The National Football League preseason is over, and all 32 teams are preparing for the much anticipated opening week of the 2013 NFL season.
This will be a first for Denver Broncos fans, and it will come on one of the most historic dates in football history.
It will be a first in that the Broncos will host the world champion Baltimore Ravens in what has become a highly prestigious tradition, the Thursday night opening game of the entire season.
NBC will have literally hundreds of staff televising this event to the entire nation, and to international cities as well, and the television ratings could potentially generate more millions of viewers than any non Super Bowl contest in NFL history.
It is a huge game for the teams, the league, and for the city and Rocky Mountain time zone.
One thing we can count on in this game is that there will be plenty of passing.
The NFL has moved dramatically away from the running game as the primary form of offense over the last several decades, and nowhere is the passing game utilized any better than in Denver with the astonishing Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning has established the greatest passing statistics imaginable, and Broncos fans have high hopes that he will continue at his own incredible pace in 2013.
Manning will throw his first pass of 2013 on Thursday night, September 5, and one of the little known facts is that the passing game is forever tied to that date in football history.
There are still occasional debates over the origin of the forward pass, but on September 5, 1906—107 years ago—a game between St. Louis University and Carroll College (of Wisconsin) produced the first recorded instance during collegiate game play.
That September 5 game was a scoreless tie, and after St. Louis had failed several times to run the ball on the Carroll defense, St. Louis head coach Eddie Cochems instructed his quarterback, Bradbury Johnson, to execute what they had practiced as the “projective pass.”
The rules were still in their earliest stages back 107 years ago, so incomplete passes were considered to be turnovers and St. Louis University gave up the ball on an incompletion.
But after regaining possession, Cochems instructed Johnson to try the “projective pass” again, and this time it was complete for the first touchdown reception in college football history.
The forward pass was legalized in pro football in 1906 as well, with the first authenticated pass completion coming on October 25, when George “Peggy” Parratt of Massillon threw a completion to Don “Bullet” Riley in a win over a combined Benwood-Moundsville team.
But that first pro pass came almost two months after Bradbury Johnson of St. Louis University had his famous first on September 5.
So this week as the Broncos prepare to take on the Ravens, just take a moment to consider that the forward pass is having the anniversary of its birth on that same date.
The threads of history weave their way over the years, and in this case over 107 years, giving the great Peyton Manning a connection to Bradbury Johnson, a largely unknown figure but yet the first quarterback ever to throw a touchdown pass, marking a remote but real anniversary on September 5.