Recently I did a blog about how far the draft has come in evolving into such a big part of the year for pro football fans. And I described how that first draft was conducted by the Denver Broncos.
Of course, that was the American Football League draft in 1960, and it led to the first star draftee in Broncos history—but not in the manner one would presume.
There is always a lot of trade activity involving teams moving up or down and trading draft slots to acquire different ones, to get just the player they desire at a given time.
Fans are all familiar with that. One of the things that very seldom happens, however, is the trade of draft choices already made, from one team to another.
The Broncos did that in 1960, however, and it was actually a preview of a similar trade 23 years later.
Denver had made all 54 of its draft picks in 1960, and the business of the draft was concluded. One of the players Denver had taken was a fullback from Texas Christian University named Jack Spikes.
The Dallas Texans, who were owned by AFL founder Lamar Hunt, were interested in Spikes and willing to make a trade for one of their own draft choices, a young defensive back from Baylor named Austin Gonsoulin.
The Broncos made that trade, the very first trade in the history of the franchise, and it could not have turned out better.
Austin quickly became "Goose" to Broncos fans, due to the alliteration with the last name Gonsoulin, and Goose became one of the four original Ring of Fame inductees for the Broncos in 1984, recognized for his splendid play as a Denver safety from 1960 through 1966. He parlayed that trade into a career in which Gonsoulin was one of just three original Broncos still with the team in 1966.
At the end of his career in Denver Goose was the all-time AFL leader in interceptions with 43 and still ranks second in club history in that category.
His 1960 season saw Goose gather in 11 interceptions, still a Bronco record, and he shares the team and NFL record for interceptions in a game with four, a feat he accomplished on September 18, 1960 at Buffalo.
Gonsoulin led the Broncos in pass interceptions four times and was an All-AFL choice in 1960, '62 and '63. He also was named to the AFL All-Star team from 1961 through 1964 and again in 1966.
The first player ever acquired by the Broncos via trade—and there can only be one "first" in any category—Goose was known for durability and toughness that enabled him to start 61 consecutive games at one point in his Denver career, and at that time the AFL season was only 14 games, so his streak spanned five seasons.
So the very first draftee star in Broncos history was selected not by Denver but by Dallas, and came to the Mile High City via trade.
I mentioned another trade of draftees 23 years later. That is how the Broncos obtained John Elway, trading the rights to offensive lineman Chris Hinton, chosen by Denver with the fourth overall pick in 1983, to the Baltimore Colts for the rights to overall number one choice John Elway!
And the rest of that story, a they say, is history!
Sometimes you draft greatness, sometimes you trade for someone else's draft picks, and the history is written at the end of the process, not at the beginning.