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Sacco Sez: Remembering the Broncos' first trade


With another week of quiet around the National Football League, I was thinking of offseason business —trades, specifically.

The Broncos have made approximately 250 trades since their inception in 1960, but just about no one is familiar with that very first trade.

The American Football League draft had been conducted, and in the quiet of the Broncos' offseason (before they actually ever had a season) they made a trade with the Dallas Texans.

Fittingly, the trade involved two native Texans.

The Broncos traded Jack Spikes, a fullback from Texas Christian University whom they had drafted high (though no one can be quite sure how high, because for secrecy purposes the draftees were announced alphabetically), to Dallas.

In return, Denver got a player who would be in the Broncos' first Ring of Fame class, Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin, another Texas native, who had played his college ball at Baylor.

Goose was a player I got to know well at Ring of Fame banquets, and he confided in me that when he first joined the Broncos, "I knew Denver was in the West, but that was about the extent of my awareness. I had to check some maps to see exactly where I was going. It was my first time to spend a significant period away from the state of Texas."

He became an immediate star on Denver's defense, but he often remembered, "We did not get the greatest crowds at our games. The were plenty of college games that I played in that had bigger crowds than those early AFL pro crowds."

The Broncos were noted for their penurious ways, and Goose recalled, "Our weightlifting consisted of cement poured into buckets and empty orange juice containers, allowed to harden, and then a steel rod was inserted and used to lift the two weights. It might seem comical today, but it did work."    

He continued, "Sometimes [general manager] Dean Griffing would handle the cuts postgame by just greeting guys as they went to get on the bus, telling them either to get on or to hang on off to the side, which meant they were cut and other travel arrangements had to be made."

"But we played our hearts out, had some great moments and had very passionate fans from the beginning."

He was a splendid safety for seven seasons in Denver and was one of three original Broncos to still be with the club in 1966. 

At the end of his Denver career, Goose was the AFL's all-time interception leader with 43, and he is still second in that category for Denver. His 11 picks as a rookie in 1960 remains the club record, and he once had four in one game to set a Denver record which he now shares.

Gonsoulin was All-AFL three times and played in the AFL All-Star game five times.

A native of Port Arthur, Texas always made his home in the area, Goose passed away in Beaumont and I was honored to attend his services.

He was a complete gentleman at all times, and there is a great anecdotal story that shows his grace and patience. 

One of his prized possessions was a Broncos football signed by his teammates. 

At one point, one of his children asked to take the football to "show and tell" at school. Of course, Goose complied with the request.

When the child returned home, Goose asked how show and tell had gone with his special ball. 

"Just great, Dad," came the reply. "I got a lot of kids to sign it, too!"

Rather than be angry, Goose just chuckled and showed the kind of understanding attitude that made him beloved in his family.

As for the other part of the trade, that worked out OK as well.

Jack Spikes played five years for the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs and had a big role in the double overtime 1962 AFL championship game.

Spikes had two big runs in the final overtime drive for Dallas that set up the winning field goal by Tommy Booker.

So Spikes got an AFL championship ring and Goose got his ring as a member of the Ring of Fame.

Now 81, Spikes is a Big Spring, Texas native who still makes his home in the Lone Star state.  

There have been a lot of largely forgotten trades and one insanely huge trade that brought John Elway to the Mile High City, but there can only be one first.

The Broncos' first trade brought us a future Ring of Famer who also was known here and in his native Texas for class, grace and humility at all times.

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