Broncos win the first game in AFL history

Frank Tripucka and Gene Mingo
Eventually, both would be in the Ring of Fame. But in 1960, Frank Tripucka and Gene Mingo were backfield mates for the fledgling Broncos.

After losing all five preseason games, the Broncos become the first AFL victor when they defeat the Patriots in the first-ever AFL game, a 13-10 win at Nickerson Field in Boston. 

The game on Friday night, September 9, 1960, was not televised. Prime-time football was a notion barely conceived, especially for a league that had barely begun to crawl. And the lights at Nickerson Field weren’t bright enough for a viable nighttime broadcast, anyway.

But the Broncos lit up the night with big plays: quarterback Frank Tripucka’s 59-yard pass to Al Carmichael for the first touchdown in AFL history, and then kicker/runner/receiver/returner Gene Mingo’s 76-yard jaunt through the Patriots’ punt-coverage team for the touchdown that eventually provided the winning points in a 13-10 triumph.

“When I caught it, I took a couple of steps to the right, back to the left and then cutting back to the right, I can see the blocking developing,” Mingo would remember decades later. “As I ran down the sideline, somebody was reaching for me and another guy took him out. As I was going down the sidelines, coaches, players and everybody were waving for me to go on. I just kept running—running scared or whatever—but I made it into the end zone. I don’t know if I ever ran that fast.”

The only problem? The multi-talented Mingo was needed for the point-after-touchdown.

“I made it into the end zone and I was out of breath, tired and rubbery-legged. It was time for me to kick the extra point,” he said. “I kicked this big divot; my leg was so dead.”

Mingo missed the kick, but his lively legs on the punt return were more than enough to get the Broncos off to a promising start.