Earlier this week I had the privilege of sitting down and visiting with Jerry Sturm. Jerry played for the Broncos from 1961 - 1966. He has a restaurant in Englewood Colorado called "The South" Restaurant and Lounge.
I'd heard about him before, and his place in Englewood, though until recently I wasn't sure which player he was. Jerry Sturm was originally from Indiana; A popular local athelete in HS Basketball & Football who could play every position on the O-line (6'3, 245). After High School, he played as a Guard at the University of Illinois for two years before signing in the CFL with the Calagary Stampeders. (Joe Capp was the QB there) Jerry played in Canada in 1959 and 1960. Gaining a reputation for speed, versatility and determination. Jerry was signed by the Broncos in 1961 and at 265 pounds, he played center, guard, tackle and linebacker. He was used occasionally as a fullback, averaging 3.9 yards a carry over his career. He was selected to play in the 1964 and 1966 Pro Bowls.
In 1967, the NFL expanded and the Broncos traded Jerry to the New Orlean Saints. Jerry was a four-year starter for the Saints. He then signed with the Houston Oilers in 1971 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972. Surgery ended his career in 1973. He has two "titanium knees" as scars of his NFL career.
When I arrived at "The South", the first thing apparent is the long hallway entrance. Lined on the wall on the right are Team Photos of the Broncos from 1960-90's. (Missing are some in the 70's I noticed) On the left side is a nearly complete 1966 AFL set of Topps trading cards nicely framed and matted. Straight ahead on the wall at the end of the hall is a large poster size photo of the 1961 Bronco Team. I was impressed already.
Turning to the right and into the restaurant, it had a very comfortable atmosphere like the way a lounge used to be in the 60's and 70's. I had my Topps card album with me and decided to sit at the bar. It was 3:00PM, and way past the allowable time for a tall rum and coke. The first thing you notice is the four old game worn helmets mounted above at the top of the bar shelves. Encased in clear plastic, there was a Houston, New Orlean, and Philly helmet. Right in the middle was a Bronco helmet from 62-65 with the white bronco - very cool. Along two back walls of the restaurant area were booths, and each had a wall lamp above the table. All the lamp shades were photos (in a sepia like color) of Jerry as a player and his Son Brett when he played football.
Looking around, I was ready to ask the bartender if Jerry was there, but just then from the kitchen came a tall man in his early 70's, "a very big guy". Here was my chance, I got up and met him in stride and introduced myself. I told him I had just been to the card shop on Broadway, and was told about his place. We started to talk Broncos and he had me come to his table and sit down. There was another man there with him, one of the locals and a friend of Jerry's.
At the time, off the top of my head, I knew he played for New Orleans, but not the other teams. I also didn't know about the CFL and he never mentioned it. He started by telling me about his pro career from Denver on. He didn't seem upset that Denver traded him to the Saints in 67, but he kept his home here in Colorado. Finally in 1973 he retired and started in the Restaurant Business in Englewood.
Fortunately, I have a pretty complete Topps card collection of the Broncos and am only missing a few from 1963 and 65; Otherwise, my early Fleer sets and Topps sets are complete from 1960-2007. The binder I had with me was 1960-1990.
Jerry was impressed with the card sets and started looking at all the names (after he had the Bar Girl get him his glasses) He talked more about these guys and what they did after football, rather than game day or locker room stories. I was enjoying it so much, I can't remember exactly which comments were made about whom. Jerry would point a finger at a card and say "didn't know him, him neither, oh man he was wierd, and 'oh that dumb bastard" I was cracking up. He looked at all the 60's cards and as we got to each of his cards I pulled them out of the sleeves and he called the Bar girl to bring him a sharpie. I had his rookie from 1964, plus 1966, and 67. I did not have the tall boy card of him from 1965. He signed all three for me and I was very excited about it. By this time, Jerry's friends beer was empty and we got a fresh round. We halfway toasted and went on talking Broncos (that was cool)
Jerry said that Bob Scarpitto was not doing to well in California. He retired from his Coors distributorship and didn't come to Denver much anymore. He said that John McCormick lived in Golden and was in poor health. McCormick was a Bronco QB from 63-68.
Coming to my senses, I finally realized "I gotta ask some questions" We talked about the 1962 helmet. His had the white horse. I mentioned that the history records said the first few games of 62, they had a brown horse on the orange helmet, then changed it to white. He didn't remember that, but he remembered the striped socks. I asked if he was at the burning party, and he said no, but he ended up keeping his. Jerry said he left them with his first wife and years after their divorce he called her to see if he could get them back. She said she threw them away years before - too bad.
I asked who he remembered the most and he said Donnnie Stone. He and Don were good friends. Don was the leading Bronco rusher in 61 & 62. He also talked about another Lineman on the team. Jerry told about a player that became a Preacher after Football. Jerry laughed and said the future Preacher was the biggest boozer and skirt chaser on the team. ( I always thought it was the Goose) He mentioned Jerry Hopkins is still in the area and visits the Restaurant all the time, like a lot of Broncos do. I admit it's a great place.
Things were starting to get busy in the restaurant, so I thought I wouldn't take up more of his time. Before I left he called his Bartender Gal ( A real Doll) to come over and look at his rookie card. She flirted with him and said it was an imposter, he was never that young. A good laugh. Jerry had a knack for flirting with his employees; All pretty young girls and lot's of them. He has been happily married for many years and just seemed to be a great character, and a pleasure to meet. I asked Jerry if I could stop by again sometime for lunch and visit. Anytime he said.