy Lee, in an afternoon-drive program on KOA. As a result, Lewis suddenly had the craziest schedule on Denver radio, with two of the biggest shows in town every weekday — and in another Westword interview, he confirmed that the Jacksonville success paved the way for the KOA experiment.
"This show was in the works when I got the opportunity to call the Broncos game with [Logan]," Lewis said. "We knew they were trying to put this show together. But working with him on the Broncos game, doing a three-hour live broadcast of an NFL football game, with all the pressure there is, it showed both of us just how great of a partnership and a team that we have. And management, after listening to that, said the same thing. When we got back into town, they were all so impressed. They were like, 'We're doing the right thing teaming you guys up.'"
Then came McCaffrey's departure, and when we asked Hager about the possibility of Lewis teaming with Logan for Broncos games, he was noncommittal — yet he seemed to be tilting in Lewis's direction. "There isn't a job on the face of the earth I wouldn't consider Rick Lewis for," Hager stressed.
Cut to week before last, when Lewis was on vacation on Molokai, "which is the most remote island in Hawaii," he says. "Tim called me on Thursday morning of that week and informed me the job was mine. He told me, 'Go out tonight and celebrate.' That really made for a special week, that's for sure."
As for what listeners should expect once the Broncos' 2017-2018 season gets under way, Lewis says, "I know I'll get better. I only did it once last year with Dave, and I feel like I over-prepared. I ended up using maybe 10 percent of what I'd gotten ready. But I want to bring a fresh approach, a more entertaining approach. I'm not an X's and O's analyst. I know the game, I understand the game. But I want to make the game more fun to listen to."
That goal has already been endorsed by Joe Ellis, the Broncos' chairman and CEO.
"Joe sent me a text on Saturday," Lewis reveals. "He congratulated me and said how excited they were to have me in that position. And then he said, 'Don't forget to be yourself and have fun with it. After all, this is football.' And getting that from him really made me feel good about my approach to this, because that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Lewis adds, "I'm going to be representing the fans of the Denver Broncos in the booth. I look at myself as a fan in the booth. I'm them and they're me — and I think you're going to hear my excitement when you listen to the games on KOA. I can't wait for the season to start."