Frank Tripucka, the quarterback who led the Broncos in their first three seasons and is in the team’s Ring of Fame, has died at the age of 85.
Tripucka, who threw the first touchdown pass in American Football League history on September 9, 1960, had his No. 18 retired by the Broncos, although he allowed Peyton Manning to begin wearing it last year.
“Frank Tripucka was an original Denver Bronco and Ring of Famer who was the first to quarterback the team,” the Broncos said in a statement. “He laid the foundation for the Broncos’ future success as an American Football League All-Star, twice leading the league in passing yards and setting numerous single-game and career records. He is proudly remembered as one of professional football’s first great drop-back quarterbacks.”
An All-American quarterback at Notre Dame, Tripucka was chosen by the Eagles with the ninth overall pick in the 1949 NFL draft. He never played for the Eagles, however, and didn’t find much success while bouncing around the league with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals and Dallas Texans. He ended up spending most of the 1950s playing in the Canadian Football League.
But when the AFL came around and emphasized passing offenses, Tripucka was a perfect fit. Tripucka led the AFL in passing yards in 1960 and again in 1962. He retired after the 1963 season.
His survivors include his wife Randy, his son, former NBA All-Star Kelly Tripucka, and his grandson, free agent long snapper Travis Tripucka.
Photo via Denver Broncos.