FINALLY ON THE FOOTBALL MAP

Survival had been the focus of the Broncos’ first seven seasons. Trying to build a contender would be the goal of the seasons that followed.

The Broncos didn’t have to worry about stability any longer. Thanks to fans and local businesses, who raised millions of dollars, Bears Stadium was to be renovated and enlarged, eventually taking on its famed name of Denver Mile High Stadium. Lou Saban was the new head coach and general manager, and a new facility in Adams County was under construction.

Just as important, the merger created a common AFL-NFL draft. No longer would the Broncos use first-round picks on players they were unlikely to sign because of their limited budget; this time, they could draft a player and expect to keep him.

But the Broncos’ call was not the one Floyd Little expected.

“I almost died,” Floyd Little recalled decades later. “It was not what I expected. I was halfway not happy about it because I had talked with the (New York) Jets and I had to get to the ninth pick in order to go with the Jets. I had also spoken with Jim Finks, who was on his way to Minnesota, and I also spoke with (Vince) Lombardi who had an interest in drafting me (for the Packers), but I told him I was already committed to go to the Jets.

“The only way I got to Denver was because of our sports information director at Syracuse, Val Pinchbeck. Lou Saban had decided to draft Gene Upshaw and then he asked Val what kind of guy Floyd Little is. Val told him that I was a good guy, but said he knew the Broncos were going to draft Upshaw. Saban said, ‘Well, we are going to draft Floyd Little.’ That is how I got to Denver.”

At first, Little wasn’t happy. But then he visited Denver.

“Then I came to visit in April sometime and the weather was absolutely gorgeous and I fell in love with Denver. Growing up on the East Coast I never really knew where Denver was other than the history and the (covered) wagons were traveling through on the way to the gold rush,” he said. “But I didn’t know where Denver was. I wasn’t happy when I was drafted by Denver, but I was happy that I was (drafted) and it turned out very well.”

Little became a Hall of Famer, and Saban increased the professionalism and discipline on the roster. But the work didn’t bear any fruit in 1967, when Saban pinned his hopes on youth. Thirteen of the Broncos’ 22 starters early in the season were rookies or second-year players, including Little, and at one point in the season, 32 of 40 players on the roster were rookies or second-year players. There was so much roster shuffling that at times, the new headquarters resembled the bustling hub terminal at Denver’s Stapleton Airport.

“Your main goal is to instill the winning habit as soon as possible,” Saban proclaimed. “Bronco fans have been patient, but patience is a bad word.”

But it would be required. The 1967 Broncos finished 3-11, including six losses by 14 or more points. The high point of the season actually came in the preseason, when the Broncos became the first AFL team to beat an NFL squad, taking out the Detroit Lions.

1967 Schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/3 Boston Patriots 26-21
9/10 at Oakland Raiders 0-51
9/17 at Miami Dolphins 21-35
9/24 New York Jets 24-38
10/1 at Houston Oilers 6-10
10/8 Buffalo Bills 16-17
10/22 San Diego Chargers 21-38
10/29 at Kansas City Chiefs 9-52
11/5 Oakland Raiders 17-21
11/12 Houston Oilers 18-20
11/19 at Buffalo Bills 21-20
11/23 at San Diego Chargers 20-24
12/3 at New York Jets 33-24
12/17 Kansas City Chiefs 24-38

May 17, 1967
Floyd Little becomes the first No. 1 choice to sign with Denver in the history of the club

August 5, 1967
Broncos defeat Detroit Lions 13-7 in preseason game at DU for AFL’s first win over the NFL

1967 Offense

Pos Player Starts
SE Eric Crabtree 14
LT Sam Brunelli 12
LG George Goeddeke 10
C Larry Kaminski 14
RG Pat Mattson 14
RT Tom Cichowski 11
TE Tom Beer 14
FL Al Denson 14
QB Steve Tensi 14
HB Floyd Little 13
HB Charlie Mitchell 14
FB Bo Hickey 12
FB Wendell Hayes 14
P Bob Scarpitto 14
PK Bob Humphreys 8

1967 Defense

Pos Player Starts
LE Rex Mirich 13
LT Jerry Inman 14
RT Dave Costa 14
RE Richard Jackson 14
LLB Carl Cunningham 13
MLB John Huard 14
MLB Pete Duranko 14
RLB Chip Myrtle 14
RLB Frank Richter 9
LC Goldie Sellers 13
RC Nemiah Wilson 14
FS Jack Lentz 14
SS Pete Jaquess 3
SS Tom Cassese 14