Seventeen Broncos wore the number 52 jersey in franchise history. Twelve Linebackers and five Centers. Now we come to the meat of this series and some healthy discussion. Here are the players that wore the #52 jersey.
D.J. Williams LB 2004
Dave Garnett LB 1995
Richard Harvey LB 1994
Jeff Mills LB 1990-93
Ken Woodard LB 1982-86
Dan MacDonald LB 1987
Greg Bracelin LB 1980
Mike Montler C 1977
Randy Gradishar LB 1974-75
Fred Forsberg LB 1968-73
Ray Kubala C 1964-67
Frank Jackunas C 1963
James Barton C 1961-62
Frank Kuchta C 1960
Frank Kuchta was drafted by the Redskins in the 9th round (102nd overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft. After two years in Washington, he joined the Broncos for the 1960 season. Frank appeared in 12 games and recovered one Fumble.
James Barton played 28 games at Center for the Broncos in 1961 and 1962.
Frank Jackunas was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 12th round (159th overall) of the 1961 NFL Draft and the Buffalo Bills in the 24th round (187th overall) of the 1961 AFL Draft. He played in 3 games for the Bills in 1962, but doesn't appear anywhere except the Broncos media guide. Hopefully one of the members can enlighten us on Jackunas.
Ray Kubala was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 4th round (46th overall) of the 1964 NFL Draft and the Denver Broncos in the 7th round (49th overall) of the 1964 AFL Draft. He chose Denver and played 4 seasons for the Broncos, appearing in 41 games. He recovered 1 Fumble in 1967.
ADDED 5/27/11: Fred Forsberg was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 14th round (121st overall) of the 1966 AFL Draft. Fred played 5 seasons (1968-73) at all 3 Linebacker positions for the Broncos. He started 40 of 53 games, making 5 interceptions, one for a touchdown and two Fumble Recoveries. Forsberg also had 4 kick returns for an 11.8 average.
Mike Montler was drafted by the Boston Patriots in the 2nd round (32nd overall) of the 1969 NFL Draft. He played 4 seasons for them through their name change before moving on to Buffalo in 1973 and another 4 year stint. Mike became a Bronco in 1977 and started 14 games at Center, including Super Bowl XII. He finished his career in Detroit the following year.
Greg Bracelin was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 9th round (243rd overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft. He played in 12 games that year without recording any stats.
Dan MacDonald played 3 games for the Broncos in 1987, compiling no stats.
Richard Harvey was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 11th round (305th overall) of the 1989 NFL Draft. He played 2 seasons each in Buffalo and New England before joining the Broncos. Richard started 1 of 16 games in 1994, his only season in Denver. He had 6 total Tackles and 1 Fumble Recovery.
Dave Garnett played 3 games for the Broncos in 1995 and made 3 Tackles.
Louis Green wore #52 in his last year with the Broncos and made 7 total Tackles on Special Teams.
David Bowens was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 5th round (158th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft. He appeared in all 16 games that year, making 7 Tackles, 1 Sack and 1 Fumble recovery. On February 24, 2000, the Broncos traded Bowens to the Green Bay Packers for an undisclosed draft pick. He has played for the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns. He was released by the Browns on February 9, 2011 and is currently a Free Agent.
D.J. Williams was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (17th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft. He started 14 of the 16 games in his rookie year at Right Linebacker, making 114 total Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 interception, 7 pass deflections and one Forced Fumble. The next season, D.J. switched to #55 and is still going strong. We will revisit him in a future post.
Randy Gradishar was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 1st round (14th overall) of the 1974 NFL Draft. He wore #52 for two seasons before switching to the #53 that we are all familiar with. Randy started 17 of 28 games in those two years recovering one Fumble and making 3 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Gradishar also made the Pro Bowl in his 2nd season. Like D.J. Williams, Gradishar will get his due (in the next post).
Jeff Mills was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 3rd round (57th overall) of the 1990 NFL Draft. On December 21, 1990, the Broncos claimed him off the waiver wire. In a move designed to avoid using one of their two remaining free roster moves, the Chargers waived Mills with the intention of activating him for the final two games if he wasn't claimed. He started 3 of 46 games in Denver, compiling 5 Sacks and 2 Fumble Recoveries.
Ken Woodard was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 10th round (274th overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft. He started 13 of 73 games for the Broncos from 1982 to 1986. In those 5 years, Ken tallied 11 Sacks, 2 interceptions including a 27-yard return for a touchdown and 2 Fumble recoveries, one being a 16-yard touchdown return.
Jason Hunter was signed by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2006. He played for 3 years with the Packers as a reserve Defensive End. The first 2 seasons, Jason totaled 23 Special Teams Tackles. In the 3rd year, he had 7 Tackles, 2 Sacks and a 54-yard Fumble return for a touchdown. Hunter went to Detroit in 2009 and started 9 of 14 games at Left Defensive End. He responded with 34 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 3 pass deflections and 2 Fumble Recoveries. After one season, Detroit released Jason on August 16, 2010. The Broncos signed him 3 days later and Jason was told that he would be playing Linebacker. Hunter started 12 of 16 games at Left Outside Linebacker. He made 61 total Tackles, 3 Sacks, one interception, 2 pass deflections, 1 Forced Fumble and 2 Recoveries. Jason had a 75-yard Fumble return for a touchdown in Week 10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Jason tied for 2nd on the team with 10 Tackles For a Loss in 2010.
Even though D.J. Williams and Randy Gradishar are great players, neither wore #52 for a significant time. So you won't find there names in the poll. Still, I believe we have a clear-cut winner. The Greatest Bronco to wear #52 is...
Ian Gold was drafted by the Broncos in the 2nd round (40th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft. He played 7 of his 8-year career in Denver. Ian played the Right Linebacker position for the Denver Broncos from 2000 to 2003. In 2004, he became a Free Agent and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After the season, he again became a free agent. Gold re-joined the Broncos in 2005 and went to the AFC Championship that same year. He stayed with the Broncos until his release, on February 29, 2008. All total, Ian started 67 of 99 games, with 426 Tackles, 16.5 Sacks, 3 interceptions, a 12-yard pick six, 26 pass deflections, 9 Forced Fumbles and 10 Fumbles recovered. Despite all that, he only made it to one Pro Bowl (2001).
MHR gives a Mile High Salute to Ian Gold as the Greatest Bronco to wear #52.