June 12, 2012; Englewood, CO, USA; General view of the Denver Broncos training facility before the start of the Denver Broncos mini camp. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
We are in that "oh-so-slow-moving-lull" that comes between the end of OTAs/Mini Camps and the beginning of training camp. It is the time of the football year when news flows slow and a single story gets retold from multiple angles.
Rather than simply reiterate themes and stories that have been posted and reposted and posted yet again, I thought this edition of Little Known Broncos facts would take another look back. This time, we will be looking at some "Denver Broncos Firsts."
Take a jump with me.
The First African-American Placekicker: Gene Mingo, 1960
Mingo came to the Broncos as a free agent who had never played football in college. Though he was brought in as a running back, Mingo was assigned most of the Broncos' placekicking duties.
The First African-American Quarterback: Marlin Briscoe, 1968
On October 6, 1968, Marlin Briscoe started for the Denver Broncos in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He led his team to a 10-7 victory and completed 4 of 11 passes for 37 yards. He went on to start four more games for Denver in 1968. In that season, he completed 97 of 224 passes for 1589 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. HIs fourteen touchdowns still stands as Denver's rookie passing touchdown record. He was released before the 1969 season and went on to play for Buffalo, Miami, Detroit, San Diego and New England.
There are some who would choose to argue that James Harris of Buffalo should be considered the first African-American quarterback in the NFL. Their contention is based on the fact that everywhere but in Denver, Briscoe played as a wide receiver rather than a quarterback and that as a quarterback he only had five starts. James Harris, on the other hand, played quarterback for Buffalo, the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego from 1969 to 1979. Harris started 41 out of 83 games, completed 607 out of 1149 passes for 8136 yards, 45 touchdowns and 59 interceptions.
While Harris' career is notable, the simple fact remains that chronologically, Briscoe was first.
SOME FIRSTS FROM THE VERY BEGINNING
Denver's First Win: came on Friday, September 9, 1960 when the Broncos defeated the Boston Patriots, in Boston, 13-10. An interesting footnote to that game: due to the AFL schedule, the Broncos were the first AFL team to ever win a regular season game.
MORE FIRSTS FROM THE FIRST GAME
First Play from Scrimmage: the first play ever run by the Broncos was a running play which RB Al Carmichael turned into a five-yard gain.
First Passing Play: the first ever pass play was a screen pass from QB Frank Tripucka to FB Dave Rolle.
First Scoring Play: Denver's first scoring play can on the first play of the second period of their opening game against Boston. The game book from that game records that on 2-8-DEN41: "Carmichael scores on the first play on a short pass in right flat, reversed field just beyond scrimmage went all the way down the left side for TD. TD came at 29 seconds."
First Punt Returned for a Touchdown in the AFL: Gene Mingo, 1960, vs Boston
SOME OTHER DENVER FIRSTS
First Professional Football Player to Catch 100 Passes in a Season: Lionel Tayler, 1961
First Non-Losing Season: 1962, Denver went 7-7-0. They posted wins against San Diego (twice), Buffalo, the New York Titans (now the Jets), Oakland (twice) and Houston. They lost to Boston (twice), Buffalo, the Dallas Texans (now the Chiefs) (twice), and the New York Titans and Houston. A depressing footnote to that season: Denver started the first half of the season with a 6-1-0 record.
First Winning Season: 1973 when the Broncos went 7-5-2. They defeated Cincinnati, Houston, the New York Jets, San Diego (twice), Pittsburgh, and Kansas City. They were defeated by San Francisco, Chicago, Kansas City, the Dallas Cowboys, and Oakland. They tied Oakland and the St. Louis Cardinals. This was a comeback season as the Broncos started the season with a 1-3-0 record.
First Post Season Appearance: 1977 (please note, I'm referencing the regular season year), the Broncos finished the regular season at 12-2-0. They won the AFC West title. The Broncos defeated Pittsburgh 34-21 in their first ever post-season game -- a divisional round game. They next slipped past Oakland 20-17 to take the AFC Championship. Sadly, Denver was not able to capitalize on their first trip to the Super Bowl, losing to the Dallas Cowboys 27-10 in Super Bowl XII.
First Super Bowl Win: 1997, Denver would have to wait twenty years, and suffer through three more Super Bowl losses (XXI, XXII, XXIV) before notching that first win. They finished the 1997 regular season with a record of 12-4-0, but only finished 2nd in the AFC West -- behind the 13-3-0 Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos won their Wild Card matchup with Jacksonville 42-17. They next face division rival Kansas City in a divisional round game which Denver won 14-10. A 24-21 victory over Pittsburgh gave the Broncos the AFC Championship. A hard fought Super Bowl XXXII game against the Green Bay Packers ended in a 31-24 Denver victory.
SOME INDIVIDUAL FIRSTS
First 3000-yard passer: Frank Tripucka, 1960, 3038 yards
First 1000-yard rusher: Floyd Little, 1971, 1133 yards
First 1000-yard receiver: Lionel Taylor, 1960, 1235 yards
First 100-catch receiver: Lionel Tayler, 1961, 100 catches
First 10+ Interceptions: Goose Gonsoulin, 1960, 11 interceptions
First 100-yard rusher in a game: Don Stone, 1963, vs San Diego, Stone rushed for 104 yards on 17 carries.
First 100-yard rusher in a half: Floyd Little, 1970, vs San Francisco, Little rushed for 117 yards on 9 carries in the first half.
First 100-yard rusher in a quarter: Terrell Davis, 1997, vs Cincinnati, in the 4th quarter, Davis rushed for 106 yards on 6 carries.
First 100-yard receiver in a game: Al Carmichael, 1960, vs Boston, Carmichael caught 6 passes for 130 yards. Incidentally, this was in Denver's first ever regular season game.
First 300-yard passing game: Frank Tripucka, 1960, vs Houston, Tripucka completed 30 out of 52 attempts for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns.
First Running Back to throw 2 touchdown passes in a game: Gene Mingo, September 10,1961, vs Buffalo. With the score tied 0-0 in the first quarter, Denver faced 3-9-MID, Frank Tripucka pitched the ball to Mingo who, in turn, passed to Lionel Taylor for a 50-yard touchdown play. In the third quarter with Denver leading 15-8, the Broncos had the ball 1-10-DEN48, Tripucka threw a lateral pass to Mingo who then completed a long pass to Taylor for a 52-yard pass play.
I hope you've enjoyed this brief look at some of Denver's firsts. It has hopefully helped while away a few moments of this slow time that leads up to the start of training camp.