KUSA – I like it when people boast how long they’ve been a Bronco fan.
They always include a story. My parents’ friends would drive me down from Cheyenne, Wyoming for games at old Mile High Stadium. There was only one ticket available, I’d go in by myself as a sophomore and junior in high school and watch the game. (As told by Jay Kornegay, top oddsmaker who runs the Las Vegas Westgate Super Book).
I loved Orange Crush soda pop as a kid growing up in the Midwest and decided to make the Broncos my team. (A kid, can’t remember his name, during a sandlot game in my old Illinois neighborhood.)
I started rooting for them when John Elway came through with “The Drive,’’ or another told me it was when Terrell Davis waltzed through the sagging and surrendering Green Bay defensive line for the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XXXII. (Some fans are younger than others).
I went to my first game in 1965. The Broncos were so bad, hardly anybody went to their games, so they’d give away free tickets to high school football teams. (Young man at Shawn Gillis’ birthday party Friday night).
These stories have manifested into our second Broncos Quiz. It’s a tough one so all you have to do is correctly answer four of the 9 questions to call yourself a diehard Broncos fan for life:
1. Jerry Rice retired with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards and 208 overall touchdowns in 20 seasons – NFL records that still stand 14 years later. And the GOAT would have tacked on greater stats in a 21st NFL season with the Broncos in 2005 had he not been beat out for the No. 3 receiver position.
Who sent Rice into retirement by beating him out for that No. 3 receiver spot?
2. This two-time American Football League All Star played center, guard, tackle and fullback for the Broncos in the 1960s, and has owned “The South” restaurant, a popular Mexican-American eatery, in Englewood since 1970.
3. All this guy did was name the team.
4. He was the centerpiece of the Orange Crush defense who was born in Pompano Beach, Fla., because that’s where his parents, who were migrant workers along the East Coast, had their bus stop when his mom Susie was ready to deliver her eighth of eight children.
This player’s son had 80.5 sacks in a 13-year NFL career – one more year than his dad played.
5. He was the first Broncos offensive lineman selected to the Pro Bowl.
6. There were four Heisman Trophy winners who put on Broncos uniforms. Three were Tony Dorsett, Ron Dayne and Tim Tebow. Name the fourth.
7. This player is the Broncos all-time leader in yards per reception at 20.5 (minimum 80 catches) even though he was one of the franchise’s all-time best at another position.
8. This Bronco great was once named the AFC Defensive Player of the year as voted on by UPI (United Press International). He now owns and operates (along with his sons) three guided hunting ranches – one outside his hometown of Liberty, Utah, another in Firth, Idaho and a recently opened third in Mexico outside Monterrey.
9. Is Dan Reeves in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
1. Charlie Adams. The Broncos had Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie as their top two receivers. Prior to the Broncos’ final preseason game against Arizona in 2005, Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan informed Rice that Adams was his No. 3 receiver but Rice had a spot as the No. 4 receiver. Rice played in that final preseason game, had two catches for 10 yards, then thought about Shanahan’s offer.
The GOAT decided to retire – his farewell press conference was held at Broncos’ headquarters – stating he didn’t want to hang on as a No. 4 receiver.
After pushing Rice off to life after football, Adams had 21 catches for 203 yards for the Broncos in 2005 -- and for his NFL career. He was cut two weeks into the 2006 season and never played again, in part because of his old college knee injury.
2. “Honest” Jerry Sturm. Everybody says they’re honest. Sturm proved it in 1971 while playing for the Houston Oilers. He was approached by a former Broncos’ player who offered a $10,000 bribe if the center would mess up the snaps on kicks and to the quarterback in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sturm turned in the incident to his coach, who went to NFL, which went to the FBI.
With the Broncos, Sturm made the AFL All Star team as a center in 1964 and guard in 1966. In recent years he has been in the NFL’s 88 Plan which provides assistance for former NFL players who have been diagnosed with dementia. His wife Debbie and son Brett, who played safety at San Diego State from 2002-06, now run The South restaurant.
