By Joshua Price
Denver quarterback Tim Tebow continues to headline most every sports page in the nation.
Tebow first made headlines as a Heisman Trophy winner for the Florida Gators and most recently with a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the highly favored Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tebow stands in a long line of Bronco quarterbacks to grace Mile High Stadium that include Charley Johnson, Craig Horton and John Elway.
But before any of those guys took their first snaps in Denver, there was George Herring.
In the summer of 1960, Herring was the quarterback for the Canadian Football League when he received a call from the Denver Broncos of the newly formed American Football League in the summer of 1960 asking for his play-calling services. Herring accepted the Broncos’ offer, inking a $10,000 a year pact.
But who is George Herring?
Herring graduated Hokes Bluff High School in 1952, where he was a standout quarterback, runner and punter. Herring won many laurels as an Eagle, including All-County and All-State. He is perhaps best remembered for an 87-yard punt against Glencoe during his senior season.
The 6’2, 200-pounder spent his freshman year playing football and basketball at Austin Peay junior college in Clarksville, Tennessee. He transferred the next year Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi and earned All-State football honors.
Herring finished his college career at Southern Mississippi as quarterback. Herring commandeered Southern Mississippi’s first-ever gridiron victory over the University of Alabama, 7-2, in 1954. Herring was one of two quarterbacks to represent the South in the annual Senior Bowl Game.
Herring was drafted in 1956 by San Francisco of the NFL after graduating Southern Mississippi. Rather than continuing with football, Herring joined the U.S. Army.
After being discharged from the army in 1958, Herring went to Canada and earned a starting quarterback position for the Vancouver Lions.
Herring was traded after his rookie season to the Saskatchewan Rough Riders.
In the fall of 1960, Herring shared quarterbacking duties with Denver legend Frank Tripucka. Herring took the first snaps for the Broncos in the fall of 1960, a 13-10 victory over the Boston Patriots on September 9.
Herring tallied 1,297 yards passing with five touchdowns in two seasons with Denver (1960 and 1961).
Herring also assumed punting duties for the Broncos. The Hokes Bluff native averaged 38.4 yards per punt in his two seasons, including a 70-yard punt in 1960.
Herring returned to the CFL after the 1961 season and was named back-up quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders.
Herring returned to Denver after retiring from football and raised his family there. He followed Bronco football in later life and was a season ticket holder in the 1970’s.
Herring was elected to the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, its fourth year in existence.
Herring died on November 8, 1994 in Arizona at the age of 61.
Herring is remembered by old timers in Hokes Bluff as a standout athlete – the man with a rifle for an arm and a mortar for a foot.
Herring and Tebow have many similarities on the football field.
The Broncos ask much out of Tebow today, just as they did out of Herring those many years ago.
As we watch the dramatic career of young Tebow unfold, we should remember George Herring from yesteryear.