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.
Today we will blog about number “7″.
When you are playing any game involving uniform numbers and the Denver Broncos, the number “7″ has to come into the conversation fairly soon, and so it has today.
There is nothing that can be added to what has been said and written, by me alone, in fact, about John Elway. He is nothing less than a legend, and is one of the great number “7″s in all of sport history, ranking near Mickey Mantle on the all-time, all-sport scale.
The number “7″ is retired by the Broncos, one of just three retired numbers in team history, but there are a couple of others who wore the number for Denver’s pro football franchise.
Little known and largely forgotten is a talented and hard working quarterback named Mickey Slaughter, who toiled for the Broncos on those terrible teams from 1963-66. Slaughter was drafted by Denver out of Louisiana Tech in 1963 and he was a player who gave it his all on teams that had no offensive line, few skilled position players and no defense to speak of. So the cards were stacked against Slaughter, who, looking to change his luck, also changed his uniform number, switching from his original “7″ to “14″ halfway through his Denver career.
The number change didn’t really help, but after his playing career Slaughter became a coach at his alma mater and ultimately helped develop Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who quarterbacked four world championship teams with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In sports, it’s amazing how one guy is connected to another.
The Broncos’ other number “7″ of course was Craig Morton, a member of the team’s Ring of Fame for his great six-year career (1977-82) that began with that most magical of seasons in the Mile High City, 1977. Morton will forever be the first quarterback to guide the franchise to a Super Bowl, a genuine big time quarterback who came to Denver at just the right time for Morton, the Broncos, and really, for the whole city.
While it would seem obvious that John Elway would immediately go into his number “7″ jersey that he wore throughout his college career at Stanford, team owner Edgar Kaiser actually called Morton before issuing the number to make sure Craig was OK with it. I was in Mr. Kaiser’s office when he placed the call to Craig, and began with small talk before Craig cut in and said, “You want my uniform number, don’t you,” laughing as he said the words. The two men chuckled together and Craig said, “Absolutely, I’ll be honored to have number seven continue with John Elway.”
And so it was, with number seven and the accomplishments of that number now permanently embedded into the memory bank of every member of Broncos Country.