Jussel Column July 31, 2009

Expect ’09 to be ugly for Broncos


Finally, some football.

Sure, it’s only training camp, but it’s never too early to gear up.

The Denver Broncos officially welcome their full roster to practice today after quarterbacks, rookies and injured veterans, even disgruntled wide receiver Brandon Marshall, checked in early in the week.

I’ve got to warn you right now, it isn’t going to be a pretty sight in Denver this season.

No, not because Jay Cutler is now playing for the Chicago Bears, Mike Shanahan is relaxing and preparing for his next head coaching assignment, or Josh McDaniels is the new head coach.

It’s going to be ugly because the Broncos will take part in two AFL Legacy Games, either preseason or regular-season games in which the original eight American Football League teams will wear replicas of their original uniforms.

If you are roughly my age, you will no doubt remember the ugliest costume ever placed upon a professional athlete — bottomed off by the fabled vertical-striped-socks — the early 1960s uniforms of the Broncos.

Those uniforms were part of the low-budget start-up cost of the franchise run by Bob Howsam, who purchased very well-used uniforms from the defunct Copper Bowl, a collegiate all-star game headquartered briefly in the late 1950s in Tucson, Ariz.

Bronco colors were mustard (think ordinary French’s) and dark brown, colors that went along with southern Arizona’s copper mining industry.

The pants were solid brown and the jerseys were either white with brown numerals or mustard with brown numerals. Helmets were brown with a single white stripe.

But what really stood out about the uniforms, other than the sheer nastiness of the color combination, were the vertically striped mustard and brown socks (or brown and white), each stripe roughly 11/2 inches wide.

The team’s first superstar, wide receiver Lionel Taylor, said in an interview several years ago that he wished he still had a pair or two of those socks because he was sure they would be worth a bundle of money to some collector. Unfortunately for Taylor and fortunately for Bronco fans and players alike, the socks were burned in a 1962 public ceremony.

They will, however, be resurrected for the entire nation to see in two regular-season games, at home against the New England Patriots on Oct. 11, then on the road in a Monday night game in San Diego against the Chargers on Oct. 19.

Everyone can get their yucks at the expense of the Broncos.

FYI, you can order your very own Bronco throwback jersey on the Broncos’ Web site

A couple of other historical notes picked up on the fly from the Broncos’ Web site:

Taylor, who caught 100 passes in one season and more than 500 for the Broncos in his career, said the socks didn’t really bother him at the time. He was just happy to have a job in football. He did, however, say the biggest problem in Denver’s early years was in finding pants: “One week, you’d have a pair of 44s. The next week you might have a pair of 32s. If you found a pair that fit, you’d better put your name on them,” he said.

Continuing in the Strange-But-True Department, Frank Filchock was the first head coach, brought in from the Canadian league.  He asked Frank Tripucka, thought to be on the way to retirement, to come to Denver to help coach during the team’s first training camp.

The cash-strapped Broncos were charging $5 for fans to watch an intrasquad scrimmage and nobody could complete a pass. Filchock asked Tripucka if he’d put on a uniform at halftime just so the fans could see a bit of ball movement.
Tripucka ended up throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in that first season.

Those two, along with safety Goose Gonsoulin, were the first three members of the Broncos Ring of Fame and were also inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.

The Broncos got their start 50 years ago. We’ve been through the Filchocks, Sabans, Ralstons and Millers. We’ve been through the Reeves and Shanahan eras, all vastly different.

Now, we start the McDaniels tenure.

Much more history to be made ... some of it ugly, I’m sure.


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