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Way Back When: The Farr brothers


When the Denver Broncos play the Detroit Lions, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is that we are in different conferences and we do not play each other very often.

True, but that is not all there is to the Lions, nor to the Lions and Broncos.

Did you know?

In the 1950s the Lions won three National Football League titles.

The Lions, and more specifically defensive coordinator Buster Ramsey, helped popularize the blitz in the 1950s and the 4-3 defense.

The Broncos were the first American Football League team to defeat an NFL team with a preseason win over the Lions in 1967.

And, closer to home, there was a pair of brothers who were split across the two teams. One played for the Broncos, the other for the Lions.

Those were the Farr brothers.

Miller Farr was a great football player and track athlete at Wichita State and became a first-round draft choice by the Broncos in the 1965 Red Shirt Draft. He also happened to have the distinction of being the last player to wear No. 44 for the Broncos before Floyd Little, whose first year was 1967.

But the Broncos were a puzzling lot in the early and mid 1960s. They were real bad on the field, and real bad in player personnel decisions.

He played few games for the Broncos and intercepted two passes before going on to play for San Diego, the Houston Oilers and the Detroit Lions.

Miller Farr led the AFL in interceptions with Houston in 1967, becoming yet another name on a long list of players that the Broncos gave up on way too early and who achieved greatness elsewhere.

He finished his career with Lions, and when it was all added up, he was a three-time AFL All-Star and a two-time All-AFL selection who was selected to the AFL All-Time Team's second team.

Letting Miller Farr go was not a great decision by the Broncos. I remember vividly watching Miller as a Broncos season ticket holder and thinking that they had made a big mistake in letting him go.

And then there was his brother Mel.

Mel was likely not a better athlete than his brother Miller, but he went to UCLA and starred on Bruns teams that ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the 1965 and '66 polls, respectively.

A consensus All-American in 1966, Mel was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the first round in 1967 and was a running back for the Lions for seven seasons.

The 1967 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Mel had his career shortened by injury, but not before he gained a total of 4,446 yards from scrimmage and scored 36 touchdowns in his seven seasons.

So Mel perhaps had greater stardom, but Miller had a career two years longer, and both players had great distinction as professionals.

But Mel's pro career with the Lions turned out to be just part of the story.

After retiring from football, Mel Farr acquired a Ford Motor Company dealership in 1975, later expanding his business to 11 dealerships in several states.

By 1998, Mel Farr's automotive group was cited as the largest African-American-owned company in the country.

Farr had two sons, Mel Jr. and Mike, both of whom played at UCLA and then professionally in the NFL.

Before college and pro stardom, Miller and Mel Farr both attended Hebert High School in Beaumont, Texas, and were among 16 pro football players given keys to the city in 1971.

I doubt that there are many current Broncos fans who can say that they watched Miller Farr play in 1965, or who remember his brother Mel from the Lions, but the brothers remain part of the tapestry of pro football history.

For the Lions, Mel was an all-time player.

For the Broncos, Miller was another one who got away.

But they are a part of the legacies of the Broncos and Lions.

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