The Denver Broncos will raise banners for each of their franchises retired numbers. One for No. 7 John Elway, No. 44 Floyd Little and No. 18 Frank Tripucka. The Broncos also announced that they would give a special nod to retired NFL legend Peyton Manning when they raise the No. 18 jersey.
It feels like this is a special goodbye to the man who brought four incredible seasons to Denver. From record breaking offenses to stoic Hall of Fame reserve guiding the franchise to its third Super Bowl Championship.
Tripucka’s family will be there in his honor as it was he who gave Manning permission to don the long-retired No. 18 jersey for one more round of Broncos football.
Eighteen of his family members will be on hand for the ceremony. Mike Klis from 9News shared some nice quotes from the Tripucka family regarding the nod to Manning.
“I thought it was a great idea,’’ T.K. Tripucka, the fifth of Frank Tripucka’s seven children, said of including Manning with his father’s No. 18. “The Broncos’ organization has always been great to my dad. I thought it was a great idea. The family’s thrilled about it.’’
“It was always retired, Peyton just borrowed it,’’ Kelly said. “We’re thrilled Peyton wore the number. We’re thrilled he was successful. We’re thrilled the Broncos won the Super Bowl and he should certainly have a mention because he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
“And the fact he wore my father’s number, it kind of brought back memories and gave him some life. No problem whatsoever that he’s mentioned with this number.’’
Manning tormented the Broncos for 16 years as a Colt, but that was all forgiven with the four record-breaking seasons he spent wearing the orange and blue. We have said our goodbyes, we have even given him our own fan-sponsored ‘Sportsman of the Year’, but we will miss him nonetheless. Greatness only comes along once in a while, and the Broncos spent 15 years trying to find John Elway’s heir only to finally rent one for a few years.
Today, we let Manning know how important he was and will forever be to Broncos Country by “re-retiring” the number 18 jersey with a special nod in his direction.
As for the actual players the jerseys represent, let’s honor them in this post as well. One man who needs no introduction is the man leading the Broncos again to the promised land as the general manager of the Broncos - John Elway.
#7 John Elway (1983-1998)
The jersey is being retired solely for his 16 years in the NFL as a player, not for his extraordinary rise over the last five years as a football executive. As a player, Elway was the ultimate competitor and played to win however it meant he needed to win it. Often it was in dramatic fashion at the end of games and often in the AFC playoffs.
He was the first quarterback to lead his team to five Super Bowl appearances during an era where well-run teams could build dynasties without the fear of losing talent to free agency.
He retired behind only Dan Marino in just about every quarterback statistical category, but he retired first in the only one he cared about - wins. Elway is why I am personally a fan as I watched him lead the Broncos on an incredible 98-yard drive to get to a Super Bowl. I was 8 years old and living in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, but I remember that day like few others in my life.
My confidence in this team and its future has never been higher knowing he is the man leading the franchise. It’s good to be a Broncos fan today.
#18 Frank Tripucka (1960-1963)
Before Tripucka passed away in 2013, he gave Broncos Country one last gift when he approved of Manning wearing the #18 jersey. He played just three seasons for the Broncos after playing in the NFL and Canadian Football League from 1949-1959, but those three seasons help build the foundation of the Broncomania that exists today.
He was the first 3000 yard passer in league history and he and Lionel Taylor were the only real offensive threat the Broncos had in those early years.
People may look at his high interception rate, but those people don’t understand what the Broncos were in the early 60s. Tripucka gave them the spark they wouldn’t have otherwise had. The number of starting quarterbacks the Broncos went through in the decade after he retired numbers somewhere near 30, which should give you an idea of where the franchise was during those dark years.
Tripucka had just one request from Manning when he brought the No. 18 jersey out of retirement, "Yeah, go out and win a Super Bowl for me."
So Manning did. It’s good to see the number honored again.
#44 Floyd Little (1967-1975)
‘The Franchise’ as Broncos Country would come to know Floyd Little quite literally saved the Denver Broncos from leaving the great state of Colorado. That alone is worthy of recognition.
Little felt it was an appropriate honor for the Broncos to recognize what Manning achieved while wearing the No. 18 jersey.
“I think that’s absolutely appropriate,’’ Little said. “He did a great job for us while he was there. He is a true Hall of Famer. I think it’s great to continue to cite players for what they have done. And certainly Peyton winning the 50th Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls, that’s a great achievement. And I’m just glad he’s included in this.’’
So much history was made last February.
History was also made in 1967 when the Broncos selected Little with the sixth overall pick of the NFL Draft. The franchise finally had a star that could energize a fanbase that had been frustrated until then.
Mile High Report had an exclusive interview with Floyd Little in 2012 and you can tell he still looks fondly upon the Broncos organization for all they have done for the alumni players.
“I think it’s always great when the Broncos bring attention to some of their past players and some of the players who helped create and cultivate one of the best franchises in the National Football League,'' Little said. To constantly reach out to those who were a part of it, it’s just wonderful. I’m so glad I’m one of them.’’
All three of these men are Broncos Ring of Famers and you have to believe that Peyton Manning will soon be joining them. It is clear Elway and the Broncos wanted to find a way to give Manning a proper sendoff, while also thanking the Tripucka family for gracious allowing this four-year revival of the No. 18 jersey to happen.
It’s good to be fans of such an illustrious and honor-driven organization. Go Broncos!