I thought it might be fun to have a series of blogs (and, since it’s my blog, whatever I think might be fun seems pretty likely to find its way into print) on Broncos by the numbers.
The team has just completed 50 years of play, a milestone in any franchise history, and over that time a lot of players have made contributions, large and small, to what the Broncos are. It’s like family members, some more accomplished than others but when you are in a family, you are in for keeps. So too for the Broncos. Once a Broncos, always a Bronco.
Those players have worn a lot of numbers over the years, and we are going to take a look, over time, at various uniform numbers.
Game day against the San Diego Chargers might seem like an odd time to do a by the numbers, but it is actually tied to the college bowl season.
I am writing this in a sort of stream of consciousness technique, and if you feel like following along, great. If not, I truly understand. I love writing things about Broncos, things that fans and press today might not know, but that some might appreciate reading about.
The Number we are doing today is 11. It is labeled most recently as that worn by the tragic figure Kenny McKinley.
Steve Beuerlein, who is doing the game today for CBS, wore number 11 for three seasons as a very popular quarterback, and it has mostly been worn by quarterbacks (seven of the 11 Bronco number 11′s have been signalcallers). Tobin Rote wore it for a cup of coffee, and John McCormick wore it as one of his two Bronco numbers.
But the most notable, if you are from here — and remember, the Broncos are from here, first and foremost — was Bobby Anderson.
Bobby is probably not known to a lot of Bronco fans today, unless they are veteran fans, and his awareness at this time is most likely due to his role as a sideline and game day commentator on KOA Radio’s University of Colorado broadcasts.
Bobby and I are both Buffs, so I have a soft spot.
He was a great baseball and football player at Boulder High School, was an All-American halfback at CU and was selected as a number one draft choice by the Broncos back in 1970 by Lou Saban. Bobby Anderson is a beloved Buff.
But here is the hook, finally (thanks for sticking with this one).
Most of us have watched a lot of college football lately, and we have seen every manner of goofy post-touchdown celebration, some of which have led to penalties being called for taunting, personal fouls, excessive celebration, etc.
In fact, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which by the way George Steinbrenner would have loved as the fulfillment of one of his goals — to bring big time postseason football to Yankee Stadium — featured a celebration by a Kansas State wide receiver which turned disastrous. The Wildcats had a chance to tie the game, but due to a penalty becing called on their final TD, they had to go for the two-point conversion from the 18, and did not make it.
Right away, I thought of Bobby Anderson.
On December 13, 1969, CU played the University of Alabama, coached by the legendary Bear Bryant, in the Liberty Bowl game at Memphis, Tennessee. The game was played on SEC turf, so the Buffs did not exactly enjoy home field advantage that day against one of the greatest programs and greatest coaches in college football history.
But CU had a great day and posted a 47-33 win over the Crimson Tide, outscoring the Tide before 50,042 fans and a nationwide television audience.
At that time, the 80 combined points represented the most ever scored by both teams in a major bowl game. Sixteen new Liberty Bowl records were set that day.
And what I remember, is the style, class, elegance and grace of Bobby Anderson.
Bobby Anderson carried the ball 35 times against Bear Bryant’s defense that day, amassing a Liberty Bowl rushing record of 254 yards, and scoring three touchdowns to pace the Buffs’ devastating offensive show. For the record, and for good measure, Bobby completed three out of four passes as well, for 41 yards.
He also returned a kickoff for 23 yards. So Bobby Anderson had 295 yards from the line of scrimmage and 318 total net yards against one of the nation’s great programs.
He scored on runs of 3, 2 and 3 yards, each time standing up. And each time, he ran to the referee and handed him the football, then he trotted off the field to the sideline. The three touchdowns tied a Liberty Bowl record.
I still remember one of the announcers saying that not only did Anderson have one of the most devastating rushing performances in bowl history, but every time he reached the end zone, he acted like he had been there before.
And that typified the greatness of Anderson. He was a humble player who would not think of an in-your-face gesture against an opponent.
Sometimes it is fun to go back, and it is always the most fun writing about the nicest guys. That was and is Bobby Anderson in every way.
He has done a lot in life, with great business successes following his pro football career, but in everything he has accomplished, he has always acted like he has been there before.