Draft mania has officially capture the minds of National Football League fans everywhere, and your Denver Broncos web site is doing a great job of presenting many of the new players.
I am trying to take a slightly different look at how and where we get players, so that everyone can hopefully get a somewhat more balanced perspective.
The Broncos' first draft was of course the American Football League draft in 1960.
At that time, in an effort to limit the bargaining position of the drafted players, the draftees were announced in alphabetical order, instead of the order in which they had been chosen. I know, I know, it sounds crazy and is crazy, but that is how it happened.
So except for placekicker/linebacker Roger LeClerc of Trinity (Connecticut), the Broncos' first choice, we really do not know what the selection order was for Denver.
We do know there was very little publicity.
In talking to veteran public relations people, the guys who were working for teams 20 years before my own NFL career began in 1978, they have all said that the draft was held by telephone, no media people present at all, and then, when the draft was completely finished, the public relations guys sent out a press release to local media with a complete list of who had been chosen.
There was no network coverage of any type. No ESPN, no NFL Network, no USA Today, and so forth.
And there was less publicity for the Broncos' first draft than we now see for signing day, when local high school stars make their announcements as to where they will play college football.
The Broncos chose 54 players overall in the 1960 draft, and even with my extensive knowledge of the team—probably the most that anyone has of that time back in the day—I am only able to pick out five names out of the 54 about whom I could say anything at all.
Every reader of this piece and draft follower is well aware of the extensive scouting that all NFL teams now do. It is just about impossible for any college senior to escape the scrutiny of these legions of pro scouts.
But back in 1960 the Broncos' general manager was a veteran administrator from the Canadian Football League, and he made the Broncos' 1960 draft choices—all 54—based entirely on a magazine that many of you might have seen on drugstore and supermarket shelves—Street and Smith's College Football Preview.
Really. That was the level of the first scouting budget the Broncos had, according to the public relations people of the time.
And by the way, since the owners of the Broncos also owned the Denver Bears Triple-A baseball team (for whom I proudly worked and where I earned my first championship ring, many years ago), the PR people would attend football practice at training camp during the day—located at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden—and then hop in the car and drive over to Bears Stadium to do the PR for the baseball game that night!!
Double duty, same salary!!
Getting back to that first draft, not only did the Broncos select virtual unknowns for their first 54 draft choices, with a placekicker being their all time first choice, but they did not even succeed in signing the kicker!
Roger LeClerc chose instead to sign with the Chicago Bears of the established NFL.
Only after his NFL career ended in 1967 did he sign with the Broncos, seven years after that infamous draft, and LeClerc played the rest of the 1967 season as a Bronco, and that was the end of his career.
Incidentally, I had the distinction of watching LeClerc play in person for the Broncos, as a young college student attending Denver games.
He scored five points as a placekicker in 1967 for Denver, including 1-for-6 in field goal attempts. He finished 12th in scoring on a Broncos team that went 3-and-11.
I was there, sitting in the north stands at old Bears Stadium on October 8, 1967, when the Buffalo Bills defeated the Broncos by one point, 17-16. On that date I watched one of the most astounding field goal kicking displays I have ever seen, in the worst way. One field goal would have given Denver a win, but the Broncos' first draft choice ever—number one in 1960—LeClerc went 0-for-5 against the Bills, including 0-for-4 in one quarter, kicking one of his field goal attempts OUT OF BOUNDS!
An ignominious performance, one of the worst performances by a field goal kicker on a single day in pro football history.
The draft has come a long way since 1960.