September 8, 2009

Celebrating 50 years of Bronco History: The Beginning of Broncos Country

The 2009 NFL season will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Football League. The official 50th year of Broncos history will be in 2010 but I can’t wait that long to share the history of this team with my fellow Bronco fans.

There is a long historical past in this franchise that it is hard to recapture it all.

So, when someone mentions the Denver Broncos, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? John Elway? The Drive? Mile High Salute? Denver’s “Three Amigos?” The old uniforms with vertical striped socks? The one and only “Orange Crush?”… Our back-to-back Super Bowl wins? The never-dying “Mile High Magic?” Pick your poison.

Let’s relive some of this organization’s victories, losses, magic and as painful as it will be, even the struggles. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Broncos began their history with the help of a successful minor league baseball owner, Bob Howsam, who was awarded an AFL charter franchise on August 14, 1959. With a major lack of funds, Howsam put his team in used uniforms that came from the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Arizona… including vertically striped socks that made the uniform somewhat of a joke.

The socks became such a sore sight to look at, the year Jack Faulkner took over as head coach they were burned in public ceremony. Imagine, a bonfire made especially for brown and mustard yellow vertically striped socks. Anyone else find that funny?

But for the Broncos, the goofy uniforms were the least of their worries, but nevertheless, a memory they wouldn’t be able to live down.

On September 9, 1960, the Broncos made their pro football debut and did it with a 13-10 win over the Boston Patriots in the first-ever AFL game.

In the inaugural season for the Broncos, Goose Gonsoulin became a part of the team and stayed there for 7 seasons (1960-66). He left a strong impression with the Broncos even though they never achieved a winning season while the Goose was in town.

His rookie season was his best, by far. Out of Baylor University, he became a cornerback for the Broncos and in his first season he recorded 11 interceptions for 98 yards, seven of those INTs occurred in his first three games. Over his 7 year streak with Denver, he recorded a total of 43 interceptions.
Goose also managed to take two of those 43 INTs back for touchdowns (one in ’62 and ’63). Remind you of anyone we currently have on our defense?

His time ended with the Broncos in 1966 and then he spent one more season playing pro football for the 49ers in ’67. He also became a 5-time Pro Bowl selection, two- time All-AFL selection as well as a member of the AFL Hall of Fame. Gonsoulin’s achievements also led him to be one of the four original Bronco Ring of Fame inductees.

Well deserved, if I do say so myself.

August 5, 1967 finally came around and the Broncos took the first win ever for an AFL team with a 13-7 victory against an NFL opponent (the Detroit Lions).

The few accomplishments the Broncos made during the ‘60s would only put them in the spotlight for so long. By the end of the decade, Denver’s 39-97-4 record was the worst for any of the original 8 AFL teams. Still, the Broncos had something to prove.

Atlanta became interested in the team and several minority partners formed a majority voting block to sell the Broncos. Instead, Gerald and Allan Phipps gave the Broncos a fresh start and bought the team. They also purchased the 34,657-seat Bears stadium and that was when the fans came alive.

23,000 season tickets were bought in appreciation of this uplifting change, a huge upgrade from the previous year when only 7,996 tickets were bought.

Fans of this beloved Denver team began to show true support and in their own way, gave this team the “Mile High Salute” it deserved.

The growth of the Broncos began to prosper, as did the number of fans. The stadium was bought before the 1968 season by the city and was named the “Denver Mile High Stadium”. The number of seats at the stadium continued to grow over the years along with the number of season-ticket sales and fans.

From the beginning in 1960, the Broncos struggled to create a winning season. They almost had it in ’62 when they got off to a 7-2 start and were sitting in the top spot for the first 9 games. Yet somehow, the final 5 games turned their record into a 7-7 ending. Along with one losing season after another, the Broncos went through coaches like a hungry farm.

Four coaches in 6 seasons, 13 consecutive losing seasons… nothing seemed to stick with the Mile High team.

Still, through all these struggles and losses, one major factor still managed to grow and stick around for the love of their team. The fan base; the solid foundation of the Denver Broncos never ceased to show their support.

It was then in their 14th season, the Broncos seemed to come alive. They earned their first winning season ever with a 7-5-2 record under head coach, John Ralston. That was the beginning of improvement for Denver. Over the next 20 seasons, they fell below the .500 mark only 3 times. Impressive, if you consider their previous 13 seasons of bad luck.

A few years later in 1967, running back and now Hall of Fame nominee, Floyd Little, joined the Broncos as the team’s first ever top draft pick. He certainly lived up to that hype. Here’s a quick recap of his legendary time with the Broncos.

Long before the great Terrell “Touchdown” Davis or John Elway, Little was the face of the Denver franchise. He gave the Mile High city 9 incredible seasons (1967-75) and left an unforgettable impression with the fans. In his career he rushed for 6,323 yards on 1,641 carries and 43 touchdowns. Little also posted 12,103 all-purpose yards in his career as well as a team record of 2,523 yards on kickoff returns.

