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Way Back When: The deju vu of the excitement for Russell Wilson's Broncos debut


It is very difficult to imagine anything to match the hype of Russell Wilson heading into his first game as the Broncos' quarterback.

From the speculation as soon as last season ended, to the trade, the offseason and training camp, it seems to have been Russell Wilson all the time in Broncos Country — and that is great!

A team cannot manufacture excitement among its fans; it is either there or it is not. And it is here!

But in fact, it reminds me of another time in Broncos history, back in the 1983 season.

That was the arrival of John Elway as Denver's quarterback.

When the 1982 season ended, Denver had the fourth pick in the draft and Elway stated over and over that he did not want to play for the Baltimore Colts, who had the No. 1 pick.

When draft day came and the Colts drafted Elway, there was great speculation that he would play baseball for the New York Yankees, who had earlier made him their top draft choice with the 52nd-overall pick in MLB's 1981 draft.

There were enough telephone calls and backstreet dealings to fill a book — which this is not — but history tells us that Broncos owner Edgar F. Kaiser Jr. practically single-handedly traded for Elway.

So far, that remains the single greatest trade in team history — so far.

From the first introductory press conference through minicamps and training camp, it is hard for current fans to imagine the hype surrounding Elway. I still remember the clicks of the cameras when he ran his first 40-yard dash, and the fact that the press wanted to follow him to a haircut with TV trucks. While he declined that haircut, I set him up with a Greeley barber who cut his hair in his home, with Elway escorted to and from camp in a middle-of-the-night police vehicle.

At that time Sports Illustrated was far and away the leading sports publication, and they sent legendary writer and Boulder resident Doug Looney to spend a week with us in training camp.

Imagine. Looney spent an entire week writing the daily chronicle of Elway in training camp.

And to top it off, Sports Illustrated put Elway on the cover, all by himself, for the story, which led with the tale of Elway's debut — which just happened to be an exhibition game against Seattle.

When he first entered the game to start the second half, I still remember the euphoria of the crowd reaction.

The rest is history, of course.

And now people are looking to Wilson as their new savior, a role he seems to be quite capable of filling.

But way back when, Broncos fans had watched their team go to Super Bowl XII in 1977, and they were hungry for more. Elway was the most-hyped quarterback coming out of college since Joe Namath, and Denver fans were hanging on every moment of the young rookie's development.

And now we have Russell Wilson, again against Seattle, and this time on "Monday Night Football" to open the 2022 season.

As the saying goes, it is now deja vu, all over again.

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