The American Football League started in 1960 as a rival to the older and more established National Football League. The bulk of the ownership of the AFL was made up of investors who had desired purchasing an NFL team, but for various reasons were not able to.
After all the planning and preparation, the first game had to be played. It featured the Denver Broncos on the road against the Boston Patriots. The game was held at Nickerson Field on Friday night, September 9th, 1960. It was a windy game that saw what many claimed was surprisingly good play from two teams that had never before played a game that counted.
Frank Tripucka was the quarterback of the Broncos and he would finish 10 of 15 for 180 yards and one touchdown on the night. A whole host of Broncos ran the ball during that game with Gene Mingo gaining 66 yards, Dave Rolle gaining 33 yards, Al Carmichael gaining 24 yards, and Henry Bell gaining 17 yards, among others. Though no rushing touchdowns would be scored in the game, the Broncos did get a punt return for a touchdown. Carmichael turned in the best receiving numbers for the Broncos that game with six catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterbacking for the Patriots that day was Butch Songlin. He would attempt 24 passes, complete 12 of them for 145 yards and one touchdown. The running for the Patriots was evenly dispersed between three players: Jim Crawford, Larry Garron, and Walt Livingston, each of them getting either seven or eight carries. The biggest receiver on the night was Jim Colclough who caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
The scoring started with a 35 yard first quarter field goal by the Patriots’ Gino Cappelletti. Denver took the lead in the second quarter on a 59 yard touchdown pass to Al Carmichael from Frank Tripucka, and after the extra point kick by Gene Mingo it was 7-3. In the third quarter, Mingo returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown but the extra point kick failed so the score was 13-3. The Patriots got in the endzone in the fourth quarter with a ten yard pass from Butch Songin to Jim Colclough, making the score 13-10. That would be the final score with the Broncos winning the first AFL game ever by three points.
Because this was the first AFL game ever, everything that happened in it was a league first. This includes:
-The first ever AFL victory on the road (Denver).
-The first home loss in the AFL (Boston).
-The first AFL field goal (Cappelletti).
-The first AFL touchdown (Carmichael).
-The first AFL touchdown pass (Tripucka).
-The first AFL punt return/special teams touchdown (Mingo).
-The first AFL 100 yard receiving game (Carmichael).
The AFL is a great part of American football history and was successful enough that within a decade it had merged with the NFL.