This week Stephen Hallows explains how his love affair with the Denver Broncos began.
‘Come an’ ‘ave a look at this, our Stephen’, shouted my dad in a broad Bolton accent. It was early evening on a Sunday and some new sport was on telly. It was loud, colourful and utterly compelling. I hadn’t a clue what was going on but I liked it. A LOT.
Me and dad used to look forward to our 30 minutes every week. He’d already chosen the Steelers as his team and now I had to choose. So many different names and colours….it was a tough choice. I settled on the Denver Broncos. Why? I loved the orange and blue uniforms and the D logo on the helmet. I also liked the sound of the name. Strange to admit, but it sounded cool.
From then on, my love affair with the Broncos gained gargantuan proportions. It was the mid to late 80s, the NFL was gathering popularity in the UK. My school mates adopted teams too…………pretty obvious choices like the Dolphins, Bears and Cowboys (one lad chose the Houston Oilers…………I think for comedy value!!). The Pony Linebacker trainer, with the overlapping tongue was in sports shops in colours of the popular teams…………….but not in Broncos orange and blue, much to my annoyance. Broncos gear was hard to come by. My dad used to travel to Manchester to a specialist American Sports shop to get me some birthday or Christmas presents. They included a white #7 Elway jersey, a couple of snapback caps, books, couple of sweatshirts etc…heck I even had a huddle doll (not an actual doll by the way, but a Bronco horse with a helmet on). I was lucky. My dad sensed I was really into the NFL and made efforts to ensure he could get me whatever he could.
I remember staying up late on a Sunday night to watch the first half of the Giants – Broncos Superbowl. If I remember rightly, Denver were leading 10 – 9 at halftime. I went to bed excited, hoping that they would win it, but we all know how that turned out!!! The following year, I watched the first quarter of the Redskins – Broncos Superbowl. Denver were again leading 10 – zip thanks to a 56 yard Elway bomb to Ricky Nattiel. Once more, I went to bed with fingers crossed, but a 2nd quarter horror show ruined my dream. I remember vividly getting up the following morning and rewinding the tape of the game to find out the score before I went to school. When I saw that Denver had lost 42 – 10, I cried. I actually cried. Now I was never a weepy kid, so this felt odd. I guess it reaffirmed that those Denver Broncos really did mean an awful lot to me.
We played American Football at lunchtime at school, using a smaller ball. I was always a running back or a cornerback. I wasn’t big at all but I was bloody fast. We all loved it. Such a great feeling catching a massive throw from your mate and running all the way for a touchdown. We can all pretend.
I asked my mum to cancel my subscription to the Beano and started getting Touchdown magazine instead. I had a letter printed one month, I was happy as a pig in dung. I became a stats junkie, not really bothered about any other teams. My focus was on Denver. How many catches did Vance Johnson get? How many yards did Sammy Winder rush for? How many sacks did Simon Fletcher get? I wanted Bronco players to be the best at everything, the top at their position in the league. Sadly in the 80s and early 90s, it was only The Duke who was the stand out stellar player on the roster. I remember being on a lad’s holiday in Crete in 1992 and in a bar wearing an orange #77 Mecklenburg jersey. This hot woman came over and asked me where I got it from. I thought, ‘ I’m bloody well in here!!!’. Turns out she was an air stewardess from Denver who just liked my jersey. Ah well.
Things changed in the mid 90s. The internet made obtaining NFL info much easier. Denver had a new uniform and I liked it. They again reached the Superbowl against the much fancied Packers. I stayed up all night to watch it. It was the perfect game for me. My favourite player of all time, Terrell Davis, was the MVP. Another fave player, Steve Atwater had a tremendous game. I remember jumping up and down in my living room when John Mobley batted away that 4th down Favre pass. My dream was realised. The next year was even better. The best Broncos team of all time nearly went undefeated. They murdered some opponents. Davis ran amok gaining 2008 yards in a season where he could easily have smashed the single season rushing mark. He sat out full quarters and on the odd occasion, full halves because Denver had such a big lead. I really did love TD. No player to this day has ever meant more to me. A Superbowl repeat was in the bag and Elway rode off into the sunset as a champion and MVP. My Broncos were the best and I wallowed in it.
Then it went tits up. The next season Davis suffered in effect a career ending injury. I was distraught. I wanted him to be one of the best ever. Ok, he still was league MVP, Superbowl MVP, had a 2000 yard season, unbelievable post season stats, but I selfishly wanted more from him. He must get into Canton. Denver would not have won 2 Superbowls if it wasn’t for him. The argument that his career did not last long enough is redundant. Gale Sayers, the Bears running back, had a shorter career and lesser stats than TD and he’s in the Hall Of Fame. There are players who have been good and had a longer career and have made it in, but Davis was great. He was the best at his position in the late 90s.
I enjoyed the Plummer years. Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McAffrey were catching passes and TDs left, right and centre. Champ Bailey became my new fave player and what a player he was. Now I like Von Miller (after the last Superbowl, who doesn’t?) and Chris Harris Jr. I always liked and rooted for Bronco running backs and defensive backs (perhaps going back to my lunchtime school days exploits).
Over the years, I have collected a ridiculous amount of Broncos paraphernalia. From a full size replica helmet to garden gnomes, keyrings, mugs, caps galore, t-shirts a-plenty, hoodies, water bottles, golf headcovers…..you name it, I might have it. I have signs on my car and pennants on my work desk. I only have 2 jerseys. A Davis one and a Bailey one. For my 40th, my wife got me a signed, authentic Davis mini helmet in a display case (see attached photo). Well, I bought it and told her that’s what she is getting me!!! I’ve also just ordered a Von Miller Pop Vinyl doll. The wife will go beserk (‘You’re not putting that up!!!’)
It has always niggled me that I never felt that the Denver Broncos get the respect they deserve. For a team that has appeared in 8 Superbowls, there aren’t enough Broncos in the Hall Of Fame. Other teams like the Patriots or Cowboys get all the media. The NFL Europe store is lacking in Bronco gear, which I have informed them of. This just makes me prouder to be a Bronco fan. I like the fact that they aren’t the most popular team.
My son is 4 and he knew at an early age the word ‘Bronco’ (see photo). He has some caps and Bronco mascot stuffed toys. In the next few years, I’ll educate him more. I’m still a stats obsessed junkie. Sunday nights have changed since the 30 minute show in the mid 80s. I can see every Denver game live. I have NFL.com open on my iPad to keep up to date on the other games and stats. You get pretty good odds on Denver being televised as the late kick offs are fewer than the earlier ones. Things have changed an awful lot since I had to wait until Tuesday morning’s paper to find out the NFL scores. My dream is to get to Mile High and watch a game. My dad and I went to Wembley to watch Denver in 2010. Statistically the worst Bronco team ever, but still a brilliant day. My passion and love for the Broncos will only continue to grow. The Denver Broncos have been constant in my life for 32 years. Not a day passes where I don’t read about them, watch something about them, wear something with the logo on, think of them……it must be love!!!