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Inaugural QB for Denver Broncos dies at 85

Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka, diving for a touchdown against the New York Titans.
Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka, diving for a touchdown against the New York Titans.1962 AP file

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo.— Frank Tripucka was the first quarterback for the Broncos and the original No. 18 in Denver.

His number was retired until 2012, when he gladly and graciously allowed Peyton Manning to wear it.

Mr. Tripucka died Thursday at his home in Woodland Park, N.J., at age 85. His son, Kelly Tripucka, a former Notre Dame basketball standout, said his father died of congestive heart failure.

‘‘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, Mr. 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.

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