Number 44 was also one of the four original Bronco Ring of Fame inductees and is one of three former players for the Broncos that have their jersey number retired. His contributions to the team led to him being ranked first in All-Time Career Bronco rushing attempts at 1,641, he became the first 1,000-yard Bronco rusher (1,133 yards in ’71) and had the longest non-scoring kickoff return (89 yards). He’s a legend of his own kind.

Now, it’s time to relive the infamous year of 1977. Bronco fans young and seasoned, should know all about the year the “Orange Crush” surfaced and terrorized offenses all over the league. This was the first time in 17 seasons the Broncos had earned their best winning record (12-2). The team as a whole finally gelled together and did it with the best defense this team has ever had.

With new head coach, Red Miller, the Broncos not only reached their best winning record but achieved the AFC West title, their first ever playoff berth and the AFC Championship. The party didn’t stop there. They went all the way to the promise land, Super Bowl XII .

Though the ending to that ultimate achievement didn’t work out the way the Broncos had hoped, with a 27-10 loss to the Dallas Cowgirls (my bad, meant Cowboys), it was a victory for Denver on a whole other level. Some people will say the Broncos just got really lucky that year, other people (the real fans) will tell you it was the “Mile High Magic” that finally came to life.

The ‘77 Denver Broncos earned their trip to the Super Bowl and that was good enough. They showed the world of football that they were good for something better than just one losing season after another.

As I like to say, good things come to those who wait. Indeed, it was a long and very painful wait for the Broncos but as a team, they made it known they still had something to give.

Some of the faces of the Orange Crush that helped reshape the defense as well as the team include: LB Randy Gradishar , LB Tom Jackson, DL Rubin Carter, DE Lyle Alzado, LB Bob Swenson, DB Billy Thompson and DB Louis Wright.

May their legacy live on within each player who steps on to that field wearing the Broncos Orange & Blue.



The following season was still a good performance for the defense with Randy Gradishar earning the Defensive Player of the Year honor and they got another division title. The Broncos reached the playoffs in ’78 and ’79, but that’s as far as they would get.

By the beginning of the 80s, the defense began to slow down and got sloppy. When they once allowed only 148 points the year of the Orange Crush, that number had more than doubled a few years later. Things seemed to be taking another turn for the worse.

Denver then got themselves another new coach by replacing Red Miller with Dan Reeves following the 1980 season. The Broncos went through a winning season but missed the playoffs and then had their first losing season (2-7) in 7 years the following year.

In the first 20 seasons of the Broncos franchise there was plenty of drama but they persevered and once again showed they had something to prove. Many of the doubters probably would have never thought they would reach the playoffs, let alone a Super Bowl.

Those doubters got a nice cold dish of crow the year the Orange Crush came alive and took the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Indeed, that was a fun time.

So as you can probably tell, the beginning years of the Denver Broncos turned out to be a roller coaster. Plenty of struggles, heartaches and losses showed up at their door, however, they also had several highlights worth mentioning.

Now that we’ve taken a stroll down memory lane and relived how Broncos Country came to life, stay tuned for the second issue of this 3-part article… The Elway Era.

Through the good and bad, crazy and unbelievable, the icky and the yucky, wins and losses… the Broncos will always be #1 in my book.

58 comments:

  1. Alright so there ya go. Few things to tell you all.

    1) The Orange Crush video has no music and it goes on for about 10 minutes. It has some great pictures but its 10 minutes of pure silence... drove me crazy so I figured I'd let you all know.

    2) My apologies for the big blob of blue space next to Goose's picture. I couldn't get the words below it to be beside the picture so... deal with it! lol

    And finally, yes I know its long. This is why I'm breaking this 50th anniversary article into 3 parts... can you imagine how long it would be had I added in Elway's time with the team?? hahaha Heck, I probably wouldn't have read it. Ok maybe I would but I'm sure I would've gone blind.

    Enjoy, hope you all like it.

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  2. Nice post great read. would have liked more about Floyd Little, love that kid. But great article.

    Oh by the way I fixed up those problems. If you don't like it I can change it back.

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  3. OMG, thanks Aussie for fixing that one problem! Looks great, much better. And I couldn't find that much on Little, believe it or not. I wanted to put in a video of some highlights but found nothing. So I put in as much as I could about him. Plus I left out ALOT of other players. This article would've been incredibly long had I added a bunch of other players. Even Dave got on my case about it. I'm sorry, geez!!! lol You people just love to get on my case, don't ya. pfft

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  4. dang, that was long. great read. nice job Princess.

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  5. homework sucks, it really really sucks.

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  6. yeah great article Ashley, loved it. And yes HW does suck!

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  7. No problem glad to help and to bad about Floyd Little, he was the Franchise. Oh and you guys stop worring about your homework, just chill and do it.

