ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Frank Tripucka, who quarterbacked the Denver Broncos in their inaugural season and later wanted his No. 18 unretired so Peyton Manning could wear it, died Thursday. He was 85.
The Broncos said Tripucka died in Woodland Park, N.J. He had Alzheimer’s disease.
A former standout at Notre Dame, Tripucka played for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals and Dallas Texans. He was brought in as a coach before the 1960 season, but it became obvious he was Denver’s best option at QB. Tripucka threw for 3,038 yards and 24 touchdowns that season. He also tossed the first touchdown pass in American Football League history.
His number was one of three retired by the Broncos, but Tripucka gladly gave Manning permission to wear it when he joined the team in 2012.
The Broncos released the following infomation in a news release about Tripucka:
“Frank Tripucka was an original Denver Bronco and Ring of Famer who was the first to quarterback the team. He laid the foundation for the Broncos’ future success as an American Football League All-Star, twice leading the league in passing yards and setting numerous single-game and career records. He is proudly remembered as one of professional football’s first great drop-back quarterbacks.
“Frank will always hold a very special place in Broncos history for what he meant to this organization and community.
“We are all deeply saddened by his passing this morning. Our hearts and prayers go out to Frank’s wife, Randy, his seven children and the rest of the Tripucka family.”
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