The excitement level around Denver Broncos headquarters and among the legions of Broncos fans is palpable at this time, obviously fueled by the acquisition of quarterback Peyton Manning.
(Actually, despite the Associated Press stylistic guide, it probably is never necessary to use the adjective “quarterback” when saying Peyton Manning. He just is).
The preseason schedule has been released and while the firm dates are yet to be announced we know that the Broncos will kick things off in Chicago, then play home games against Seattle and San Francisco before traveling to Arizona to close out preseason play.
And last Tuesday in New York City Nike and the National Football League unveiled the new uniforms for all 32 teams.
For the Broncos, the big uniform theme in 2012 is a return to one of the most illustrious elements of our past—the color orange.
The Broncos aesthetic design in the Nike 51 football uniform will stay true to years past while updating the color-backing in the neckline. That is in order to accommodate the Flywire technology designed to reduce weight and provide a lockdown fit over the pads.
The new uniform will be designed and engineered from the inside out, with Nike focusing on creating a system whereby the base layer, padding, jersey and pant work together.
Some of the new innovations include more sleeve articulation for better range of motion and integrating new four-way stretch fabrication to provide a streamlined shrink-wrap fit.
Over the decades of my career I have watched generations of offensive and defensive linemen try to have their jerseys altered to fit better, tighter, and tighter still.
Broncos defensive lineman Mitch Unrein, who played at Wyoming before the Broncos, got to try on a prototype of the new jersey material during last season, saying, “It fit like a glove. There is no extra material on them. It just fit perfectly on the pads.”
Unrein adds that the fit “Helps you out a lot of you are a defensive lineman because it has that nice cut around the arms, so those offensive linemen can’t hold on to you as much.”
But it is not just the linemen who will benefit. Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, who closed out his career with a preseason in Denver before his retirement, sometimes would tape his game jersey to his legs before putting the pants on, so that the jersey had no extra fabric hanging loose that a defender could grab for a potential tackle.
Football is a game of inches, even down to the uniform.
The Broncos this year will be wearing their new look Nike uniforms for all games, but fans should not notice much visual change at all in how it appears, except for orange.
The Broncos started off life wearing used mustard and brown uniforms in 1960 and 1961, then made the switch to orange when Jack Faulkner took over as general manager and head coach in 1962.
While there were several variations of jersey and pant striping over the years, and even some adjustments as to the shade of orange, Denver had orange as its primary color from 1962 through 1996.
Of course, virtually every Broncos season ticket holder and most fans of multiple decades are fondly familiar with the “Orange Crush” defense that led the Broncos to Super Bowl XII and which was one of the NFL’s top units in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Most fans do not realize that the very first Bronco orange was meant to be a color very near that of the University of Tennessee, but the American Football League manufacturer being used had a slightly different color version.
This is interesting in that our quarterback now is Manning, who played his college football at Tennessee. The trademark shout at Tennessee is “Go, Big Orange,” and some version of that will turn out to be very fitting for the Broncos in their new togs, which will feature orange as the primary home uniform. The former alternate jersey becomes the new primary jersey, as worn by future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey at the unveiling in New York, the road while will stay the same, and Denver’s alternate jersey, which may be worn for two regular season games, now is the navy blue.
So, 2012 will feature a new and improved uniform design by Nike, but a return to the color which has been the one most identified with the Broncos since 1962.
The Denver Broncos are looking to go back to the future in both color and winning ways.
“Go, Big Orange.”