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  8. I told you all it was gonna be long. Can't say I did warn you! lol And I'll have to put together a whole article about Little. He was the franchise and paved a path for people like TD. But like I said, I searched youtube like a crazy person and no videos at all with highlights of his career. The only thing I did find was something I didn't really want to use. It was about Lou Saban "firing" Little the year he became coach. If you want me to post it anyway, I can go find it again but didn't think that was something I wanted to highlight.

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  9. I don't like HW either... I have one long paper to write by Oct. 1. Yipee! lol

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  10. was marshall supposed to talk with the press today?

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  11. gunna go eat now, talk later.

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  12. Did you hear Marshall is in contract talks with the Broncos.

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  13. Yep I heard about that. Hope he's grown up a little and can work something out.

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  14. It would be good to have him contracted. I can't wait for the season to start. Oh and I found out somthing cool. Here they are showing games on free to air TV. No broncos this week. But they show 5 games a week and lots of college football in HD. I am loving it!

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  15. Nice article Ashley. I enjoyed the memories and look forward to the next segment.
    P.S. I tried to comment earlier and everything went haywire so if my other comment shows up also that's why.

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  16. I know and they replay the games at night as well. It is going to be awesome. It will be great for the sport over here.

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  17. That's cool Aussie. Too bad you'll miss the Broncos though.

    Thanks Digger... I had fun writing the article and going through all those memories I'm way too young to remember.

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  18. I would watch them online but at work on Monday (sunday for you) so I will miss it sob sob. But will follow by stats.

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  19. cant you watch and turn down the sound?

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  20. I know that. 22, just like Hillis. Double duece. My daughter is your age and she's the youngest of three. For you it's learning instead of remembering. That's cool too though. Especially if you're learning about stuff you love. Like the Broncos. Then it's fun.

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  21. Have crap work connection so it would be jumpie as hell I could try but I couldn't be bothed.

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  22. NFL odds makers are listing the home Bengals as 4-point favorites with the total set at 43.

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  23. just more people to prove wrong

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  24. im pretty confident we will beat the Bengals, our D just needs to stop there passing game.

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  25. we need Champ to shut out ocho cinco.

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  26. I'm having no fun with my comp tonight. Slow as shit.

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  27. Occho says he is going to embarrass Champ this week.

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  28. Ocho Cinco can talk all he wants, but im sure Champ will shut him down, if we stop Ocho Cinco, we win the game i think.

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  29. what happened last time we played Cinn...Oh yea, I remember, Champ intercepted a pas intended for Ocho!!!

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  30. Uhoh Ocho is just another egotistical WR in the league that thinks he's all that and a bag of chips. He's a drama queen like T.O. He can talk the talk but he's not gonna walk the walk on Sunday. He is no match for Champ and with Dawkins hunting down their entire offense, Ocho will be lucky to have the ball even up in the air for him to try and catch. If our D can seriously elaborate off their performance against Arizona and make our defense 10x that... their offense will be no match for our D. People underestimate us too much. Let them talk crap and we'll surprise them. Cannot wait!!!!

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  31. every time i think of the bengals, i think of John Lynch making that big hit in the redzone near the sideline and makin the guy fumble the ball. It was like 2 years ago, i think. Who remembers that?

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  32. LOL 80, I think of that every time too. That had to be one of the best plays I ever saw from Lynch. Loved it!! Hope to see Dawkins show them some Bronco love like that too on Sunday.

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  33. I remember that like it was yesterday.

    I still love Ocho Cinco, but not this week, this week he is my enemy.

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  34. or it was here, 1 minute ago.

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  35. one thing i do think is Ocho Cinco will have a good year. I have him in 1 of my FF leagues. Just because he was so committed this offseason.

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  36. against Champ, he has no chance to have a good game

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  37. I can't stand Ocho Nacho. He doesn't stand a chance against Champ.

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  38. so princess, been up to anything else other than HW.

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  39. Not really... HW has become my life, sob sob. Just about to go insane having to wait FOREVER for Sunday. I'm so anxious its ridiculous! lol

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  40. i know, Sunday is the best day of the week starting this Sunday.

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  41. man i really hope this Marshall thing gets fixed, there in contract talks now. It would be bad if this became a distraction during the season.

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  42. That's why I said it wouldn't bother me at all if we traded him cuz of this contract thing. It will become a distraction if nothing gets settled, mark my words on it. I'll take his 2.2 million this year if he's gonna be a jerk and not appreciate what he has. Talent wise, he definitely deserves a raise but the way he handled this whole thing was childish. Like I saw on ESPN, the Broncos said they were working WITH him on a deal, not doing it FOR him. Both sides need to be happy in order for this to work and be settled.

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  43. dang, the FF situation has gotten really bad.

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  44. Awesome read BP!!! I feel my Broncos Smarts went up by 10 points from minus 3 lol. Loved it cant wait till the next instalment!

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  45. Bailey to Ochocinco's prediction: bring it on

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  46. haha, thank Samoan! Yeah I feel like my Bronco IQ went up a few more points just doing the searching and finding of all that info! lol

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  47. Great post nice read, go Broncos!

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