When Peyton Manning called up Frank Tripucka in the spring of 2012, he told the Broncos' first franchise quarterback that he didn't want to wear No. 18, the number Manning had worn for 14 seasons in Indianapolis. The number he had as he won four NFL MVPs and one Super Bowl.
Out of respect for the game and its former players, Manning believed Tripucka's retired Denver Broncos No. 18 jersey should remain out of circulation - no matter what Manning had done as a quarterback with that number.
But the original No. 18 insisted - there was a short list of players he'd consider to wear his number and the former Colts quarterback who would now be on his favorite team was at the top.
"I'd be honored. You're my kind of quarterback, and I insist you wear it," recalled Chris Tripucka of his father's response to Manning.
But there was one caveat.
"Peyton, being the guy he is, asked my dad if there was anything he could do to repay him for using the No. 18," said Chris, the youngest of seven Tripucka children who was a wide receiver at Boston College and is now father to two football stars of his own - Shane and Nicholas (also a No. 18).
His father's request for a championship was exactly what you'd expect from an NFL quarterback
"Yeah, go out and win a Super Bowl for me."
So Manning did.
It took four years, two early playoff exits and one major Super Bowl loss before the second No. 18 could make good on the request.
But he did. Three football seasons after the original No. 18 had passed away from a long battle with Alzheimer's, Manning honored his Broncos' predecessor with a Lombardi.
"My dad would have loved that game," Chris said of the Super Bowl victory. "Peyton knew the strength of his team and he knew it wasn't him. It was a team win, and my dad was always about the team."
The former Notre Dame quarterback had actually come to the Broncos in 1960 to be assistant coach after playing 11 years for NFL and Canadian league teams. But halfway through a preseason game, head coach Frank Filchock (Tripucka's former coach in Saskatchewan) asked the retired footballer to be the team's signal caller.
In the inaugural AFL regular season game, the Broncos beat the Boston Patriots 13-10, and Tripucka earned the distinction of being the first quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in the newly formed AFL. That year he also became the first quarterback in history to throw more than 3,000 yards in a season.
But with a 13-23-1 record in his four seasons with the Broncos, many might have wondered how his number was retired at all.
In his first year, Tripucka threw 34 interceptions compared to 24 touchdowns. His lifetime TD-INT ratio with the Broncos was 58-85.
"My dad threw an awful lot of interceptions," Chris laughed, noting his father would definitely have understood how Peyton felt this season with 17 interceptions and just nine touchdowns. "He would have been sitting there remembering how hard it was to play those last few years. He would definitely be able to feel for Peyton in that situation."
1: Elway (300)— Jon Heath (@JonHeathNFL) March 7, 2016
2: Manning (140)
3: Morton (74)
4: Plummer (71)
5: Griese (71)
6: Cutler (54)
7: Johnson (52)
8: Tripucka (51)
9: Orton (49)
But Tripucka's contribution to the team wasn't about "his stats" anyway. Like Manning - who did have some spectacular numbers while a Bronco - the two No. 18s helped the franchise in a much more important way - relevancy in the league.
Without Manning there would not have been "Super Bowl contending Broncos" four years in a row.
Without Tripucka, there would not have been the Broncos.
So having Manning add a winning legacy to the No. 18 is something the Tripucka family is very happy about.
And though Chris likes to point out that his dad's number was never "unretired" but that his father and the Broncos "loaned" it to Manning, he's all for seeing the number retired again under Manning's name after the 18-year quarterback announces today he is retiring from the NFL as a Bronco.
Knowing his dad would be proud of how Manning wore the number in his beloved orange and blue, Chris said the ending for the second run to No. 18 is also perfect.
"My dad would have loved Peyton going out on top," Chris said. "He made exactly the right decision."