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Sacco Sez: Remembering Jacky Lee


Sometimes historical figures get lost among the footnotes of time.

This happens in sports very often, and as we get ready to play the Kansas City Chiefs, I think a brief shoutout to Jacky Lee is in order.

Most fans have never heard of him at all.

Those Broncos fans who have probably know him as the only player in football history to be traded in a lend-lease deal. That is, in 1964, the quarterback-desperate Denver Broncos traded a great defensive tackle, Bud McFadin, to the Houston Oilers for the rights to Lee for just two years.

It seemed crazy then and seems crazy now.

But there was more to Jacky Lee than that.

After a great career at the University of Cincinnati, Lee was selected by the Houston Oilers in AFL's inaugural draft in 1960.

He won three AFL championship rings — the most by any one player in the 10-year history of the league, and Lee was one of just 20 players to play his entire 10-year career in the AFL.

And he had a Denver-Kansas City connection.

The most successful AFL franchise was the Chiefs. The least successful, the only one never to have a winning season, was the Denver Broncos.


The Kansas City franchise (which started in Dallas as the Texans) won 19 of their 20 AFL games played vs. Denver.

That one Broncos win was engineered by Jacky Lee in 1964 at Bears Stadium before 16,285 diehard fans.

Head Coach Mac Speedie was coaching his first game at the helm of the Broncos, and I vividly recall that he spent part of the game standing on the bench exhorting the crowd while Lee led the 33-27 Denver upset with three touchdowns.

Lee's heroics proved not to be nearly enough for the woeful Broncos for the duration of the season, however, as they went on to finish 2-11-1.

He returned to Houston after his two years in Denver as part of the lend-lease deal, and in 1967, he was traded to Kansas City.

In 1969, future Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson missed much of the year due to injury, so as a reserve quarterback, Lee filled in for a couple games as the team made its path to a Super Bowl IV win over the Vikings.

Hence, Lee had his third championship ring of the decade, as the Oilers had won the league title in 1960 and 1961.

After his football career, Lee had a successful career in commercial real estate and eventually made a large donation to the athletic department of his alma mater. The football locker room at Cincinnati was named for Jacky Lee.

He passed away in 2016.

But as the Broncos play the Chiefs once again, I thought it fitting to tip a helmet in the direction of the only quarterback to lead a Denver win over Kansas City in our first decade of play, as well as having a key role in the Chiefs' 1969 championship campaign.

In addition to that, Jacky Lee was an all around good guy, way more than a footnote in professional football history.

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