Eleven players wore the #45 jersey in the history of the Denver Broncos. Five were Defensive Backs and three were Cornerbacks. A halfback, a Running Back and a Linebacker also donned the #45. Here are the contenders for the Greatest Bronco to wear #45...
Gary Downs RB 1995
Richard Shelton CB 1989
Steve Wilson CB 1982-88
Perry Smith DB 1980-81
Jeff Severson DB 1975
Bill Laskey LB 1973-75
Tom Cassese DB 1967
Lew Scott DB 1966
Jim McMillin DB 1964-65
John Sklopan HB 1963
John Sklopan was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 8th round (64th overall) of the 1963 AFL Draft and the Minnesota Vikings in the 12th round (156th overall) of the 1963 NFL Draft. He appeared in 3 games for the Broncos in 1963 and didn't record a stat.
Lew Scott was a 5'11", 170 lb. Defensive Back who played in 13 games for the Broncos in 1966. The Bronco used him specifically on Special Teams where he had 7 punt returns for an 8.0 average and 9 kickoff returns for a 31.3 average.
Tom Cassese was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 8th round (191st overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft. He played 14 games at Halfback and Defensive Back for the Broncos in 1967. Tom rushed for 5 yards on one carry, had one interception and one Fumble recovery. He also returned 3 punts for a 4.7 average and made one 19-yard kickoff return.
Bill Laskey played in the AFL for 5 seasons with the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders where he made the AFL Pro Bowl in 1965. After the league merger, Laskey played in 5 more seasons for the NFL's Raiders, Baltimore Colts, and Denver Broncos. In his 2 years with the Broncos, Bill had 3 interceptions and 2 Fumble Recoveries starting 21 of 25 total games at the Strong-side (Left) Linebacker in Joe Collier's 4-3 Defense.
Jeff Severson was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 12th round (297th overall) of the 1971 NFL Draft. In 1972, he played in Super Bowl VII as a member of the Redskins. Severson played the next couple of years in Houston before joining the Broncos for the 1975 campaign. He started 3 of 14 games, recording one 20-yard kick return and recovering 2 fumbles on defense. Jeff also coached with NFL Hall of Fame Coach George Allen at Long Beach State for the 1990 season.
Perry Smith was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round (92nd overall) of the 1973 NFL Draft. He had a 9-year career playing for the Green Bay Packers (1973–1976) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1977–1979) before coming to Denver. Perry started 5 of 26 games in the 1980 and 1981 seasons, recording 2 interceptions for the Broncos.
Richard Shelton was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 11th round (292nd overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft. He appeared in 3 games for the Broncos in 1989 and didn't record a stat. He went on to play the next 4 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gary Downs was drafted by the New York Giants in the 3rd round (95th overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft. He played one game for the Broncos in 1995. After that he was an assistant coach for NFL Europa's Amsterdam Admirals.
Roc Alexander was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2004. He played in 26 games for the Broncos with one start. Roc returned 31 kickoffs for a 20.9 average. He also recovered 2 fumbles. Broncos fans will probably remember Alexander's lone start against the Indianapolis Colts in 2004. Indy QB Peyton Manning had a field day repeatedly throwing at the rookie as the Colts trampled the Broncos 49-24 in the AFC wild-card game. Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 221 yards in the game, schooling the young Cornerback. Roc went on to play for the Houston Texans in 2006 and is currently a Free Agent.
Jim McMillin played at Colorado State University as a Halfback. He was signed by the Dallas Texans as an Undrafted Free Agent and traded to the Broncos prior to the 1961 season. Denver converted him from running back to Defensive Back. McMillin intercepted 14 passes in a six year career with both the Broncos and Oakland Raiders. In his 4 seasons as a Bronco, Jim played 47 games at both Cornerback spots. He intercepted 10 passes and scored 3 defensive touchdowns (2 Fumbles and 1 interception).
He was a member of a Bronco Defensive Backfield in 1962 that each had an interception return for a touchdown (RS Goose Gonsoulin, LCB John McGeever, RCB McMillin and LS Bob Zeman). Jim also served as the Defensive Coordinator for the Las Vegas Cowboys, a team that played in the fledgling Continental Football League. Lou Saban was the Head Coach.
Jim McMillin gets some consideration here, but I felt that the choice for the Greatest Bronco to wear #45 should go to...
Steve Wilson CB 1982-88
Steve Wilson played for the Dallas Cowboys from 1979-81 and the Denver Broncos from 1982-88. In those 7 years, Steve started 17 of 92 games, making 3.5 Sacks 16 interceptions and recovering 5 Fumbles. He returned one punt for no yards and 30 kickoffs for a 20.3 average. He also caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from punter Chris Norman in the 1st quarter of a 38-17 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11 at Mile High. Wilson was the starting Right Cornerback for the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. Following the Super Bowl loss to the Washington Redskins, the Broncos allowed Steve to hit Free Agency. He was then hired as the head coach at Howard University, his Alma mater. Wilson's coaching record for the Bison's was 78-40 and included a Mideastern Athletic Conference championship and its only Division 1-AA playoff appearance in 1993. He also coached at Texas Southern.
MHR gives a Mile High Salute to Steve Wilson as the Greatest Bronco to wear #45.