Aug 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the historical monument pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame plaza at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From left: Karl Mecklenberg (77), John Elway (7), Louis Wright (20), Tom Jackson (57) and Randy Gradishar (53). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
When the Denver Broncos hit the scene in 1960, the game here changed forever.
Prior to that occurrence, the people of Denver and Colorado didn’t have anything like it. That was the initial spark that has since grown into an uncontrollable blaze known simply as “Broncos Country.”
Running back Floyd Little ignited the flame. As longtime Broncos radio play-by-play man Dave Logan told me, “Floyd Little was John Elway before John Elway.” If not for Little and his magic, the Broncos as we know them today don’t exist.
Little also was the only reason to watch those awful Denver teams. That was highlighted by his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He saved the organization from being moved in the late 1960s and was the reason why a group called the “DOERS” was created.
That group spurred the improvements to Mile High Stadium, formerly known as Bears Stadium, and what led to the then-best era of Broncos football.
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The Orange Crush defense in the 1970s was the air to the fire that started to engulf a fanbase. Without question one of the best defenses in NFL history, the Orange Crush led the Broncos to success never seen in the organization’s history.
Denver won its first playoff game because of that defense. That led to another playoff win that put the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Denver in the Super Bowl? That was unheard of.
Then in 1983, a quarterback from Stanford pigeon-toed his way into the Mile High City and it has never been the same.
Elway took what the Orange Crush Defense started, put the Broncos on his back and carried them to places never dreamed possible.
Three Super Bowls in four years. Countless wins and memories that lived forever. But the final hurdle for Broncos Country seemed destined to remain a finger’s tip away.
That is, until Terrell Davis saluted his way into Broncos’ lore forever. Added with Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater, Jason Elam and an offensive line that was the best in football, Denver had arrived.
Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway and quarterback Peyton Manning (18) after the 2013 AFC championship playoff football game against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Back-to-back Super Bowl titles.
“You can stand up and salute, Denver. You got the World Champions.”
Now, perhaps the greatest quarterback to play the game is under center in Broncos orange. Peyton Freaking Manning, or PFM, as we call him.
Broncos Country has seen good times and bad. There are memories that are etched in our minds and hearts forever.
The scene at Mile High Stadium when the Broncos beat rival Oakland 20-17 in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 1, 1978.
The Three Amigos.
The Mississippi Mud Dance.
The Mile High Salute.
The blowout Super Bowl losses.
The Super Bowl wins.
“This one’s for John.”
Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and executive vice president of football operations John Elway before the 2013 AFC championship playoff football game against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Cossell ripping Denver on Monday Night Football.
The 63-yard field goal.
The 64-yard field goal.
Over 2,000 yards rushing. It was 2,008, if you want to be specific.
The Atwater hit.
The vertical striped socks.
The Rocky Mountain Thunder.
United in Orange.
The best offense in NFL history.
Yet another Super Bowl blowout.
The point is the Broncos have and always will be the heart of Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West.
It’s been that way since 1960.
With the leader of Broncos Country no longer present on a day-to-day basis, there’s one item left for Broncos Country and the Broncos to do: “This one’s for Pat.”
Aug 20, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the historical monument pillars of former Denver Broncos players at the Ring of Fame plaza at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. From left: Tom Nalen (66), Rod Smith (80), Shannon Sharpe (84), Terrell Davis (30), Steve Atwater (27), Gary Zimmerman (65), Dennis Smith (49), Karl Mecklenberg (77), John Elway (7), Louis Wright (20), Tom Jackson (57) and Randy Gradishar (53). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports