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A Look at Tom Jacobsen’s Broncos Memorabilia Collection

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Last month I had two stories that were based on old Denver Broncos files that were shared with me by a collector. First there was my story about the incredible Buddy Young memo about the future of black players in the NFL, and then there was the piece about letters from Broncos fans who wanted tickets for Super Bowl I.

The guy who shared those materials with me is longtime Uni Watch reader Tom Jacobsen, who’s one of the foremost collectors of Broncos memorabilia. I went out to visit him at his suburban Denver home in January so I could look through the old files myself (I’ll definitely be writing more stories about them in the months to come), and while I was there I took some photos of Tom’s amazing collection of game-worn uniforms, which he keeps in his basement. We’re going to take a look at some of that collection today.

We can start with the photo at the top of today’s entry. That’s a Shannon Sharpe gamer, and Tom is holding a trading card of Sharpe that Tom has photo-matched to that selfsame jersey. Cool, right? Tom does this type of photo-matching with his collection whenever possible.

One thing I like about Tom’s collection is that he doesn’t restrict himself to any particular era, as you can see from the uniforms he has on display:

Those orange pants are great, right? Wish they’d bring back that design as a throwback.

Speaking of throwbacks, here’s a great little detail I learned from Tom. In this next photo, the jersey on the left is a 1965 or ’66 gamer, and the one on the right is a throwback gamer that was worn in 1994. Check out the collars:

As you can see, they used the wrong collar color on the throwback. Tom thinks this may be because the collar often wasn’t that visible in mid-’60s photos — it would sort of curl under the shoulder pads and disappear from view. (For the record, the mighty Gridiron Uniform Database accurately shows both collar colors.)

Next up we have three prized items from the Broncos’ earliest days, before they began wearing orange. Check it out:

The equipment bag is awesome, and the jersey is pretty sweet. But of course my favorite item here is the vertically striped stirrup, which gave the Broncos a distinctive signature style in their first two seasons. The stirrups were so unpopular that the team eventually burned them in a bonfire, but Tom actually has two of them!

“The two I have originated with Broncos coach Jack Faulkner,” says Tom. “He became the coach in 1962 and came up with the ‘Something new in 62’ slogan that celebrated the new uniforms and new helmet logo (the infamous blue horse!). He also came up with the bonfire idea, but he held a few socks back to give to folks. One of the ones I have was given to the beat writer for the Bills at the time, and the other one was later given to a guy who worked with with Faulkner after he left the Broncos and worked for the Rams.”

Tom says he’s only aware of four other stirrups floating around out there besides the two that he owns. The Hall of Fame has a road one; the Broncos have a road one given to them by an former player; there’s a home one on display in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Honor; and the AP has a photo of a home one that’s listed as being located in Los Angeles, although it’s not clear exactly where.

Next up: Back when Bill Romanowski played, I was always intrigued by how his jerseys were modified with laces tied to his pads. Tom has one of his jerseys — complete with the laces (and, as it turns out, one of those crotch-extension panels):

Here’s a closer look at the laces, and the little grommets that were sewn in to accommodate them, as viewed from the front of the jersey:

And here’s how it looks from the back of the jersey:

Tom also let me turn one of the sleeves inside-out, so I could see how it looked from inside the jersey:

Speaking of jersey modifications, Tom has a Rich “Tombstone” Jackson jersey that went through some serious wars and ended up with a lot of repairs. He turned it inside-out so I could see all the repair work:

Next up: helmets! Tom has a lot of them, many of which are showcased in this display:

The red helmet at top-left was Louis Wright’s helmet from the 1978 Pro Bowl. It’s the same helmet he wore throughout the 1977 season and in Super Bowl XII. Back in those days, players just had their regular helmets repainted for the Pro Bowl, and then they were painted back again for the following season. It’s not clear why this helmet was never painted back to Broncos colors (most likely Wright simply got a new helmet in the fall of ’78). Here’s a closer look:

Speaking of helmets, here’s a manufacturer you might not have heard of before:

Kelley helmets were popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It’s a little hard to see in that photo, but Kelley used a clear shell, with the graphics and paint applied from the inside. (There’s more info on Kelley and the clear-shell process here.) This one was a salesman sample that was brought in for Rob Lytle to try. He had worn that style at Michigan.

Finally, there’s this: On Sept. 29, 1968, Broncos rookie Marlin Briscoe entered the game in the fourth quarter and became the AFL’s first black quarterback. Tom has the jacket that Briscoe had been wearing on the sidelines before being called into the game:

That’s enough for today, but believe me when I say that this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding Tom’s collection — he has a lot more stuff.

Last but definitely not least, I want to mention that Tom is a great guy and was an absolute pleasure to be around throughout the day we spent together. Ditto for his wife and daughter — they all welcomed a stranger into their home and couldn’t have been nicer about it. It would be easy for two people who’d spent a full day poring over old paperwork to get sick of each other, but Tom and I hit it off so well that we went out to dinner at a Denver steakhouse, which was a great time. He even offered to pay for me! I wouldn’t allow that, of course, but it was just one more gracious gesture from Tom, who somehow thought I was the one doing him a favor that day, when it was actually the other way around. Thanks, buddy — you’re the best.

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Just a little bit busy: Hmmm, ya think maybe Syracuse is setting a record for the most patches (or at least logos) on a basketball jersey?

(My thanks to Michael Alper for the screen shot.)

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Cap update: Thanks to everyone who gave feedback and suggestions regarding my plans, announced yesterday, to create a Uni Watch cap. It’s going to take a little while to sift through all the possible manufacturers (please, no more suggestions or recommendations — I’m hip-deep in them already as it is), but I’ll figure out the best route to take shortly.

Meanwhile: A few people thought the cap looked too much like an A’s cap, because of the color scheme. My smart-ass response to that was, “As far as I know, the A’s have never had a cap with a winged stirrup.” But last night reader/commenter Chris Cruz informed me that the A’s do have a cap with a stirrup (albeit not a winged one):

That’s pretty sweet, right? They offered it last month to fans who bought tickets to at least two of their first four spring training games.

I’m still fine with the Uni Watch cap design. And I like that A’s cap so much that I don’t even mind that they came out with a stirrup-centric cap design before we did.

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

Raffle reminder: In case you missed it earlier this week, I’m currently raffling off a T-shirt and a pair of retro shorts from the good folks at 19Nine.

To enter, send an email to the raffle address by tomorrow night, 7pm Eastern. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner on Monday. Good luck!

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Pea crab reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, I’ve written an article for the food website Taste about pea crabs, which are the little crabs that live inside certain oysters. I hope you’ll check it out here. Thanks.

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LAST CALL for the rain check shirt: Today is the last day to get our latest limited-edition Uni Watch T-shirt, designed by the great Todd Radom. It comes in a wide range of colors (including deep royal, as shown at right; click to enlarge) and is available only until 11pm Eastern tonight. You can order it here. If you want a color or style that isn’t shown, get in touch and I can take care of you. My thanks, as always, for your consideration.

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The Ticker
By Paul

Baseball News: The Grand Rapids Griffins — that’s a hockey team — will wear West Michigan Whitecaps-inspired jerseys tomorrow. … Very cool throwbacks for Cincinnati (from Bob Wilzbach). … The Erie SeaWolves will become the Erie SnowWolves for a Christmas in July promotion on July 27. … Royals coach Dale Sveum missed the team portrait due to a doctor’s appointment. So actor Jim Caviezel, who among other things has portrayed Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, and who’s been attending the team’s spring training camp at the invitation of the front office, stood in for Sveum in the photo. Sveum’s face will be Photoshopped into the resulting photo.

NFL News: In the wake of scientist Stephen Hawking’s death, the Patriots posted a photo of team owner Bob Kraft presenting Hawking with a No. π Pats jersey (from JayJay Dean). … Longtime Browns OL Joe Thomas announced his retirement yesterday. Instead of retiring his number, the Browns are going to retire his number of consecutive snaps (thanks, Alex).

Hockey News: Cross-listed from the baseball section: The Grand Rapids Griffins will wear jerseys inspired by the minor league baseball team the West Michigan Whitecaps tomorrow. … New St. Paddy’s Day uniforms for the Niagara IceDogs (from Rasheed Clarke).

NBA News: LeBron James gave his compression sleeve to a kid who’d be holding a sign that said, “King James, you are more than an athlete” (from Mike Chamernik).

