Jerry Sturm, Broncos player and Englewood restaurant owner, dies at 83

Sturm founded The South Restaurant 50 years ago

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Jerry Sturm, a former Denver Broncos player and owner of The South Restaurant in Englewood for half a century, died at age 83 on June 17.

Sturm, an Indiana native, was named by the Broncos last year as one of its top 100 players in franchise history. He played in 84 games for the team as an offensive lineman from 1961 to 1966.

Sturm opened The South Restaurant at 3535 S. Huron St. on May 1, 1970. The cause of death was not discosed, but his wife Deborah Sturm, told Colorado Community Media in March that he was in memory care.

In a Facebook post, The South Restaurant said Sturm passed away peacefully with his family by his side.

“As you know, Jerry touched the souls of many, and in doing this, he has become respected and loved by an innumerable amount of people. This includes not only his immediate family and friends, but also his extended NFL family, his longtime golfing buddies and the community he helped cultivate at The South,” the post reads. “He will undoubtedly be deeply missed by all.”

Sturm played college football at the University of Illinois and in the Canadian Football League for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1958 and the Calgary Stampeders in 1959 and 1960 before coming to Denver.

He was a two-time AFL All-Star with the Broncos and went on to play for the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers and Philadelphia Eagles.

Deborah Sturm told Colorado Community Media that in the offseason in those days, players needed another source of income — prompting Sturm to open the Endzone, a bar along West Colfax. Working at the Endzone gave Sturm an appreciation for customer service and led to him opening up The South Restaurant, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The South Restaurant used to be a small auto garage before other players and friends showed up to the site with hammers, nails and beers to help Sturm transform the garage to the Mexican and American restaurant it is today, Deborah said. She estimates that it took three years for the building to be remodeled.

“They built Cinderella City faster than Jerry could (The South Restaurant),” Deborah said. Cinderella City was a nearby shopping center that was opened in 1968 and demolished in the late 1990s. Today, the site is home to the Englewood Civic Center.

Sturm told the Houston Chronicle he was approached by a former teammate who offered him $10,000 to try to throw a Dec. 5, 1971 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers during his time with the Oilers. The Chronicle reported that the incident is one of only two “game fixing” schemes the NFL has ever publicly acknowledged.

“The guy and a gambler from L.A. offered me a bribe to snap the ball badly on extra points and field goals, and maybe blow a snap to the quarterback — stuff like that,” Sturm told the Houston Chronicle in 2004. “So I turned `em in. I was really shocked. The guy was one of my best buddies when I played with him.”

Woody Paige, a sports columnist for The Gazette, met Sturm in 1974 at a golf tournament. Paige described Sturm as a gentle giant who loved going to Broncos games and playing golf with former players like John Elway.

“The one person that hung out at (The South Restaurant) all the time was John Elway. That is one of Elway’s favorite secret restaurants, and he hung out with (Sturm) a lot,” said Paige. 
 
The South Restaurant said in its post that it will share details about a memorial honoring Sturm in the future. 
 
“He was like family. We’re all really struggling with the loss of (Sturm),” said Michelle Look, bar manager at The South Restaurant. “Everyone loved him so much. He was the greatest man I’ve ever known.”

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