The original No. 18: New Jersey’s Frank Tripucka helped create Broncos

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WOODLAND PARK, N.J. -- If there's a stereotypical New Jersey family, it's the Tripuckas.

Getting together on the weekends, talking loudly, sharing old stories.  Like the one about the one about the original legendary Broncos No. 18 quarterback, who happened to be their dad.

The Tripuckas invited FOX31 Denver to their Woodland Park home to reminisce about the first Broncos quarterback.

Frank Tripucka loaded up the family in the station wagon and drove them to Denver back in 1960.  At 33 years old, his playing days were over. He was going to be an assistant coach.  But his boss had other ideas.

"The guy said, '(It's) a big fan night, the last preseason game, all these people are here, we need to give them a show, can you go put your uniform on?'" said Kelly Tripucka, Frank's son. "Can you imagine that today?  And he talked him into it.  He threw two or three touchdown passes, and next week he's the starting quarterback."

Tripucka became part of Broncos history, eventually inducted into the Ring of Fame. His number 18 jersey was retired until two years ago, when Peyton Manning called, asking if he could bring it out of retirement.

"Peyton said, 'What can I do for you?' And Frank said, 'You know, I just thought: You could divide your $90 million with me,'" Tripucka's wife Randy laughed.

And what a thrill Frank would have seeing his older number 18 in the Super Bowl, a game played just a few miles from his hometown.

But sadly, it wasn't to be: Frank passed away last September.

In lieu of flowers, friends donated money to refurbish the high school football field Frank grew up playing on in Bloomfield, N.J., and named the press box after him.

As for who the Tripuckas are cheering for on Super Bowl Sunday, there's no doubt it's the Broncos.  They say the events of the last few months make a Denver win a necessity.

"The year (Frank) dies, and his (jersey) number, and now the Super Bowl is here, some things are meant to be, you know what I mean?  Let's hope so," said Kelly Tripucka.

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