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Sacco Sez: Broncos share unique quarterback history with Colts

Posted Dec 17, 2017

Jim Saccomano looks back at the shared quarterback history between the Broncos and Colts.

When it comes to the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts (née Baltimore Colts), the two teams share more at the quarterback position than their equine nicknames.

Every fan knows that the Broncos have a Hall of Fame quarterback who came to us by trade from the Colts, John Elway.

It is impossible and ridiculous to try to recite all of Elway's accomplishments, but he is quite simply the most significant non-owner in the history of the team.

And every fan knows that Elway, as the general manager, signed Peyton Manning, creating the only contract in NFL history that bears the signature of a Hall of Fame quarterback and that of a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback.

But back in the day, before Johnny Unitas led the Baltimore Colts to an NFL title by the strength of his arm, the Colts' quarterback was a future Bronco named George Shaw.

Shaw is still in the Broncos record books for the longest touchdown pass ever thrown in team history, a 97-yard score to Jerry Tarr.

That was in 1962 as Shaw was closing out his career with the Broncos.

But before he came to Denver, after having been released by the Giants, to whom he was traded at his request, after Unitas became the man in Baltimore, Shaw's mother became a part of NFL urban legend.

Visiting from Ireland, Shaw's mother made an off-hand comment that helped change the sartorial plans of the Baltimore Colts.

Teams were just beginning to put logos on helmets, and the Colts had chosen what became one of the great ones, their legendary horseshoe. But legend has it that Mrs. Shaw saw the original prototype, in which the horseshoe was pointing down, and pointed out that "the luck runs out if the shoe points down."

When it eventually appeared on the Colts' helmet, the shoe pointed up, and the Colts won consecutive world championships under Unitas.

Unfortunately, that meant the end for her son George, who requested and received a trade to New York before moving on to Denver and his place in the Broncos record book.

A decade after Shaw ended his time in Denver, Unitas became the first future Hall of Fame quarterback to attend training camp in the Denver area, as the Colts used the Colorado School of Mines facilities for their 1972 camp.

And Thursday night, Denver fans watching Brock Osweiler lead the Broncos' win in Indianapolis also saw several shots of the Peyton Manning statue outside Lucas Oil Stadium.

So from the black high tops of Johnny Unitas to the humble but notable career of George Shaw, and the fabulous careers of Elway and Manning, the quarterback position has provided a number of unique connections between the Broncos and the Colts.