In front of a gathering of about 100 former players, season ticket-holders, reps from city groups, and club employees in the Paul Brown Stadium weight room, Bengals president Mike Brown clearly enjoyed himself despite his team turning The Big One and kicked off the franchise’s 50th anniversary season Thursday surrounded by the alumni players he reverently calls “my guys.”
There was the original player (quarterback John Stofa), the first draft pick (center Bob Johnson), and the original Pro Bowler (tight end Bob Trumpy) from that 1968 American Football League expansion team.
There was the revolutionary safety (David Fulcher) from the team that went to the Super Bowl 20 years later. Also from that team was the kicker that never missed on nine overtime kicks (Jim Breech), the man Brown called the best guard in franchise history (Max Montoya), and the star-crossed rookie running back that gained 1,000 yards that season (Ickey Woods) before injuries drove him from the game four years later.
“Where’s Ickey? He’s forever a public figure in Cincinnati all because he did that foolish little dance,” Brown joked. “But he was a pretty damn good ball-carrier, too.”
Brown happily traded quips with Trumpy and Johnson about their 1968-level salary and told a few stories on himself, such as when Bengals founder Paul Brown put his son in charge of signing Johnson after they took him with the second pick in the 1968 draft.
“Not much was moving,” Brown said. “Bob went into my dad’s office and in five minutes he had him signed. He had the qualities that he respected. And Bob has shown that my father was exactly right. He’s been an important part of Cincinnati for 50 years.”
Brown also saluted Trumpy’s post-playing career, which landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as an announcer. “He carried (WLW) on his back,” said Brown of Trumpy’s role as the Cincinnati radio station’s first SportsTalk show, where Brown was a frequent target. “Sometimes I probably felt the same way about that as he did about his salary.”
Trumpy and Johnson regaled the crowd with some vintage ’68 stories. Each recalled how their wives told them they had been drafted with Mrs. Johnson informing Bob, “The Bangles called. Someone named Mr. Brown but I didn’t catch the first name.” And Mrs. Trumpy telling her husband the Cincinnati Beagles had called.
Trumpy also had a great story about arriving at that first training camp at Wilmington College in the middle of the night and discovering his roommate had been cut by the time he came back from breakfast.
“I’m delighted to see them. The memories tumble out,” Brown said.
“I want to thank our fans. They’re the life’s blood of what we do. When we go out on game days we entertain them and what we give them is an experience they can share with friends and family. That is something that brings them together with their close friends and family, but it also tends to bring the city together. When I think of what justifies an NFL team, probably that’s what justifies it most.”
On Thursday the Bengals introduced several features of the coming anniversary season by
unveiling a commemorative logo and plans to honor the team’s history. Bengals Legends, Season Ticket Members and fans will be invited to join in the season-long celebration.
In a letter to fans Brown said: “This season will mark the Bengals’ 50th season in Cincinnati. Since we were formed in 1968, we have enjoyed great support – first at Nippert Stadium, then at Riverfront Stadium, and now at Paul Brown Stadium. Throughout all those years, there has been one constant: you, our fans. We appreciate your support, and I say "thank you" on behalf of the entire organization. We look forward to celebrating our team’s history with you this season.”
To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
BENGALS FIRST 50 SELECTED BY FANS AND MEDIA
A key component of the Bengals 50th season celebration is the selection of the Bengals First 50, which will recognize the top 50 retired Bengals players as voted on by the fans and media. The final list, which will be revealed before the season, will be the top 50 players who received the most votes, rather than a pre-determined number of players at each position.
The fan vote, which counts for 50 percent, runs from April 20-June 15. Fans can vote once per day at Bengals.com/vote and be entered to win a Bengals 50th Anniversary Prize Pack. The media vote, which counts for the other 50 percent, will include a select group of media who have covered or currently cover the team.
BENGALS LEGENDS RECOGNIZED AT HALFTIME CEREMONIES
The Bengals First 50 and other Bengals Legends will be recognized during halftime ceremonies at every regular season home game, which will include video highlights and an on-field presentation. Each member of the Bengals First 50 will be invited to be the Bengals’ guest for a game. Additional Bengals Legends will have the opportunity to participate in the halftime ceremonies as well.
Throughout the weekend, the Bengals First 50 and other Bengals Legends will be able to reconnect in various settings, including watching a team practice and attending a special dinner with other invited guests the night before the game.
50TH ANNIVERSARY LOGO PROMINENTLY FEATURED
The 50th anniversary logo will be prominently featured throughout the season, including on patches the team will wear on home and road uniforms, on the field at Paul Brown Stadium and on the windows of the East Club Lounge facing downtown Cincinnati.
Three-dimensional sculptures of the logo will appear at various Cincinnati locations, including Paul Brown Stadium, prior to the season. Fans will have the opportunity to take photos and win prizes through social media contests and on-site activations. A full list of sculpture locations will be available this summer.
50th anniversary merchandise, including jerseys, t-shirts, hats, mugs, keychains and other commemorative items, will go on sale in the Bengals Pro Shop on Friday, April 28.
SEASON TICKET MEMBERS REWARDED FOR LOYALTY
Bengals Season Ticket Members will receive special access and recognition throughout the 50th season celebration, along with commemorative tickets featuring iconic photos from the past 50 years.
Season Ticket Members will have the opportunity to attend exclusive events, including an NFL draft party, town hall meeting and private Training Camp practice. Each home game, a select group of 50 Season Ticket Members will form the tunnel that the team runs through as they take the field.
Season Ticket Members will be asked to share their favorite Bengals memories and photos for stories that will be featured on Bengals.com and in the Gameday Program throughout the season.
COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE AT BENGALS.COM/50
To celebrate the Bengals’ 50th season, Bengals.com launched “This Day in Bengals History,” a new daily feature that takes a look back at key events, moments and memories that happened on that day. The Top 50 Moments, including memories from Bengals Legends and other key figures in team history, will be highlighted throughout the season on Bengals.com and Bengals Weekly, as well as during home games on the videoboard and in the Gameday Program.
Visit Bengals.com/50 to stay up-to-date on all plans and announcements surrounding the Bengals 50th anniversary. Fans also are encouraged to use the hashtag #Bengals50 on social media.