3. Ward M. Vining of Lakewood came up with “Denver Broncos” in the franchise’s name-the-team contest in January 1960. Actually, he was one of several among the nearly 500 entries who came up with “Broncos.” However, Vining’s 25-word essay won the day from a five-person panel of judges (including owner Bob Howsam Sr.)
Mr. Vining was 80 when he passed away at his Lakewood home in 1993. An educator, he and his wife Maxine still have an endowed scholarship fund in the Vining name at Northland College in Wisconsin.
4. Rubin Carter. The nose tackle famously made the cover of Sports Illustrated on October 17, 1977. The accompanying article was entitled, “Say Hello To The Fearsome Threesome.’’
Carter wound up playing 152 games at nose tackle, more than any player in NFL history. His son Andre was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 draft.
5. Keith Bishop. Several Bronco blockers played in the AFL All Star Game in the 1960s. But once the leagues merged in 1970, the Broncos went 16 years without placing an offensive lineman in the Pro Bowl until Bishop made it 1986.
That was the year Bishop set up “The Drive” by stating his memorable line in the huddle during a TV timeout, as quarterback John Elway was jogging back in from the sidelines.
“We’re in the huddle, we’re waiting and we’re looking at the Browns,’’ Bishop said in the book, 50 Greatest Players in Denver Broncos History. “And several of the Browns were good friends of mine. They’re all standing in their defensive huddle and they’re all laughing. And I said, “(Bleep) them (bleep, bleeps), we’ve got those (bleeps) right where we want them.’’
The exact wording of his famous quote never made it to print.
“They left some words out of it,’’ Bishop said. “And if we hadn’t driven and scored nobody would have heard anything about it.’’
Bishop made the Pro Bowl again in 1987. He is still protecting Elway as the Broncos’ vice president of security. Elway is the Broncos’ general manager.
6. Steve Spurrier. Before he became the Head Ball Coach, Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman as a quarterback for the Florida Gators.
He then became the No. 3 overall draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers and was a 9-year backup there before going 0-12 in his lone season as a full-time starter for the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs in 1976.
He signed with the Broncos in July 1977 but was cut after going 26 of 49 for 358 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception in three preseason games. He then signed with Miami, was cut again a week later, and retired as a player.
7. Billy Van Heusen. He followed Bob Scarpitto as versatile Bronco players who served as the team’s punter and flanker.
Van Heusen averaged 20.5 yards on 82 receptions in his Broncos career from 1968-76. Haven Moses was the most productive receiver among Broncos with at least 100 catches. Moses averaged 20.0 yards off 302 receptions.
As a point of comparison, Demaryius Thomas has averaged 13.8 yards per catch in his career while Emmanuel Sanders has averaged 13.6 yards in his four years with the Broncos.
Van Heusen’s 574 punts for 23,976 yards are second among Broncos to Tom Rouen in both categories.
In 1974, Van Heusen accumulated 421 yards off just 16 catches – 26.3 yards per reception.
8. Rulon Jones. The tall, lean defensive end who was coached by Rod Marinelli at Utah State was never better than in October of 1986 when in four games for the Broncos he recorded 7.5 of his career-high 13.5 sacks. He added 3.0 more sacks in the postseason, including a memorable sack-safety of Tony Eason to clinch the Broncos’ 22-17, second-round playoff win against New England at Mile High Stadium.
A right knee injury forced Jones to retire at 30 following the 1988 season, but it hastened his next-life success as a rancher.
9. He is. Dan Reeves the owner of the Cleveland and Los Angeles Rams was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.
After Bobby Waterfield led the Cleveland Rams to a 9-1 regular-season record and hard-fought, 15-14 victory against Sammy Baugh-led Washington in the 1945 NFL Championship Game, Reeves announced a month later he was moving his franchise West.
He was also an early pioneer in NFL TV policies, scouting and breaking the league’s color barrier by signing Kenny Washington.
Dan Reeves the Broncos’ coach? He’s in the team’s Ring of Fame but is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though he led two franchises to four total Super Bowl games and was a decent halfback for Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys.