This week the Denver Broncos travel to Detroit to play the Lions in beautiful new Ford Field.
I was fortunate to have been able to work the Super Bowl for the NFL when it was played in Detroit, so I am very familiar with the Lions’ new stadium. A spectacular edifice, both functional and attractive.
Of course, everyone knows that Detroit has bounced back in a big way this year, coming into this game with a 5-2 record, but there are still a few fun facts about this franchise that most do not know.
The team actually began play in Portsmouth, Ohio, moving to Detroit in 1934, and it was then that the team settled on Lions as the nickname — not only a classic team name, but one that played off of the baseball Tigers theme as well.
Detroit actually had had earlier pro teams in the fledging NFL, with those clubs known as the Heralds, the Panthers, and the Wolverines.
I have long been partial to the Lions uniform, and especially to the color combination that features Honolulu Blue as the main part of the scheme.
They had silver as part of the combination as far back as 1937, and that blue and silver spawned the Dallas Cowboys color combination, among many others.
The Lions added a black alternate jersey in 2005, but that was not actually new for the Detroit team — the Lions had a second uniform, all black, back in 1948.
The point of all this is just that we see them, we watch them, but usually we don’t know them.
A discussion of the greatest Detroit players of all time can’t be made without including three members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who have Colorado connections.
Jack Christiansen was a Lion from 1951-58, but played his college football at Colorado A & M, now Colorado State University.
Earl “Dutch” Clark played for the Lions from 1931-32 and 1934-38 after being one of the nation’s greatest collegiate players at Colorado College.
And one of pro football’s greatest running backs ever was the consensus three-time All-American from Southern Methodist, Doak Walker, who played for the Lions from 1950-55, but later became a special assignments coach for the Broncos in 1966, before retiring to the Colorado mountains.
Outside of our AFC West opponents with whom we are so familiar, the other teams often seem to be just a blur filling out television screens for three hours.
But everybody has a history.
The Broncos are playing Detroit for the tenth time, the sixth in Detroit — Denver is 3-2 in the Motor City.
Three of the previous five games took place on Thanksgiving Day, as the Broncos have been tabbed for the distinction of playing on that holiday ten times overall.
A long forgotten game between the two teams is actually a huge part of pro football history.
The first-ever meeting between the Broncos and Lions took place in a preseason game at the old University of Denver Stadium on August 5, 1967.
The Broncos won by a 13-7 score in what was the first victory ever for an American Football League team over a National Football League club, and even though it happened in preseason, it earned the Denver team national headlines for the first time in franchise history.
So momentous was the win that Denver Head Coach Lou Saban was carried off the field on the shoulders of jubilant fans and players alike.
The Broncos have come a long way since that preseason win 40 years ago, but this week the cycle of pro football life moves full circle from a rickety wooden park on the DU campus to the sterling palace that is Ford Field, with Bronco fans hoping the results are the same as in that very first meeting four decades ago.