College and High School Hoops News: The Star Tribune created a beer bracket featuring jerseys inspired by Minnesota craft beers (from Cole Trace). … Duke has new sneakers for March Madness (from Megan Brown). … And so does Purdue (from Jason Miller). … Oh baby, look at these old Marquette shooting shirts (from @CVWarrior). … Stripe-o-rama! Check out the competing stripe patterns in this 1973 TCU/SMU game (big thanks to @john76065). … Good story on Providence’s sideline mascot (from Kary Klismet). … Another day, another pair of Pennsylvania high school teams showing up with the same-colored uniforms. Come on, Keystone State, get it together (from Dave Thackara). … Here’s a new one: Pikeville High School in Kentucky wore blue ribbons on their sneakers in memory of a local police officer who was killed earlier this week (from @The_Amish_Robot).

Soccer News: New home jersey for Steel FC (thanks, Phil). … Gambia may need to wear locally made kits for an international friendly because of an equipment dispute that led to the confiscation of cartons of gear. … New uni numbers for Accra Hearts of Oak. … Charleston Battery is bringing back the vertical stripes (from Daren Stoltzfus).

Grab Bag: Candlepin bowling is normally found only in New England and the Canadian Maritimes, but there’s a gorgeous set of candlepin lanes in the basement of a Cincinnati civic center. That article includes a spectacular slideshow of two dozen photos — don’t miss (big thanks to Brandon Ponchak). … Police seized a bunch of counterfeit clothing in Evesham, England. … Thieves in Michigan stole some vans filled with police and firefighter uniforms. … Here’s a look at the history of the Marvel Comics logo. … A New Zealand cricket bowler has been wearing a rather unusual mask (from John Muir). … New airline uniforms for Aer Lingus. … In honor of Pi Day, the University of Missouri selected a pumpkin pie with the Mizzou logo constructed from pie crust as the winner of its “Draw the Logo” contest (from Kary Klismet). … Interesting Texas flag-themed swimsuits for Houston at this year’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. … New logo for the California city of Menifee. … A week ago we had a Ticker item about the Stanford University branch of the College Republicans being told that they couldn’t put their new logo on a school-approved T-shirt because it included the American flag, which was a violation of school policy. The group has spent the past week lobbying to have that decision overturned, but now it turns out that the logo was plagiarized.

Comments (56)

    Paul, out of curiosity, is the Uni-Watch cap graphic in the article representative of the design you’ve chosen after the input?

    I think you should make some actual stirrups with that stripe pattern-is that a possibility?

    Comrade Robert Marshall sold many, many striped stirrup designs — including, I think, that one (or something very close to it) — a few years back.

    Top notch entry today!

    Broncos would do well to make jackets like Briscoe’s available.

    A little proofreading:

    (Fort the record, the mighty Gridiron Uniform Database


    He turned it inside-own so I could see

    So, you’re going to post a picture of a steak house and gloss over what a sugar steak is? I’m intrigued.

    Sugar steak is, from what I can tell, basically just a steak with a rub or marinade that includes sugar.

    I’ve always found the shade of blue on the Broncos old helmet a rather unique color. (The helmet featured prominently on the book case) It’s not sky blue or royal blue, it’s somewhere between. IMO they generally gravitated to a darker blue hue on their orange uniform, maybe not so much on the numbers on their white jersey.

    How about a MiLB like pea crab alternate cap and jersey! Jk…for now

    I love oysters too and have never found one. Now I’m fully educated if I encounter one of the little guys!

    A New Zealand cricket bowler has been wearing a rather unusual mask
    As close as some fast bowlers are to the batter after their follow-through, I don’t blame him. Especially after this happened last year:

    If I ever bowled I’d stick to spinners (the equivalent of a curveballer): slower and you don’t have as much follow-through.

    The new basketball shoes Duke and Purdue are showing are actually just Nike’s generic “March Madness” colorways, and will probably be worn by the majority of Nike schools. That’s why the sole includes all of those colors, and the body is fairly neutral. They’re releasing the color combo on the most recent signature shoes for Kobe, Kyrie Irving, and Paul George. It’s actually not the first time they’ve done a tournament-specific shoe, as they released the Huarache 64 in 2008, but at least that came in a variety of colors so that it more closely matched the teams’ uniforms.

    Caviezel, of course, also starred in the Mets-centric sci-fi drama Frequency, with Dennis Quaid.

    Re: The video of SMU vs. TCU.

    The court has a 3-point line! I guess this is where the Dallas Chapparals played?

    He has a bone spur, so he wears them mostly for that reason.

    The Swooshketeers even made him his own shoe. link

    Millionaires tend to dress as such. Billionaires tend to dress however they please…

    The karmic justice on the Stanford College Republicans story is really something.

    Having said that, not being able to use the American flag on anything is stupid.

