ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Frank Tripucka, who quarterbacked the Denver Broncos in their inaugural season and later wanted his No. 18 unretired so Peyton Manning could wear it, died Thursday. He was 85.
The Broncos said Tripucka died in Woodland Park, N.J. He had Alzheimer's disease.
"He is proudly remembered as one of professional football's first great drop-back quarterbacks," the Broncos said in a statement. "Frank will always hold a very special place in Broncos history for what he meant to this organization and community."
A former standout at Notre Dame, Tripucka played for the Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals and Dallas Texans. He was brought in as a coach before the 1960 season, but it became obvious he was Denver's best option at QB. Tripucka threw for 3,038 yards and 24 touchdowns that season. He also tossed the first touchdown pass in American Football League history.
His number was one of three retired by the Broncos, but Tripucka gladly gave Manning permission to wear it when he joined the team in 2012. At the time, Tripucka said: "If Peyton wants the number, they should give it to him. They definitely should."
Tripucka was inducted into the team's Ring of Fame in 1986.
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