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Sacco Sez: Then and now, Houston and Denver share strong connections

Sometimes it is difficult for me to separate "now" from "then."

Now, Brock Osweiler returns to Denver for Monday Night Football as the quarterback of the Houston Texans. But then, he was a pivotal factor in the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 run, and that moment is etched in time.

Now, Gary Kubiak is our tremendous and well-loved head coach, a Bronco ever since being drafted back in 1983. But he's also a Texan through and through, a product of Pius High School in Houston and later Texas A&M.

Which, of course, reminds us all that current sack machine Von Miller is also an Aggie. But before Von Miller was terrorizing quarterbacks from the outside, there was Simon Fletcher doing the same thing. The team sack record that Miller is chasing belongs to Fletcher, who will go into the Ring of Fame Monday night when the Broncos play the Texans.

With Denver and Houston, the connections seem to never end.

Fletcher is the only Broncos Ring of Famer from the University of Houston, and he is among the highest-drafted Broncos from Houston.

In 1972 tight end Riley Odoms, still a legitimate candidate for future honors in his own right, was Denver's first and only first-round selection from the University of Houston. In Broncos history, only five schools have produced more draftees by the Broncos than Houston's 13 -- Florida (19, Colorado (14), Georgia (14), Miami (14) and Nebraska (14) -- which is a lot of selections from one school. 

But naturally, it goes deeper than just the draft.

In 1964 with the Broncos in their infancy and desperately needing a quarterback, Denver made just the sixth trade in team history to acquire Jacky Lee from Houston in a famous (and the only) "lend-lease" trade in football history. Denver received Lee's services for two seasons, after which he was to go back to the Houston Oilers. 

The Broncos gave up their No. 1 draft choice, and – to make a one-sided trade even worse -- naturally included a Texan in the deal as well, sending legendary All-AFL lineman Bud McFadin back to his beloved Texas and the Oilers.

But the connections go deeper.

The Broncos' first trade was the acquisition of Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin from Dallas for fullback Jack Spikes.  Naturally, they were both draftees, as no team in the AFL had yet played a game. Goose went on to the Ring of Fame as a Bronco and always returned to his home near Port Arthur, which is just a stone's throw from Houston. 

Every one of these connections and moments between Denver and Houston should be loved, cherished and celebrated, for without the first one, there likely would be no Monday night game in Denver and no Broncos at all.

That first one began at the conception of the American Football League when Texans Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams worked so closely together to bring the new league into being. They offered a slot to Denver Bears baseball team owner Bob Howsam and stuck with Howsam and Denver when they easily could have bailed on the Mile High City. But Adams matched Hunt for loyalty and stubbornness, and they stuck with Howsam and Denver. 

Eventually the Broncos' franchise came out of the incubator and grew into the pro football behemoth that exists today.

And now we come to Monday Night Football, the greatest long-running sports program in television history, with the Broncos enjoying the longest continuous season appearance streak.

The Broncos have appeared on Monday Night Football at least once in each of the last and current 25 seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL and the second longest of all time since MNF made its debut in 1970.

On Monday night in Denver, we'll once again be provided with a reminder of some of the most significant connections in Broncos history.

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