This holiday weekend, we give thanks for our beloved home team, the Denver Broncos. Fans have rallied behind them year after year, sunshine or blizzard, win or lose. From Elway to Tebow to our newest addition Peyton Manning, it’s no surprise that the Denver Broncos remain on the tip of fans’ tongues season after season. So let’s take a look back over the years to see just how far we have come.
The Denver Broncos were established as an AFL franchise team in 1960. The first few seasons were rough, ending in 4-10, 3-11 and 2-11-1 records. Despite this, the team attained some 20,000 season tickets sold by 1965, and by 1967 had finally found their own hometown hero, Floyd Little – the very first first-round draft pick signed to the Broncos. Little’s career won him Hall-of-Fame status in 2010 for his legendary 6,323 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns. Through the end of the 60s and into the early 70s, the Broncos continued to struggle with losing season records. Finally, in 1977, the “Orange Crush,” a nickname for their unstoppable defensive lineup consisting of Lyle Alzado, Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson, would block their way into the AFC championships. Hosting the championship against the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos with assistance from their “Orange Crush” defense would go on to beat the Raiders 20-17, winning their first ever shot at the Super Bowl Championship.
The Denver Broncos Make Their Mark
Although they didn’t win the Super Bowl that year, the Broncos would go on to build a more competitive franchise team. Finally in 1982, the team signed Denver legend John Elway, who would take them once again to the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Elway continued to shine season after season, establishing himself as a quarterback to be reckoned with and leading the Broncos to winning season records. In 1986, Elway would take the Broncos to the Super Bowl Championships once again, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. Ten years later, Elway and the Broncos finally won a Super Bowl Championship in 1997. Again in 1998, the Broncos won their second consecutive Super Bowl, leading the fans to joyful pandemonium.
Over the last 12 years, the Broncos have continued reorganizing to establish themselves once again as a championship team. And with this season’s newest member, hopes are Mile High.
The Stadium Evolves
Back in the beginning, the Broncos would play in the old minor league baseball field, Bears Stadium, until funding was finally approved to remodel the stadium with football standards. The stadium would be called Mile High Stadium, named for the altitude for which the city stood. Mile High Stadium became known as the loudest stadium in the league, attributed to its steel base as others were typically built with concrete bases. For 40 years, the Broncos and their loyal fans would come to Mile High Stadium to face their opponents. This is where the heart of tailgating began in Denver. The parking lots full of smoke and burgers, orange and blue and happy Bronco-loving fans celebrating their hopes for another successful season.
In 2001, conglomerates took over, rebuilding and renaming the stadium to Invesco Field at Mile High. Fans and sports writers rebelled, referring to the stadium as they always had, Mile High Stadium. The new structure was built with state-of-the-art design and equipment, taking the team into the new century in fashion. In 2011, Denver-based Sports Authority sporting store would take over and stake their name on the stadium, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. For many fans, the name doesn’t matter, saying it will always be Mile High Stadium to them.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
Michelle Perez is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.