    Still loving the cap idea. I like the traditional, clean design. The logo presentation without any text is slick. I am not a fan of off center logos or sublimated accents. For me, I can live with a different color bill, but not a lot of other fancy. I’m excited.

    Ironic that the symbol on the Hawking Patriot jersey is Pi, and he died on National Pi day.

    The Broncos switched from the orange pants on the road to white in 1972 and it was a change for the worse. I thought the orange/white/orange was an awesome combination. Then again they should go back to their entire 70-80’s combo and ditch the trash they wear now…then again that’s just me.

    Incidentally I got the ticket stub shirt, in Mets colors of course :).

    Orange pants did make a brief return on the road in the late 1970s. I liked the orange pants with this uniform:


    I wore a Kelley clear shell helmet when I played high school football in 1982. It was a beauty. Wish I could have kept it. I’m glad I have some pics of it.

    When both high school basketball teams showed up wearing white, why didn’t the home team just put on their colored uniform instead of having the road team wear them?

    A day late on this, but as a cap collector I am 100% in on buying a Uni-Watch cap. My preference these days is for the slouch/unstructured variety, but I own over a hundred structured fitted so excited for either option.

    Also, love today’s lede.

    Al McGuire’s Marquette teams always wore the coolest unis in the NCAA. In the picture, Dean Meminger looking particularly cool.

    I think that is the 1970 Marquette team which wore similar jerseys.


    Which also forms part of the concept of MU’s current duds.


    Paul, do you have a favorite color for uniforms? We all know your dislike for purple. This green hat is great looking, and wondering if you might be partial to green? Or maybe another way to ask this is if you owned a new expansion team, what colors would you pick? And would the color choice depend on the sport? Thanks

    Green has been my favorite color since I was a very little boy. That’s why this website is green-themed. Wish there were more green uniforms out there.

    I love green uniforms. Probably a big reason is that there aren’t many. Specifically love kelly green, which is strange since I’m a Trojan and growing up in LA being a Lakers fan I hated the Celtics. Not a fan of the dark green. Sadly I think it’s unlikely Philadelphia switches back to kelly green after winning the Super Bowl in the dark green. The A’s green is good, but I’m really happy to see Oakland have a kelly green option this year. My complaint about MLB uniforms is that outside of the A’s all the other teams primary hats are either blue, black, or red. There used to be a few exceptions like the D-Backs purple or Florida’s aqua, but those have disappeared or are just an alternate or throwback option.

    What always bugged me about the pre-1997 Nike Broncos uniforms was why did they use blue numbers on the white jerseys instead of orange? Goes against the vast majority of uniform designs that use their primary color for the numbers on their white jerseys.

    Technically this applies to the current Broncos since making their orange jersey their primary one in 2012.

    In any case, I think the blue numbers work better with the blue helmets. They’re not wearing both jerseys side-by-side, after all.

    I certainly understand the economics of it, but I would definitely be purchasing the hat if it comes with a deeper crown. I know most people prefer a shallower hat but my big noggin’ doesn’t usually fit well with those! Perhaps two options if it’s feasible??

    Just read the pea crab piece. I’m really starting to enjoy the foodie bits more than the uni bits these days. Great job. I’ll be looking for pea crabs on my annual beach week this summer.

    That is an impressive Broncos collection, some really cool stuff. Is that Elway jersey a one game style that was used against the Giants in 1986? The Broncos wore Russell Athletic during this time period but for some reason against the Giants Elway was wearing a Champion jersey?
    My father got cut twice by the Broncos, 1966 and 1967, I never saw a picture of him in one of those classic uniforms, still one of my favorites.

    Hi Jimmy,

    That’s cool your dad was around the team at that time, the ’65/’66 style is my favorites too.

    On the Elway, you are right, the team wore Russell during that time. This jersey was a Champion salesman’s sample that the equipment manager cut up and added a hand warmer to make it a cold weather jersey. Elway wore it in ’85 vs. KC (before the pocket was added) and then again in ’85 vs. Pittsburgh. Also in ’86 vs. the Giants as you mentioned.


    Wow, it’s funny how that Giants game popped into my head? I didn’t know about the other two games? I just remember that Champion style 7 font looked out of place against the Giants. Thanks for the information. I remember as a kid my mother put too much bleach in the washer machine and it ruined his grey team issued Broncos t shirt, he was really upset and you couldn’t buy that stuff to work out in back then. His best friend at Maryland Chip Myrtle also played for the Broncos back then.

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