DENVER, CO - JUNE 25: Terrell Davis, retired Denver Broncos running back, practices prior to taking the ceremonial first shot prior to the game between the Long Island Lizards the Denver Outlaws during Major League Lacrosse action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on June 25, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Moments after word broke that Kyle Orton had been released by the Denver Broncos, the Pro Football Hall of Fame released its list of 26 modern era semifinalists for Hall of Fame consideration. Steve Atwater, Terrell Davis and Karl Mecklenburg made it into the next round. In January, this list will be whittled down to 15 and the final vote will take place on Saturday, February 4th - the day before the Super Bowl.
There were five Broncos on the initial list of 103 that was released on September 29, 2011. Unfortunately, Coach Dan Reeves and Rod Smith did not make the cut this year and will have to wait for future consideration.
Hop, skip, JUMP!
When the initial list of 103 candidates were released back in September, KaptainKirk and I provided brief bios for the Broncos under consideration. Here they are for you again.
Steve Atwater aka the "Smiling Assassin" patrolled the middle of the Defensive backfield along with another great safety in Dennis Smith. Between the two, they were one of the most feared Safety tandems in the NFL during the 1990's. In fact, he is on the NFL's 1990's All-Decade Team. An 8-Time Pro Bowler, 3-Time All-Pro and 2-Time Super Bowl Champion, Steve was known for his ferocious hits, like the infamous "mic'd up" hit on Chiefs Running Back Christian Okoye on Monday Night Football in 1990. Did I say hit? That was a pummeling blow, considering Okoye outweighed Atwater by 42 lbs.
Regarded as one of the toughest safeties in the NFL during his playing days, Atwater was selected by the Broncos in the 1st round (20th overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft from the University of Arkansas. He started all 155 regular-season games he played with the Broncos, a total that ranks 10th in franchise history.
Atwater may have trouble getting a bust set in bronze. There are only nine other Safeties enshrined in Canton. All of them have at least 48 career interceptions and Steve has only 24. And even though tackles were not an official stat before 2001, Atwater unofficially totaled 1180 tackles in his 11 years, averaging 107 tackles per season. By way of comparison, Ronnie Lott unofficially averaged only 82 per season.
Terrell Davis was drafted by the Broncos in the 6th round with the 196th pick overall in the 1995 NFL Draft. He is the Denver Broncos all-time leading rusher, with 7,607 rushing yards. "T.D." was inducted as the 21st member of the Ring of Fame in 2007 after spending his entire 8-year career with the team from 1995-2002. Davis rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first 4 seasons, including the 1998 campaign in which he totaled the 4th-most rushing yards (2,008) in a season in NFL history to earn league MVP honors. He also set a club record with 21 rushing scores that season. The 3-time Pro Bowl and 1st-Team All-Pro selection (1996-98) finished his career with 60 rushing touchdowns on 1,655 carries (4.6 avg.) in 78 regular-season games. Terrell was a key member of the Broncos' back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams (1997-98). His 97.5-yard rushing average in regular-season games is the 3rd best in NFL history (min. 75 games), trailing only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders, both of whom are enshrined in Canton. In the postseason, Davis was equally as impressive, totaling at least 100 rushing yards in seven of his eight career playoff appearances, including his 157-yard, 3-rushing touchdown performance against Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII to earn game MVP honors.
He averaged an NFL-record (min. 5 games) 142.5 rushing yards per game in the postseason for his career, totaling a club record 1,140 rushing yards on 204 carries (5.6 avg.) with 12 touchdowns. Davis ranks number one in Broncos history in career 100-yard rushing games (41), 1st in rushing touchdowns (60), 2nd in overall touchdowns (65) and 2nd in yards from scrimmage (8,887).
In 1983, the Denver Broncos drafted a player who would provided struck fear into the opposition. No, not John Elway (well, yes John Elway, but he's already in the Hall of Fame). In the 12th Round with the 310th pick, the Broncos selected the LB Karl Mecklenburg. Known as "The Albino Rhino" or simply "The Meck", Karl would amass 79.5 sacks (2nd in team history) and 5 interceptions over his 180 game career that would continue until 1994. Most impressive, Karl would be instrumental on a defense that would go to
three Super Bowls win three AFC Championships. A 6-time Pro Bowler, 3-time AP First Team All-Pro, 4-time NEA First Team All-Pro and 1-time AP Second Team All-Pro, Meck was inducted into the Broncos Ring of Fame in 2001 with along with Dennis Smith.
While Meck is a fan favorite, he's probably got a long road to travel in order to get to Canton. Another storied Broncos Linebacker has been patiently waiting his turn - Randy Gradishar. While we must support Karl, it's important to remain vigilant with Randy.
Here is the complete list of 26 semifinalists:
Steve Atwater, S - 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets
Jerome Bettis, RB - 1993-95 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 1996-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tim Brown, WR/KR - 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Carter, WR - 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
Don Coryell, Coach - 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
Roger Craig, RB - 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
Terrell Davis, RB - 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
Dermontti Dawson, C - 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Owner - 1979-2000 San Francisco 49ers
Chris Doleman, DE/LB - 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers
Kevin Greene, LB/DE - 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
Charles Haley, DE/LB - 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
Cortez Kennedy, DT - 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
Curtis Martin, RB - 1995-97 New England Patriots, 1998-2005 New York Jets
Clay Matthews, LB - 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons
Karl Mecklenburg, LB - 1983-1994 Denver Broncos
Bill Parcells, Coach - 1983-1990 New York Giants, 1993-96 New England Patriots, 1997-99 New York Jets, 2003-06 Dallas Cowboys
Andre Reed, WR - 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
Willie Roaf, T - 1993-2001 New Orleans Saints, 2002-05 Kansas City Chiefs
Donnie Shell, S - 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
Will Shields, G - 1993-2006 Kansas City Chiefs
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League
Steve Tasker, ST/WR - 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills
Aeneas Williams, CB/S - 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams
Ron Wolf, Contributor - 1963-1974, 1978-1990 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1975-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1990 New York Jets, 1991 -2001 Green Bay Packers
George Young, Contributor - 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
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