Throwback Thursday: Tribute To The Barrel Man

The Barrel Man, real name Tim McKernan (1940 – December 5, 2009), was a superfan of the Denver Broncos. In all types of weather for thirty years, he attended every home game at both Mile High Stadium wearing nothing but an orange barrel that covered his torso and a cowboy hat and boots. His costume was reminiscent of rodeo clowns (or barrelmen) who serve as a distraction to animals in the rodeo arena in order to protect riders who have been thrown and of the stereotype of the miner who lost his stake and had nothing left to wear but a barrel. He was the first Broncos fan inducted into the VISA Hall of Fans at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

McKernan began attending Broncos games in 1967, eventually missing only four of them. He first wore a barrel in 1977 after making a $10 bet with his brother over whether wearing one would get him on television. He won, wearing one painted to resemble an Orange Crush can. The soft drink brand was also the nickname for the defensive unit of the orange-jerseyed Broncos who won the American Football Conference Championship that season. McKernan also showed up at games for the Denver Gold of the short-lived United States Football League in the mid-1980s, wearing a gold-painted barrel. McKernan retired his act after the 2007 season at the age of 67, but announced that he would continue attending games in normal dress.

McKernan had serious health issues in 2003, after an abdominal aneurysm ruptured. After that time he was restricted by doctors to wearing his barrel for one half of play, and then only when the temperature was above freezing. These health issues were a major reason behind McKernan’s deciding to give up the barrel in 2007.

Retired after 40 years as a mechanic for United Airlines, McKernan and his wife were based in Gunnison, Colorado, but spent their offseasons traveling in theirrecreational vehicle. Due to the space constraints of living in an RV, McKernan sold his Super Bowl XXXII barrel for $30,000. The barrel, autographed by 49 Broncos from their first Super Bowl winning team, was sold to a Black Hawk, Colorado, casino. McKernan gave 10 percent of his profits to Jubilee House, battered women’s shelter in Gunnison.

McKernan died on December 5, 2009 of respiratory failure. The last Broncos game before his death was a rout of the Giants on Thanksgiving Day. In November, 2012 the History Colorado Center honored the Barrel Man as part of an exhibit called Denver A to Z: Adrenaline to Zombies and (almost) Everything in Between. A statue of McKernan epitomizes D for Devoted.

One of Tim “Barrel Man” McKernan’s favorite sayings to get Broncos fans riled up during home games was “Bronco Country . . . give me the thunder!”

Tim was classy. He exemplified the ultimate Bronco fan.

154 comments
Rochelle Combe
Rochelle Combe

By the way Art, doesn't the ANONYMOUS part of AA mean you don't rat each other out? Go over your steps again.

Diane Bell
Diane Bell

I'll be darn, sounds like he was well liked.

Jordan Mufasa
Jordan Mufasa

I still think Wade Phillips should wear the barrel on the sideline!

Rebecca Ford
Rebecca Ford

RIP I think he was a great cheerleader for our Broncos......good game broncos (map

Tyler Barrera
Tyler Barrera

Jordan Mufasa time for you to step into the barrel

Scott Crist
Scott Crist

Love Tim lived across the street from him in Aurora Stacey's and me our first place together actually had him and his wife for dinner all we did was talk about every game we had benn to which was a lot Iv been going since I was six it was incredible

Tim Sinderson
Tim Sinderson

I met him years ago,, he was trying to sell a book he wrote,, I found him full of himself and the people of denver including the denver broncos organization owed him season tickets he said because he could no longer afford tickets due to medical bills, in short a man in a bronco barrel - really?? I found him to be a embarrassment to the broncos and city of denver! I was/still am not impressed....

Melissa C Sandoval
Melissa C Sandoval

When even the most hardcore Raiders fans loved the guy. You knew he was an exceptional man. Raider Nation love to Barrel Man.

Cheryl Morris
Cheryl Morris

I saw this guy on a bus in the 80's, in his barrel. Unless, of course, there was more than one back then, or imitators

Art Sullivan
Art Sullivan

livin' in the land of make-believe...........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Rochelle Combe
Rochelle Combe

Yes, he was my Uncle. Thank you Rick. He was a sweet, kind, fun and wonderful man. We miss him terribly. This post was to honor and remember him. So go be a bitter creep somewhere else. You and your opinions are inappropriate here.

KerryDelarossa
KerryDelarossa

I happened to work with the woman, named Glenda, who sculpted his final resting "Bronco's" urn. She showed me photos of it in its developing stage as it progressed. Just a fun fact. Sorry for your loss. He made a lot of fun!

Gena Ybarra
Gena Ybarra

Can't believe I met him & he gave me a kiss!! UNBELIEVABLE!!

Robert Dinkel
Robert Dinkel

He knew where I sit. He drank many shots from my thermous over my 23 years as a season ticket holder in the S. Stands. RIP!

Debbie Fischer
Debbie Fischer

I remember him on the docks at the Elk Creek Marina

Danny Malone
Danny Malone

broncos friend cowboy dallas friend steeler

Isaiah Garcia
Isaiah Garcia

He was the nicest guy! Always said Hi to me and Dad! We were in the South stands! His widow is a Sweetheart!

Rochelle Combe
Rochelle Combe

Yes, he pretended to love the Broncos. You're an idiot.

Townsend Carter
Townsend Carter

lol sounds about right. My mom use to serve him at the Deli of the King Soopers on Iliff and Buckley. That's also how I met him too. Really nice guy.

Karen Short
Karen Short

I always thought he was brave or stupid. Maybe a little bit of both.

Susan Simpson
Susan Simpson

We love and miss him. I hope that his family knows how much we enjoyed him, even we did not personally.

Bill McGarity
Bill McGarity

Met him in a king soopers .... That's. All I got

Marty Presley
Marty Presley

He was at every broncos game I can remember he was such a great man RIP barrel man we will miss you

Kevin Moore
Kevin Moore

Good stuff. Tim, RIP (Reside in Pandemonium )!!!

Diana Brown
Diana Brown

I worked with his wife at a Broncos alumni golf tournament this summer. She was a firecracker and knew every player that came to our 'fun hole' (as she put it).

Rob Gill
Rob Gill

I had his granddaughter in my classes a couple of years ago.