Denver Broncos | News

Sacco Sez: Signs of a great history

After two home games to open the season, you may have noticed two sets of additions to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to celebrate team history.

On opening night against the Carolina Panthers, three signs were unveiled to the right of the scoreboard, one to commemorate each of the Broncos' Super Bowl championships.

And the second set of signs, revealed during a ceremony before Sunday's game against Indianapolis, recognize the Broncos' three retired numbers, enshrined on the opposite side of the scoreboard for permanent display.

I consider these six banners the most significant additions to the stadium's culture since the Ring of Fame, which began in old Mile High Stadium in 1984, the first year of Pat Bowlen's ownership. 

In other NFL stadiums, one of the most common themes is a tribute to championships as well as to legendary players.

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The Ring of Fame is fantastic, and always has been, but whenever a team is great enough and fortunate enough to win the world championship in its sport, that is an event meriting permanent recognition.

Similarly, any time an organization sees fit to retire a uniform number, I feel it should put that on display as well.

Those of us who work for a team or are in the media sometimes lose sight of the fact that many fans are more casual in their support or very passionate but relatively new to following the game and team. Signs such as the ones recently built at the Broncos' home are important to maintain the legacy of great teams and great players, and also to introduce young or new fans to them.

The newest addition to the stadium would be the Broncos' retired uniform numbers: 44, 18 and 7.

The 44 is for Floyd Little, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who led the team in rushing for seven consecutive seasons. He played here from 1967 to 1975 and when he retired, he was sixth all time in NFL career rushing yards. Back in the days when I was a radio reporter, I helped give him the nickname "The Franchise," such was his value to the Broncos at that time.

The number 18 was the first retired, for Ring of Fame quarterback Frank Tripucka. Tripucka was a Bronco from 1960 to 1963 and was not only the Broncos' first quarterback but was the first in pro football history to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. That may seem like no big accomplishment now, but first is first, and it can only happen once.

When the fabulous Peyton Manning – another famous 18 – joined the Broncos in 2012, he was completely humble about what number he might wear, but a phone call to Tripucka resulted in Frank giving his complete blessing and encouragement for Peyton to wear No. 18.  

The Broncos' Ring of Fame honors those who have most impacted the franchise to be cemented in team history. (All photos from Denver Broncos photo archives unless noted as from AP Images)

Manning brought great honor to the number, and to the team and city, and the number 18 retired jersey banner for Tripucka gives special recognition to Manning. In his four seasons wearing No. 18, he was named NFL Most Valuable Player in 2013 and was part of two Super Bowl appearances, including a victory in Super Bowl 50.

The number 7 is for the one and only John Elway. After an illustrious 16-year career with the Broncos highlighted by leading Denver to its first two championships, Elway went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year on the ballot.

It is a fitting tribute that these players and the world championships that the Broncos have won are recognized permanently in our home stadium.   

Every fan might not remember every detail, but the results are on display forever, and success breeds success. The unveiling of these banners is one of the most significant additions possible to the inside of the stadium, and I am delighted to see this project come to fruition.

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