Broncos’ first NFL quarterback Steve Tensi dies at 81

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Empower Field at Mile High, home of the Denver Broncos, Aug. 12, 2022.

Steve Tensi, the Denver Broncos quarterback who helped the team transition to the NFL, has died. He was 81.

The Broncos acquired the quarterback — in exchange for two first round draft picks — from the San Diego Chargers in 1967, while both teams were still playing in the AFL. Tensi played across four seasons for the Broncos, including in 1970 when the AFL and NFL merged. 

Tensi is credited with throwing the first Broncos touchdown in the NFL. But injuries shortened his career, and he later coached in college and other football leagues. He worked in construction before retiring to Boone, North Carolina.

Cincinnati was Tensi’s hometown, but he left in 1960 to play college football at Florida State University. As a Bronco, Tensi started 32 games, throwing 16 touchdown passes, a career-best, in his first year with the team.

Tensi’s family will hold a celebration of life for him in Boone, North Carolina, on Saturday.