By Max Brown
Jerome Biffle, a Denver native, was born in the Five Points neighborhood on Mar. 20, 1928. Biffle was fast-paced from birth and a natural-born competitor. As a young child, Biffle would race neighborhood kids in the streets, and he excelled in backyard games of football and pick-up baseball. By the time he reached East High School as a freshman, he was known to be an elite athlete.
During his tenure at East, Biffle was a two-sport athlete and lettered in both football and track. His football record was almost as impressive as his track record, and Biffle was a part of legendary Colorado football coach Pat Panek’s undefeated, state-championship-winning 1945 football squad. On the track, Biffle earned all-state honors in the 100- and 220-meter sprint. At that point, he was far and away one of the fastest athletes in the country, and landed a full scholarship to the University of Denver track team.
At DU, Biffle’s career took off and won him national attention. Nicknamed “the one-man track team,” the Denver native helped the Pioneers to their first and only Skyline Conference track title in 1949. In one year at DU, Biffle competed in and won the Kansas, Drake and West Coast Relays, which were considered to be the three biggest national competitions at the time — not to mention taking the NCAA long jump title in the same year.
In 1952, it was finally time for Biffle to compete on the world’s biggest stage. That year, the Olympics would be held in Helsinki, Finland. With his national-championship accolades, and after training with the Olympic team in 1951, Biffle sealed his name in history by winning the gold medal in the long jump. Biffle leaped an absurd 7.57 meters (24 feet and 10 inches).
Despite his prowess on the track, arguably Jerome Biffle’s greatest accomplishment was his commitment to students at his alma-mater high school. Biffle returned to East in 1962 as a counselor and track coach, and held both positions until 1992. Jerome helped thousands of students during his tenure as an Angel staff member. In an interview with Westword magazine, he told Jonathan Shikes, “I can’t can’t count [all of] them.” “When I run into them around town, they’ll say, ‘If it hadn’t been for you Mr. Biffle, I wouldn’t have gone on to college.’” Jerome Biffle was a community leader and his commitment to the Angels track squad was second to none. As a coach, he produced numerous all-city and -state track athletes and staked Denver East High School as the premier school in Colorado for track talent.
As Black History Month draws to a close, it is important to remember the legacy and importance these men and women have to our culture and history as a community. Even though Biffle passed away in 1992, his legacy as a mentor and athlete live on.