Last week, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning stirred up a mini-controversy in Dallas when he signed his name on the wall of the visitors locker room at the new and lavish Cowboys Stadium.
In response to gripes from the Cowboys' Bradie James about this supposed act of desecration, Manning said he'd been asked to ink in his moniker by a visiting-locker-room attendant, and he characterized the practice as pretty common. By way of example, he mentioned signatures on the visiting locker room wall at Invesco Field at Mile High, where he and the Giants had played on Thanksgiving.
That was news to Mac Freeman, the Broncos' senior vice president for business development. When first told about Manning's claims, Freeman admitted that he'd never heard of such a thing and doubted such an autograph wall's existence. But he promised to check, and he subsequently discovered that Manning was right, more or less.
"I wouldn't call it an autograph wall," he says. "It's actually more of a closet."
The stadium isn't that old, having opened in 2001. However, Freeman notes that "there are a good number of names" in the closet.
In the New York Post article linked above, Manning had mentioned spotting signatures by legendary running back Jim Brown and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney at Invesco. Freeman doesn't recall seeing either of those scrawls, but he did notice marks by Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton, legendary lineman Mike Munchak and -- oh, yeah -- Eli himself.
Freeman guesses that the autograph closet has been in business since shortly after the Broncos moved into the stadium. He's learned that the practice isn't that unique across the league, but it wasn't well known among Broncos employees because the visiting clubhouse staffers who prompt the signatures are part-timers who generally work only on game days.
"I don't recall there being one at the old Mile High," he adds, "but when you're talking about remote areas like this, you don't always notice." If there was one, he's pretty sure "it hasn't been preserved."
As for the autograph closet at Invesco, Freeman likes the idea. "I think it's a way to remember all the great players who've been through the building. It reflects its history."
Like, for instance, that much-needed Thanksgiving win over Eli Manning's New York Giants...
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