MILE HIGH MEMORIES

MILE HIGH MEMORIES

As the Miami Dolphins prepare to play the Denver Broncos this weekend, I’m thinking back to the late 60’s / early 70’s when my Syracuse teammate, Floyd Little, and I first became part of the new NFL.

The NFL had been formed by combining the AFL and the old NFL just a few years before Floyd and I were drafted.  Floyd had been drafted by Denver in the first round of ’67.  I had also been a first-rounder taken by Miami in ’68.  I remember looking forward to playing Denver in Mile High stadium after hearing from Floyd what a great town it was.  Denver seemed to suit him and he was happy to be living and playing there.

Then that day came.  In early September, our Dolphins team boarded a plane in Miami (with temp’s in the 90’s) and flew to Denver.  We landed, the day before the game, in a blizzard!  As soon as our feet hit the ground, I, of course, immediately seized the opportunity to bash my teammate, Jim Kiick, in the head with a wet snowball.  I thought it was funny.  He wasn’t that amused.

That afternoon, Floyd picked me up at the hotel in his Thunderbird convertible and drove me around Denver showing me all the highlights of the city.  Back then, Denver had that feel of the old west.  It was made mostly of red brick buildings, ice cream parlors, old theaters and saloons.  It was still a cowboy town.  At least it felt that way to me.  Floyd was very proud of his new hometown.  We had a great time and it was fun seeing him again.  We had both made it to the pro’s and the next day would be the first time Floyd and I competed against each other in the NFL.

As we approached kickoff, I remember Coach Shula yelling at my teammates for wearing thermals during pregame warm up in the snow.  But by kickoff, the sky had cleared, the sun came out and the temps began to climb.  Then, by the end of the first quarter, the clouds had returned, turned dark and began to rain…which then turned to hail!  By the end of the third quarter, it began snowing again!  Seems to me that the game ended in a TIE!  By the time the Dolphins loaded the bus after the game, we needed a snowplow escort to the Denver airport!  I’d never seen anything like that.  I couldn’t believe the weather could change that drastically in such a short period of time.  Crazy.

When I saw Floyd Little a few months ago at the Hall of Fame inductions, we talked about those memories we have of playing in Denver weather.  That led to more snowstorm stories from our days at Syracuse.  Then Jim Brown chimed in with his stories of severe weather while playing at Syracuse in the 50’s.  Of course, tall tales began to unfold between the trio and someone, thankfully, snapped this pic.

I’m looking forward to the day when (not if) Tom Coughlin joins me, Floyd and Jim in the Hall of Fame.  Then our Syracuse Hall of Fame backfield will be complete.  It will certainly happen. …no doubt in my mind.  However, Tom is the only one of us not quite through with football.  Until then, we’re saving his chair!

ZONK

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