Continuing the series, we now come to the #12. Eleven players have worn this jersey in the history of the Denver Broncos, including seven Quarterbacks, three Wide Receivers and one Kicker. Here is the list:
Gary Kroner, the only kicker on this list, played 3 years for the Broncos. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 7th round (93rd overall) of the NFL Draft and the New York Jets(Titans) in the 19th round (147th overall) of the 1963 AFL Draft. The research wasn't clear on how he became a Bronco though. In 31 games Kroner was 57/58 (98.3%) on PAT's and 29/56 (51.8%) on Field Goals. He was pretty solid inside the 40, with a 74% average, but beyond that he was a paltry 3/18 (17%). In 1966, Gary was 2nd in the AFL in Field Goal percentage, making 56% of his kicks. Kroner also played Defensive Back.
Charles Alan Pastrana was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 11th round (270th overall) of the 1969 NFL Draft, Pastrana played seven games with 3 starts in two seasons with the team, amassing a 0-2-1 record. He was 29/75 (38.7%) for 420 yards passing, with 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions, a 22.5 QB rating. He had 1 rushing TD in 1970.
In 1969, he saw action in two games and did not attempt a pass, but did have one reception for 15 yards. The following season, he played in five games, including three as starter in relief of Steve Tensi, who had suffered a shoulder injury. Against the San Diego Chargers, Pastrana drove the team to the opposing 35-yard line and within field goal range, but he was knocked unconscious and could not call a crucial timeout. As the offensive captain, he was the only person authorized to do so under the rules at the time, and the clock expired to result in a 17–17 stalemate. The rules regarding timeouts were changed after the season. In 1970, Pastrana completed 29 of 75 pass attempts for 420 yards and one touchdown, rushed 14 times for 89 yards and one touchdown, threw nine interceptions, and was sacked eight times. Five of his interceptions came against the Kansas City Chiefs. In the 1971 offseason, head coach Lou Saban held try-outs with seven quarterbacks. By the end of August, Pastrana made the cut to the final three, alongside Don Horn and Steve Ramsey, and was the only quarterback remaining on the team from the prior season. Pastrana, however, was cut in early September.
Quarterback Charley Johnson played 4 years for the Broncos, compiling a 20-18-3 record. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1986. I could go on, but Tim Lynch wrote an excellent feature on Johnson.
Craig Penrose was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round (107th overall) of the 1976 NFL Draft. He played 4 years including 18 games compiling a 3-1 record in 4 starts. His passing statistics were 55/117 (47%) for 711 yards, with 5 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, a 41.2 QB rating. In 1980, the Broncos traded Penrose, the No. 20 pick along with a second-rounder to the New York Jets in exchange for quarterback Matt Robinson. Craig played for the Jets that year and then spent 2 seasons with the Denver Gold of the USFL.
Ken Karcher played 2 years for the Broncos, seeing action in 4 games while starting 3 and recording a 2-1 record. He was 62/114 (54.4%) for 756 yards, 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions giving him a 78.0 QB rating. An undrafted free agent, Ken signed with the Denver Broncos in 1986 and released during the last cut. After playing for the New Orleans Saints, He rejoined the Broncos in 1987. His three starts came as a replacement player during the Players Strike. The Broncos retained him for the rest of the year, and Karcher backed up John Elway while the team played in Super Bowl XXII. After the second game of the 1987 season, the NFL Players Association went on strike, and the owners decided to continue the season with replacement players. After a one week cancellation of games, the pseudo-Broncos took the field to play the Oilers. As was normal, all of the tickets were sold, but the teams agreed to refunds if ticket holders so desired. 38,494 showed up for that game and Houston beat the Broncos 40-10 with Karcher as the quarterback.
Shawn Moore was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 11th round (284th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. He split starting time with Tommy Maddox when John Elway was out for the last six games of the 1992 season. Moore made 3 appearances that season, going 17/34 (50%) for 232 yards, no touchdowns and 3 interceptions for a 35.4 QB rating. After serving as an NFL back-up from 1991–1994, Moore played for a number of CFL teams, including the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the Calgary Stampeders.
Chris Miller was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1st round (13th overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. Miller played in 10 NFL seasons from 1987-1995 and 1999. His best year as a pro came during the 1991 season for the Falcons when he threw for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Chris left the NFL after the 1995 season because of a series of concussions when he played for the St. Louis Rams. He returned briefly to become Brian Griese's backup in 1999, starting three games for the Broncos, going 2-1. He went 46/81 for 527 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception for a 79.6 QB rating.
Gus Frerotte was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 7th round (197th overall) in the 1994 NFL Draft. He played there 5 years before coming to Denver. Gus played 14 games in his 2 years with the Broncos, starting 7 and earning a 4-3 record. He was 168/280 (60%) for 2084 yards, 12 touchdowns and 8 interceptions for a 85.5 QB rating. He also rushed 7 times for 32 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 2000, he started for the Denver Broncos after Brian Griese was injured and led the Broncos to the playoffs, though the team fell in the opening round to eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. He remained the Broncos' backup until the end of the 2001 NFL season.
Frerotte was a 1997 Pro Bowl selection, but he is probably best known for his boneheaded antic at FedEx Field when he head-butted the stadium wall during a touchdown celebration on Sunday Night Football. His best game as a Bronco was on November 19, 2000 against the San Diego Chargers. Gus went 36/58 for 462 yards and 5 touchdowns. Most of those were team records at the time.
Domenik Hixon was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round (130th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. In 2007, he appeared in 4 games. Hixon caught 4 balls for 32 yards and returned 12 kickoffs for a 22.8 yard average. He was released in October 2007. The New York Giants quickly signed him and he took over as their kick returner. Domenik got the last laugh, winning a Ring with the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Matthew Willis was an undrafted Free Agent signed to the practice squad of the Denver Broncos in December of 2008. He remained there through 16 weeks of the 2009 season before being promoted to the active roster to make his first career start against Kansas City in Week 17. In 2010, Willis had a terrific Training Camp and was tied for fifth in the league with 13 catches and a second best 263 receiving yards in the preseason. Willis appeared in 6 games during the regular season making one catch for 17 yards. Unfortunately, he broke his foot during a game against the New York Jets in October. He was placed Injured Reserve ending his season.
Now that the stories have been told, it is time to choose a winner.
Charley gets the nod by virtue of his enshrinement in the Broncos Ring of Fame. No other player in the list of candidates comes close to the effect Mr. Johnson had in a Bronco uniform. MHR gives a Mile High Salute to Charley Johnson.