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NFL – Throwback Thursday: The AFL’s Inaugural Game

20 Nov

One of the marquee games on the entire 2013 NFL schedule will be played this week, pitting the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. It’s a dream matchup that league and television executives wish they could showcase every week – a battle between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. In this week’s Thursday Throwback post, I’ll go back to 1960, to the first game played between these two franchises, and also the first regular season game played in the history of the American Football League. It was September 9, 1960, a Friday night, and the game was played at Boston University’s stadium. The Friday date was picked after a survey of Patriots’ season ticket holders showed that they preferred Friday night games over Saturday night. In fact, all Patriot home games that season were scheduled for Friday nights. They were known as the Boston Patriots at that time, and early on they became the first AFL team to score when Gino Cappelletti booted a 35 yard field goal in the first quarter. Being the inaugural game in the AFL’s history, there were many firsts achieved that night. The Broncos debuted their infamous uniforms that included vertically striped socks (see picture below), which they burned in a public ceremony at a later date, then revived a couple years ago, in the AFL’s 50th Anniversary season, as part of their throwback uniforms.  Boston’s Butch Songin threw the first pass, which was incomplete.  The league’s first touchdown came on a pass from Denver’s Frank Tripucka to Al Carmichael, covering 59 yards.

 

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Versatile Bronco back Gene Mingo

 

 

When Gene Mingo kicked the extra point on that TD, he didn’t just make AFL history by splitting the uprights for the league’s first point after, he became the first African-American placekicker in pro football history. Have there been any since then? Actually, yes. Cookie Gilchrist played fullback and kicked for the AFL Buffalo Bills in the same era as Mingo, and Donald Igwebuike kicked for Tampa Bay in the late ’80s. He wasn’t really African American, however, just African. He was born in Nigeria. In an era when kickers were also football players, Mingo also recorded the first AFL punt return touchdown when he ran back a Patriot punt 76 yards for a score. He missed the extra point after that TD, however. Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin came up with the league’s first interception, and had 2 in the game. Most importantly, the Broncos won the game, 13-10, logging the first win in AFL history. The Broncos, nowadays, are a model franchise in the NFL. They reached a Super Bowl in the 1970s led by their “Orange Crush” defense, won a pair of titles in the John Elway era in the ’90s, and are enjoying success currently with Manning leading the way. They posted the worst record of all of the original eight AFL teams, however, in the ten year history of that league before the merger. But at least they can boast that they won the AFL’s first game ever.

 

 

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Program from the first AFL game ever played

 

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