The Denver Broncos two home preseason games this year feature a matchup against the longtime rivals from the AFC West, the Seattle Seahawks, and this week the Broncos will kick off preseason play against one of their oldest rivals, the Buffalo Bills.
Indeed, the Buffalo Bills were the second team the Broncos ever played in the entire history of Denver football.
Both teams started in the American Football League, and the Broncos were charter members whose “birthday” was celebrated earlier this week-August 14 was the exact date on which Denver’s pro football team came into being. Like any newborn, the name came along just a bit later.
The Buffalo franchise was added to the AFL later in the year, but that was not Buffalo’s first foray into pro football, as the Bills had initially played in the old All American Football Conference, which existed for four seasons in the late 1940′s.
The Broncos in 1960 began preseason play against the Boston Patriots in Providence, and then the following week played the Bills in Rochester before a curious gathering announced as 6,200.
The Bills won, 31-14.
Interestingly, the schedule was such that when regular season play began in 1960, the Patriots and Bills again were the first two Bronco opponents, again on the road. Denver’s first game in Buffalo was played before 15,229 at old (very, very old) War Memorial Stadium, with Broncos Ring of Famer Frank Tripucka engineering a 27-21 Denver win.
Now, 52 years later, the teams play again, and there is still one individual associated with the two teams who was there at the very beginning.
That would be Ralph Wilson, founder and still owner of the Bills and one of the game’s all-time greats.
A Detroit resident, Ralph Wilson has displayed his loyalty and devotion to pro football and the city of Buffalo innumerable times over the past five decades. Buffalo is not the largest market, and it would have been very easy for Mr. Wilson to move his team to a much larger city many times over-but his passion, loyalty and devotion is what helped make the AFL a success, and without the dedication of owners like Mr. Wilson, a lot of teams would not be here today, including the Denver Broncos.
A deserving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mr. Wilson was one of the original “Foolish Club”-that is how the eight men who owned AFL franchises were dubbed in the early 1960′s.
But since then, all eight original AFL franchises have gone to the Super Bowl, so who’s foolish now?
Most fans in attendance or watching on television won’t realize the early history of the Broncos and Bills, but this is a quick salute to what used to be, always the forerunner of what is today.