For Damani Leech, football uniforms are like superhero costumes.
Much like the iconic outfits worn by Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, football uniforms are meant to excite fans and instill confidence in players.
After Leech became president of the Broncos in 2022 and the NFL approved the use of alternative helmets with retro team uniforms, the opportunity to reinvent the look of his own organization arose.
The fact that the final product incorporated the team’s classic Denver “D” logo — a symbol of the Broncos’ rich history that recently enjoyed a successful second act — was simply the franchise listening to its fans.
“There’s a lot of affinity with the old ‘D’ logo,” Leech told The Post. “I think it’s vintage, especially for young fans.”
The Broncos unveiled their alternate “Snowcapped” helmets in July — the result of a months-long process that included a fan survey, multiple designers and player input.
The helmets will be worn with the team’s all-orange uniforms twice this season. While the white shell and mask pay homage to the towering snow-capped mountain ranges of Colorado, Denver’s “D” pays homage to the franchise’s past.
The process began last October. The team brought a few players into a huddle room after practice to show them what other teams in the league were doing, then they looked at various models that a creative team had put together.
Among the color options considered for the helmet were blue, orange, white and gray, Leech told the Post. They also looked at models featuring the “D” logo and others using the current logo. “We presented half a dozen options and kind of mixed and matched different things,” he said.
In November, Leech and staff narrowed the choice down to three. The creative team took photos of receiver Courtland Sutton in the alternate uniform and added the different helmets to get an idea of what he would look like on game day.
When the staff walked out of the meeting, they decided that a white helmet with the “D” logo was the way to go.
Riddell, the league’s helmet partner, sent the Broncos a prototype that Justin Simmons was wearing for a photo shoot. Leech showed Simmons’ photos to the owner, who signed the helmets.
“Legacy and history are extremely important. And we want to honor that,” CEO Greg Penner said. “But at the same time, one of my pet peeves is never to utter the words ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ to justify something. I want to honor our history and our heritage, but be willing to change if necessary.
The “D” logo with a sniffling Bronco in the middle represented the team from 1968 to 1996. The logo was created by late Broncos fan Edwin G. Taylor, who drew the design and sent it to the team.
The retro “D” logo had previously been used on dark blue alternate helmets, which debuted in 2016. The Broncos have worn five different helmets in team history. The “Snowcapped” replacements are their first all-white helmets.
In 1997, Denver changed its name to its current logo. Rick Bakas, a longtime Arvada Broncos fan, was part of the Nike design team that created it. He recalls former owner Pat Bowlen telling the design team that he wanted “a horse that looked like it was going to kick your ass.”
Bakas said it took nine months to create the logo. The team, made up of more than 10 designers, spent the first month and a half researching what a Bronco represented and concluded that the horse symbolized an uncontrollable force of nature.
Bakas added that the team was also inspired by Native American folklore about a ghost horse that couldn’t be tamed, which is why the Bronco is white.
The design team never intended to move away from the “D” logo, but Bowlen thought it needed a modernization. They drew hundreds of drawings, some of which included the “D”, but they realized the letter was distracting.
Bakas, whose family had subscriptions for 20 years, is not a fan of the “D” logo. For him, that represents the team’s four Super Bowl losses between 1978 and 1990. The Broncos have lifted the Lombardi Trophy three times since adopting the current design.
“Having the chance to usher in a new chapter in Broncos history is one of the highlights of my life,” Bakas said.
When the Broncos unveiled the alternative “Snowcapped” helmet, there was a sense of relief that the design was well received by fans.
The organization has now turned its attention to introducing a new uniform for the 2024 season. Leech said the process is similar to designing the helmet, but longer and more in-depth.
Owner Carrie Walton-Penner is heavily involved. In the spring, she and Leech were part of a team that traveled to Beaverton, Oregon to visit Nike headquarters to discuss concepts and ideas.
“(We) were helping them understand what it means to be a Bronco and what we think about our community,” Leech said. “We are still working on it and when we are ready to share something, we will definitely share it.”
Could Denver’s “D” be an integral part of the team’s future? There is no doubt that a large number of Broncos fans would not object.
“I wish they had come back,” said Joshua Robinson, a 33-year-old Broncos fan from Vancouver, Canada. “These new white helmets are adorable.”
Want more Broncos news? Sign up for the Broncos Insider to get all of our NFL analysis.