Frank Tripucka wore that number for three seasons in the early 1960s, when he was the first quarterback in club history. After his tenure, the number was ceremonially retired.
But Tripucka is just fine with breaking it out of storage. The 84-year-old Tripucka said in a phone interview from his home in Woodland Park, N.J., that if Manning wants the number, "He should have it. Let's give it to him."
"He's a great quarterback," Tripucka said. "He gets the job done. That's the important thing. As the quarterback, you've got to get the job done."
Brought in to serve as a coach for the young quarterbacks on a burgeoning Broncos squad, Tripucka was quickly pressed into duty by the owner at the time, Bob Howsam.
At first, Tripucka was reluctant. A former standout at Notre Dame, his career was winding down after stints with Detroit, the Chicago Cardinals and the Dallas Texans. He wanted to do some mentoring and then call it a career.
Eventually, Tripucka was talked into taking the reins and led the American Football League in passing (3,038 yards) during the 1960 season, which was the team's inaugural year. His 447 yards passing against Buffalo on Sept. 15, 1962, still remain one of the top marks in club history.
"I had a good career," he modestly said. "I enjoyed it thoroughly."
Tripucka's number is just one of three the Broncos have retired. The others belong to Hall of Famers John Elway (No. 7) and Floyd Little (No. 44). Tripucka was added to the team's Ring of Fame in 1986.
These days, Tripucka is suffering from Alzheimer's. He has his good days and his bad. His wife of nearly 63 years is never far away. Randy Tripucka helps fill in the gaps when her husband's memory just can't quite recall all the details.
"He really would be very proud to have Manning wear his number," Randy Tripucka said. "He'd have no problem at all. We'd be very proud for Manning to use it."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press